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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Trying not to be critical

Doors in America are so stupid. Actually, that may be a little sweeping? [translation = an exaggeration] Perhaps it’s just Californian doors. [translation = a 'specific,' over generalisation] It’s bound to be to do with the architects or contractors, I expect. [tranlsation = wild guess {sub translation = some kind of non specific 'ism'}]It will be something to do with earthquakes, I'll bet you. [translation = they always use that old excuse.] Example = 'yes, we built your house out of something that resembles matchsticks, so that you won’t be buried in a pile of rubble and bricks when the next one comes.' A likely story!

I mean what idiot would put doors in a house without any key holes? Doors are supposed to have locks. I’m not fussed about the key or anything. It’s not as if I want to lock the doors, although that might not be such a bad idea come to think of it. No it’s the key hole I lack. All these doors and no key holes. What were they thinking of? I won’t go into a full attack on those stupid pocket doors. [translation = sliding doors that disappear back into the framework, nothing to do with 'pockets' at all, that's just there to confuse you.] I mean it’s not as if we live on a boat where quite frankly, pocket doors should remain.

How is any self respecting mother supposed to spy on her children, if there are no key holes? Have you ever tried trying to peer under a door where the gap is, the big and unnecessary gap, which no doubt is again excused by having something to do with earthquakes. [translation = just makes the house drafty] Yes, we make doors with big gaps at the top and the bottom so that in the event of an earthquake you’ll be able to escape underneath the locked door, if it were locked, which it won’t be, because there isn’t any lock nor a key.

You can get a serious crick in your neck trying to peek under them, doors that is to say. It’s a disgrace. I want them all ripped out and replaced with doors that have key holes. There again I could have them replaced by glass doors, that would sort it out. Actually doors with one way mirrors, like they have in police stations. Or even made of something that you could hear through too, that would be even better.

There they sit together at well gone nine in the evening, no night, after eight, it’s night, really it is. They’re playing together. They’re playing together very quietly and not fighting. But I can’t hear what they’re saying. I need to be able to hear what they’re saying so that I can check whether this is a worthwhile play experience, sort of 'free therapy' after hours, which should probably be charged at double the going rate. If they’re just messing about, then I can bowl in there and send them back to bed and be done with it. [translation = they’ll just be being naughty. {sub translation = failing to use time appropriately}] But I can’t risk cutting short a valuable exchange, a practice session at the old social skills and reciprocity.

[translation = I think they’re just two mischievous siblings.] But that’s not so bad. [translation = a good thing]

Plan A

Sometimes people get up in the morning and find that some part of their anatomy is failing to function as it should do. Sometimes the part in question may be the legs. For some unaccountable reason they’re not working. This may be due to the party in question merely having got out of the wrong side of the bed.

This can be very tiresome for the parent and quite obviously for the child also. There are number of possible techniques available to the parent to overcome this difficulty. The first technique is to retreat to the bed room, lock the door and climb back into bed. This presupposes you are able to ignore the howling that comes under the crack of the door. If this is not a viable option for the parent, however tempting, then other strategies may come into play. The dish cloth bandages may assist depending upon which child is suffering from this syndrome.

As a general rule, junior members do not respond well to nappy pins, [translation = diaper pins] so be assured that this will probably worsen an already bad position. Alternatively you can use the psychological approach ‘You can decide to have a grumpy day, and be sad all day, or you can decide to have a good day and be happy all day?

Your choice.” It is generally a good idea to start off with this in any case, in the hope that the meaning of the words may percolate through, given time.

At this juncture, it is in your own best interests to acknowledge that your plans for the next hour and fifteen minutes for the child before he goes to school, must be abandoned. You are now on plan B. If for some reason you have failed to formulate a plan B, then it would be a jolly good idea to come up with one quickly, since there is a high probability that failure so to do, will have you hurtling through the alphabet faster than you are able to keep up.

Sometimes it may be difficult to discern the exact nature of the problem. The legs may be ‘wonky’ or perhaps ‘wobbly’ but since these descriptions shed no light upon the source of the issue, the parent may still be struggling to offer assistance. Plans to work on the gross motor skills must be canceled. The possibility of using fine motor skills in a seated position to obviate the need for functioning legs, is optimistic. Generally speaking wobbly legs may be an indicator that the rest of the body is likely to rebel also, if challenged.

