I have moved over to WhittereronAutism.com. Please follow the link to find me there. Hope to see you after the jump! :)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Variations on a Theme

How is your ‘to do’ list? Mine from last year. An early reminder to prepare for the holiday busyness.

Only a little bit different from yours really.
1. How to avoid getting cat litter in your shoes.
2. How to deliver 56 cup cakes [translation = mini muffins] and one large cake to four different schools in the same hour? Whilst avoiding speeding ticket.
3. Determine how to explain that underwear is a compulsory not an option in school? Another social story? Duct tape?
4. Find time to make and decorate cakes prior to delivery?
5. Research availability of cat shoes
6. Attend two school parties and one school performance at the same time?
7. Spruce up ‘self’ to be presentable = dye hair on head, remove hair everywhere else, wash and find clean clothes.
8. Read any book that isn’t about autism to prevent too much self-absorption.
z. Install American spell checker and request assistance with numbering.
aa. Practice appropriate facial expression to exude calm and hide braces.
cc. Find very tiny very precious Pokemon toy or be mentally and physically prepared to take the consequences of failure. Search options
a. search toilets
b. empty vacuum
c. sift cat litter
dd. Think of gift for Spouse for Christmas
ee. Read latest book on autism, especially chapter 9 –‘ the reasons, causes and consequences of inadequate parenting.’ Speed read if necessary.
ff. Think of gift for Spouse for Birthday 10 days later
gg. Recall which child is going to which therapist, on which day / time during the holidays?
hh. Find baby sitter for child/ children not attending therapy. Check list qualifications thereto. Ignore lack of same in self. Consider percentage of danger/bonus money associated with the task? Then double it.
ii. Carefully consider correct punishment for 5 year old forging his report card? Debate whether a bravery award for ‘holding a pencil’ would be more appropriate?
jj. Research best method of removing glue and glitter from toilet seat?
kk. Rethink the sensory diet. Brainstorm and forward plan all likely and obscure possibilities of the next / new step in the sensory diet.
bb. Remember to put them on body, the clothes that is to say, before exiting house.
ll. Research best method of removing glue and glitter from small derriere without pain, if the owner of the said derriere, suffers from tactile defensiveness.

High What

High what?
I have always had very strong views on the nature v. nurture debate and closely align myself with the nurture camp. Or at least I did until I was presented with two autistic boys. I quickly changed allegiance to the opposite camp.

I tell you truly, that before I set foot in this country, I had never in my life given anyone a ‘high five,’ when I was then aged 35. Such familiarity was well beyond my remit. I’m still not confident enough to ask whether it refers to some kind of sporting gesture, or merely indicates that you and your partner are fortunate enough to both enjoy having five digits? What is the appropriate behavioural model if your partner has less? These are the kinds of things that give me sleepless nights. If you had told me a decade ago, that I would be encouraging my children to make this gesture, or that, perish the thought, I too, would become such a person, I would have suffered an attack of the vapours.

I distinctly remember trying to train my three year old to practice shaking hands before he met his grandfather for the first time. The words, ‘how do you do?’ and ‘very well thank you,’ were beyond him, due in part to the speech delay, but I thought that the hand shake gesture was a possibility. I put all the other social requirements to the back of my mind, things like deportment, deference, respect, table manners, British food and speak only when you are spoken to – at least we’d be alright on that one, as no-one was very likely to speak to him anyway.

I had horrible nightmares predicting my son’s reaction to anyone attempting to touch him, shake his hand, let alone a six foot giant with an English accent claiming genetic connections. I spent many a long night before the visit, in bed imagining the wide variety of scenarios that were possible, all of them bad. I have never discovered whether it’s possible to know how many times you have fainted during the night, if you happen to be horizontal at the time? I prayed that the speech delay would disguise his American accent. It didn’t. Since he was still small, the hilarity caused by his speech or rather his accent, went unnoticed, at least by him. He may not have technically understood what was going on, but the underlying vibrations were easy to detect. He had few words at that time, but he decided not to use any of them for the entire fortnight [translation = 2 weeks] that we were there, he effectively went on strike. A distinctly British disease.