It is tempting to abandon B and opt for plan C, where the screaming child is placed in a locked sound proof box, preferably until the screaming stage of development has passed, regardless of the number of months that this might take.

I lift the non functioning legs together with their owner to the sofa. I reach for the first one on the stack of Thomas books and begin to read.


It’s no good!
I think I have sprouted a leak somewhere.
Brain cells seem to be seeping out of my cranium faster than I’m able to duplicate new ones. It would appear that I am incapable of doing first grade homework.

[translation = form 1]I find this fact, hard to digest and more than a little alarming, but I have no way of gathering further information to determine whether senility has really set in or whether there’s a chance I am suffering from some kind of communication problem? [translation = again.]

Although it’s a maths problem, [translation = math] I try and work out the answer from the clues given by the words…..'are left.’ I conclude that this is an indication that the answer is 'more than one,' i.e. a plural. ‘Is left’ would be a dead give away that the answer is singular. Even I can manage = 1. However, I don’t think this can be the right way to work it out, it must be cheating to exploit the grammatical deficiencies [translation = shortcomings] of the person who designed the math problems. [translation = also not a good explanation for a non-verbal 6 year old.]

At some unearthly hour of the morning [translation = night] spouse returns home. I have senior son’s homework by my bedside. I’m restless, can’t concentrate on my literary classic whilst I’m defeated by a little person’s homework. How I hate homework! I hated my own, and I have hated each subsequent generation's homework with even more vitriol. [translation = short of the patience gene, I was last in the queue {sub translation = line}]

I sheepishly ask for spouse’s assistance with the matter in hand.
“Oh I was looking at that yesterday,” he comments. I look at him expectantly. I count to fifteen. [translation = slowly whilst I wait for further and better particulars {sub translation = more inforamtion}]
“Well, obviously you can’t do it.”

Is it really that obvious!
Things are worse than I thought?

“No, the other page with the information is missing.”
Missing! Really! You think so?

Not a missing piece of brain matter but a missing bit of information.
That’s so reassuring.

Mother knows best

Motherhood is about repeating yourself, frequently. You say the same things to the same people many, many times. A friend of mine who was caring for her boyfriend's teenage girls, spoke to me in a state of frustration. She couldn’t understand why she had to ask them to do something more than once. They were intelligent young women and her request was reasonable. She couldn’t understand what the problem was.

The problem stems from the relationship between the speaker and the spoken to. If you ignore the parental bit, you basically have an adult [authority figure] to child [minor with no power] It seems to me that's the root of the problem not necessarily the individuals involved. I have first has experience of this;

“What are you whittering on about now Mother,” said senior daughter. I command very little respect around these parts.
I repeated ‘all I’m saying is, that I have been saying the very same thing to you for years!”
She gave me a sideways glance. She acknowledged that this was true, but confirmed that she had dismissed my advice as being irrelevant due to my status as mother. It would appear that the same information, provided by an indifferent third party was somehow more valid.

I just have to learn to live with it. In fact it’s surprising that after 25 years of being a parent, that this message hasn’t managed to become embed in my own memory bank.

For the current generation I will adopt a different approach. I will find a suitable candidate, some cool, hip peer. I will prime them with the relevant information that I wish to impart to my children. Then I'll role play the exchange with him / her until they’re word perfect. Lastly, I will set them loose on this set of children. These youngsters will then listen and abide by the sage advice of the ‘stranger’ who is not their mother.

Overall, it will be a much more efficient system and hoik them up the learning curve at a speedier rate than I managed with the last generation of children. I suppose that's why they say that 'parenting' is an on-going process.


My other job when I’m not cleaning or occupied with other duties is that of referee. [translation = mediator]. With junior daughter and senior son I am the interlocutor. I try and sort out the dispute but I might as well be invisible.

There is a school of thought that suggests you step back and let children sort out their own disputes. I think this is generally a European model. It has it’s advantages. I think this would be a good model if you have first provided the children with the skills with which to resolve their dispute and allowed them the opportunity to practice. If you fail to cover these two preliminary steps then you are likely to end up with a bear pit. And that’s with the normal [translation = typical] population of children. If one of the children is on the spectrum, namely atypical [translation = quirky] then things are out of balance. It’s my job to redress this imbalance. It’s an unfair fight, quite literally. One of the players is handicapped, in the gaming sense of the word, so I need to intervene and start teaching each of them how to go about sorting out spats [translation = fights.]

It’s far easier to be the judge and give them my ruling. I’m comfortable with the role of dictatorship. It’s also quicker and guaranteed to be fair, well most of the time anyway. I’m not so comfortable in the role of mediator and facilitator but that’s probably because I haven’t got the faintest idea what I should be doing. It’s an act of faith, blind faith on my part that somehow or other I’ll manage to guide them into making the right choices, to make compromises, to play fair. But in the long term, they will be better off if they can discover ways of solving problems, preferably by themselves. For right now, they can’t do it on their own.

So that’s what I’m trying to do at the moment. I’m sitting on the floor between the two of them trying to help them work it out. I am being a facilitator. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m being a method actor; if I pretend that I know what I’m doing, then I’ll look as if I know what I’m doing. I’m not sure who I’m trying to convince, them or me?

There’s a horrid little whiny voice running through the inside of my head saying ‘I can’t do this, this is too difficult for me, I don’t want to do this, I’d rather being doing anything else including the laundry.” I need a manual to explain to me what I should be doing and how. But even if I could find such a book,I wouldn’t have time to read it. I have shelves of unread or speed read books, as evidence of my ignorance.

Why wasn’t I born an American? This stuff is so easy for you lot. I see you in the park and the supermarket, with your lovely little children being patient and kind, sympathetic and understanding, loving and giving, selfless and enduring. What I’d give for just a teaspoonful of that? You make it look so easy and intuitive. I need to climb up this learning curve faster. I need a jump start, an immersion programme, a fast track.

How can I teach something to someone else that I can’t even do myself? How can I teach something I don’t know about to someone whose perspective is a mystery to me?
As I dither waiting for an expert to intervene, someone taps me on the arm, "you are not doing the good listening mummy! I have idea, we put dah timer on and take the turns."


No-one is immune. Or more especially, people who believe that they are normal, may find that they drift up a blind alley unwittingly. Not me of course. I don't hold with such wayward manners. British people don't because of the 'will of iron.'

Thus today, I was busy making cakes, corraling children with a bit of tidying thrown in before senior daughter returns, when I came across an old gift I was given. It is a little tube holding a very thin roll-on of essential oils. The label reads ‘anti-stress.’ The fine print, even with dodgy bifocals, tells me that it contains 'lavandin.' I wonder if that’s a misprint? 'Sweet orange, red tangerine and ylang-ylang' essentials oils, whatever they might be when they're at home? I roll it up and down the inside of my forearms and sniff it. Quite pleasant! I wait for my stress to dissipate. I take in a deep breath. Demands for 'goldfish / find lost lego piece /when will my birthday cake be finished?' also waft over me.

The smell is changing because of the warmth of my skin. I’m hot, I’m stressed, I’m pooped. It isn’t even eight o’clock in the morning and I’m already exhausted. The 40 minute marathon to get them up and running, has been abandoned during the holidays, but we try to stay vaguely on track. We pretend that there is still a routine but no-one believes me. I’m like a wrung out dish towel. I’m ready to go back to bed. Perish the thought!

Because spouse was here this morning too, we divided our time between the children.. I spent half of those 40 minutes with senior son and his socks. He put each sock on and off 21 times. Each time he put one on I congratulated him, my performance was a tour de force. Each time I praised him he immediately ripped one off and threw it across the room. I would say ‘oh well, try, try, try again,” with my best sunny face expression glued to the front of my head.

Some autistic children are not motivated to act for praise or to please someone else. The ‘theory of mind,’ or the ability to step into someone else’s shoes just doesn’t feature for many. This is a change of catastrophic impact on his young life.
He wants to fit in but it’s tough. I remain calm. I make sure that my body is positioned in an open stance, close enough but not too close. I keep my hands soft and my face soft, so he can see that I am not affected by his behaviour. I’m here to support him, but I am not going to physically help him. “Too bad,” I say in sympathy with his frustration. I think I sound convincing. I hope I sound convincing. Then the upbeat ‘You can do it, I know you can.” I flip flop between cheerleader and sympathy mode. I need a coach, so that I can be his coach.