Just in case you were wondering ‘well if that’s the case why didn’t you get him checked out?’ I can only say that you’re absolutely right, but at the time, he could read simple sentences, spent hours pawing over books and could name you every dinosaur ever dug up with the correct pronunciation, when he was only three. We thought that he just chose not to talk very much, because when he did speak, the sentences were often too complex, rather than the other way around. But that issue is complicated by echolalia, which I’ll leave for another time.

Meanwhile, we are left with a couple of autistic children with the wrong kind of parents. It truly is the match from hell, the autistic child and the Brit parent. Now admittedly I’m speculating here, but imagine if your world was encompassed by a barrier of frosted glass. Outside you have the parent, the tight lipped, monotone, softly spoken, wooden bodied muttering adult. You’d barely register through the glass, you’d just be a quiet foggy shadow. What you need is a loud vivacious animated effervescent cheerleader type, and I think you only find them in the States. If that was the parent on the other side of the glass, it just might catch your attention, might and I repeat ‘might’ be, just sufficiently interesting to make you step up and try to smear back the mist.

In the meantime, if you spot some crazed woman in the park squalking “High Five,” at 50 decibels in a funny accent and attempting to co-ordinate palm to palm contact with a few small people, give her the benefit of the doubt? They may have many disadvantages but the majority of them are genetic. The minority of their problems are merely genetic.

A Grain of Rice


They’re great aren’t they and there are so many to choose from. These days, the media remind us of a whole slew of new ones that none of us knew existed. Things like Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder. It’s not that I’m belittling them, I just find it fascinating that more of them keep appearing. The best thing about such disorders is that there are magic pills to make them go away, what better medicine could there be. It’s fortuitous timing, discover a disorder and it’s cure simultaneously, how lucky is that? Each time a new phobia is announced I just want to shout ‘hooray’ I don’t have that one, I must be sane after all, which is always very gratifying. Personally I think the best test of good health is to count the things that you don’t have rather, that fret over the ones you do, that way, even if you have a whole laundry list of ailments, you still know that there are millions of other’s that you’ve avoided.
Recently I came across another one that I was also ignorant about when I was reading a book. , called "neophobia." Have you heard of that one? No, neither had I. It was only because I was reading that particular book that I knew what it meant, but without any other clues, I would have remained stumped. There’s no clue to give you a hint as to what it might be, especially if you’re not familiar with ‘neo’s and quite frankly, I’m not, familiar with ‘neo’s that is to say. O.k. I’ll put you out of your misery, it means fear of food, or near enough for current purposes. Now I can tell that you’re bright and that you’re way ahead of me, but no, it has nothing to do with anorexia, bulimia or obesity, not that kind of an eating disorder. No, this is something really quite straight forward, it’s the fear of eating, or perhaps ‘fear of putting something in your mouth,’ might be a little more accurate. I know, you’re ahead of me again as Darwin’s been around a long time, but even without him, we know that if you happen to be afraid of food, you’re destined for a pretty short life span. There again, if that really is the case, then we don’t have to worry about that particular phobia, because anyone whose got it will be dead pretty soon. I’m inclined to agree with you on that one. Afterall, this isn’t one of those phobias you fix with a pill. Even if there was a pill, how is this kind of phobic going to swallow it?

However, here’s the thing, I have one of those neophobes, the genuine article I might add, living with me, in my household and what’s even more far fetched, is that he is actually alive and he’s all mine. I can tell that you don’t believe me now and it’s not because I’m not willing to share. Either I’m harbouring the body of what used to be a neophobe in my freezer or I’m just plain lying. But I’m not, honest.
He’s been on the planet for coming up to 6 years now, my own little neophobe. He used to eat only 3 things but now he’s up to 6, hovering on 7, just over one food per year of his little life. Isn’t that a triumph! Before you know it he’ll be into double digits. We’re aiming for 21, because then he’ll lose his ‘neophobe’ status and merely be a picky eater. Hooray! When my son becomes a picky eater we will celebrate, throw a party and serve all of his 21 foods at one sitting. I hope I don’t have to wait until his 21st birthday?

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