Each minute passes slowly. I think Zen thoughts. I sniff. The sock pings past my nose again. I feign disappointment, I sympathise, and encourage. Each minute idles by. I’m ignoring everyone else leaving spouse to cope. One on one time, they tell me. Quality not quantity.

I let my shoulders sink and my brow unfurrow. I sniff orangey smells that waft around us.
"Why for you are sniff?"
"You are dah sniff!"
"I am?"
"Yes, you are needing dah tissue?"
"No thanks, I'm just smelling my arms. Here have a nif, they smell of oranges."
"But I am hating oranges!"
"I know but these are nice ones, you'll like it, really!" He sniffs, doubtfully. He sinks back into a seated position. Our eyes make true contact. He leans forward and sniffs again only to sink back. He sighs without words, picks up a sock, then the other. Finished! A pair!
“Well done!”[translation = great job] I hug him, deep proprioceptive input. His fingers gouge into my shoulder blades. I hear him sniff.

For another adult perspective on OCD and medications that might help, please visit my pal "Lotta" at "Mom O Matic" for a breathtakingly frank opinion.

Waiting room

It’s 8:15 a.m. and I’ve been up for more than four hours. I’m uncertain whether I’m truly awake or not.

It reminds me of when they were all babies; you’d be nursing [translation = breast feeding] on demand during the night and would sometimes find that you’d reached a state of somnambulance; neither truly awake and certainly not asleep. It was just as well that the low energy banks prevented me from driving. [translation = and people complain about those using cell phones whilst driving!]

When I’m in the waiting room at therapy, I often here the phrase ‘no-one seems to understand.’ I’ve said it myself, far too many times to remember, especially just after their diagnoses, when everything was new and confusing. I try not to say it now, as it isn’t very helpful, to me or to anyone else. It’s like the weeks leading up to the birth of your first child; you’ve done your homework, your bag is packed, you know what style of parent you’re going to be. Six weeks later after the baby has arrived, you just emerge from the shell shock phase. You cannot believe how your life has changed. You cannot believe that no-one told you about this. You forget that lots of people did tell you about it, it’s just that it didn’t really make sense, it didn’t sink in. Now it has.

If you have a group of people gathered together for a special announcement, all the parents listen to the news that Jim and Jane are pregnant for the first time with twins. A collective gasp fills the room. All the people with children think, ‘poor
souls, a baptism of fire.’ All the people without children think, 'Twins! How cute.’

When you meet someone who is pregnant and about to have their first baby, you tell them how life transforming it is. You, the pregnant person, recognize the slightly patronizing acceptance of this truth. You, the teller of the good news, know they don’t get it, but they will do. Unless you’re there, it just doesn’t translate.

So there’s no point in bemoaning the fact that no-one understands about your child. [translation = be a moaning minnie] In truth a lot of people understand little bits about your child, they’re the people who also have children on the spectrum and the therapists and experts who treat them. It may not be a lot of people but it’s more than some ‘one.’ Whilst they may not get it entirely, they’ll be close enough. Just like you don’t really ‘get it’ with their child, you get enough. You’re in the same place, so take solace from that and use ‘waiting time’ as your own therapy by talking to the other parents there. [translation = here endeth today's sermon]


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It’s an innocuous enough word. There again, it is a ubiquitous word here in America. In every other country, ‘transition’ merely means change, they’re pretty much interchangeable. Out here, ‘transition,’ is used most commonly with reference to children, as in ‘he doesn’t transition well,’ otherwise known as a 'meltdown.' And yes, it’s nearly always ‘he.’ More simply, it means he finds it difficult to stop doing that, and start doing this.

I came face to face with this word several years ago. I was trying to leave the YMCA with my three littlest ones. Junior was strapped to my chest, his fingers entwined in my hair and screaming. The other two were in the double stroller. They were also both screaming. The front one held the wheels, the second one gripped the door jam, preventing our departure. A kindly woman remarked "my! they sure do have a little trouble transitioning!" She might as well have been speaking Swahili to me for all I understood.

Many children, and some adults I can think of, have trouble transitioning. However, if you are autistic, transitions always result in a meltdown. You may not think that is so very dreadful, until you examine how many transitions there are in the average day.

Lets take the first five minutes of your typical day; you wake up, you fall or bounce out of bed, visit the bathroom, clean your teeth, stagger down stairs, put the coffee on and reach for the newspaper. Sounds about right? Approximately? Give or take? Right. Each one of those is a transition. 7 transitions, seven changes, seven meltdowns, and that’s just the first five minutes.

So lets just imagine that we can fast forward and skip the first 7 meltdowns of the day. Pick another time of the day. Pick another time of the day when you were a child. Remember being a child? So the end of the school day approaches. Horray! Gather books and belonging, leave class room, find parent, get in car and drive home, into the garage, skip into the house for snack and T.V., oh no, perhaps not T.V., more likely homework. Were you counting? Right, 8 transitions, 8 meltdowns. Beginning to make some sense?

This is why autistic parents and their children are so inefficient. This is why every tiny thing takes 8 times longer than it would for a ‘typical’ person.

Still dubious?

One more example then. Say you’ve decided that since it’s the weekend, it might be an idea to take a little trip. Scratch that, the schedule is still pretty full with three small children at home, how about, instead, we go for just a couple of hours to the park? Deal? Great. Use the toilet, wash hands, gather bikes or sand toys, put on your shoes and socks, or other footwear, leap into the car and you’re off. Only five transitions, only five meltdowns, although of course two of them are autistic, not just one, so that’s two times 5, which would be ten meltdowns. You think I’m exaggerating? Lets tear it apart a bit.

Firstly, no-one wants to go to the park, going to the park is not fun. Going to the park means being ‘outside’ and ‘outside’ is always bad. In addition, even if the ‘park’ were an ‘indoor’ or covered park, it would still count as outside, because it’s not home. Everything that isn’t home, school or therapy, is ‘outside.’

Perhaps you could pick one of those real indoor places, like bowling, jungle gyms or other children’s entertainment places. For now we will ignore the fundamental difference, that the park is free and all these other places involve hard cash times 3. You’d still have the same fundamental problem; it is unknown, it is not preferred, it is not home and involves a transition.

So far so good. Next. Use the toilet before departure. No-one wants to, they need to stop what they’re doing, even if it’s something that they’re not actively enjoying, like homework, and do something else, namely go to the toilet, which means that it is a transition. We hate transitions, no-one is going to use the toilet willingly.

Added to this, everyone has to remove every item of clothing in order to use the bathroom. The two activities are connected; toilet = naked. It’s unfortunate that these two are connected, they shouldn’t be, that’s my fault for being a lax mother, but that aside, for the moment, the reality is, that they are connected.

Once everyone is naked, they need to get dressed again in order to go out to the park. Getting dressed is a transition, no-one wants to get dressed, even if they didn’t have poor fine motor skills which makes buttons, Velcro and zips a form of torture.

This skips over the issue of sequencing; knowing that you need to put your clothes on in a certain order, unless you want to end up looking like superman with your underwear on the outside. It also ignores the problem that scattered clothes, even once they are gathered together, in fact probably because they are gathered together, become an amorphous heap, unrecognizable as clothing. Now they are a lump and possibly a tangle. The tangle of a puzzle that cannot be unraveled by those who only see ‘parts’ and do not recognize ‘wholes.’

We skipped ‘washing hands,’ I only wish we could. No-one wants to wash. If they have to wash, one needs cold water, the other doesn’t care about the temperature or being wet. One will have an apopleptic fit if so much as a drop of water touches any part of his anatomy or clothes, other than his hands. The other could be drenched, would prefer to be drenched, but that would mean another session of dressing.

It probably will involve another session of dressing anyway, because the other one experienced a droplet of water on his knee, during the washing hands session and will therefore be naked again. You need to bear in mind, that whilst it make take them 45 minutes to dress themselves, they can be naked in less than one second, some kind of inverse relationship there.

Ignoring the issue of dressing and washing, we move swiftly on to choosing items to accompany us to the park. Bikes or sand toys? Neither actually, because no-one wants to go to the park, so why should anyone choose something to take with them? This is apart from the fact that choosing, the act of making a positive decision about anything, is also impossible. Not only is it impossible, it is also aversive. Aversive means a guaranteed meltdown, times 2.

Where are we now? Oh yes, shoes and socks or other footwear. Lets ignore the issue of choosing the footwear, you the parent, intervene and choose the lesser of two evils, namely sandals. Sandals are great because this obviates the need to put socks on, that makes the exercise speedier, that’s four socks that don’t have to be put on four feet, in addition to the shoes. Half the time. There again, all footwear is aversive, contemptible. Not only does no-one want to put shoes on, they also don’t want to put them on because it is a precursor to being able to leave for the park, which they also don’t want to do. So there is no motivation to put hateful shoes on delicate feet.

This issue can be overcome by a bribe. The only kind of bribe that will work in this situation is candy [translation = sweeties] This is the lowest common denominator, a quick fix. You think I should use some other kind of motivator, I can see that. How about they put them on to please me, to make me proud of them? Nope. They don’t care what I think or feel and they certainly don’t want to please me. Perhaps I could appeal to another element of their nature, something along the lines of “Wow, let me see what big [independent] boys you can be, show me you can do it, I’m going to be so proud of you if you can do this?” Sound good? Sounds like a step in the right direction? Sounds like it should be, but of course it isn’t. They don’t want to be grown up, they’re quite happy as they are thank you very much. They don’t want to make me proud, they don’t want to demonstrate skills of independence. They don’t want to go to the park.

Any other ideas? The sooner you get your shoes on, the sooner we can go to the park? Obviously wrong for the reasons above. The most natural encouragements are actually the worst choices for these boys, it’s all counter intuitive, you need to think backwards, you need to think inside out.

O.k.. Last step. Get into the car. The last step is actually the hardest step. You may be familiar with the nightmare of abductions, where the kidnapper grabs the victim from the street and tries to stuff them in the car. The victim knows that they must resist, they must avoid, at all costs being taken to the next destination, the second location. This is the final crunch they must resist, failure now, will mean certain death. It’s the same here, resist getting in the car, because if you don’t succeed now, you will be transported to the park against your will.

You doubt my veracity? You think I’m exaggerating? ‘But it’s only a quick trip to the park!’ you sigh. ‘How can that be such a drama?’ you ask. I know, it’s sound unlikely, I find it surreal as well, but the bottom line is, it’s not the park, although that doesn’t help, it’s the ‘getting in the car.’ Getting in the car is the biggest baddest transition, always.

Is there something sub-standard about my car? Do they get car sick? What is the problem with the car? I don’t have a notion what is wrong with my brand new car, nor it’s predecessor, nor it’s predecessor. It’s not the car itself. It’s not the school bus itself, it’s not spouse’s car either. It also applies to any other type of vehicle that we have experienced thus far; buses British and American, aeroplanes, taxis, here and in Mexico.

So what do you do as the rational parent? O.k. scrub round the park. [translation = scratch that] No park then, no park is a punishment. You were only trying to give them a nice time anyway, so no park, park privileges are withdrawn, you can stay at home instead as a punishment. Right? Trick question, very unfair. No, wrong answer. It’s the wrong way around, you need to think ‘inside out.’ Apart from the issue of persistence and consistency, letting them stay at home is a reward, you are reinforcing the behaviour that you’re trying [very hard] to eradicate. No, you’re going to the park come hell or high water. You will all go to the park, no matter what they do, you will go to the park and follow through.

What will happen at the park? You have a fifty fifty chance of it being a disaster/a success. Who knows? Certainly not me, but the point is to go anyway, and endure whatever they throw at you.

In the Air

Speech therapy, if you pay attention, has an on effect on your life style. Ordinary little things, take on a panoply of different inferences. You find yourself behaving in a strange manner that defies rational explanation. [translation = at least if you are talking to Joe Blow {Sub translation = the man on the Clapham Omnibus}]

For instance, I don't know if you've noticed if your child is able to whistle? [translation = if he/she is, I'm sure you've noticed {sub translation = if he /she isn't able to, then you should count your lucky stars}]

Blowing and whistling are skills that are acquired as you develop jaw muscles, amongst other things. The opposite of blowing, is the more advanced skill of 'sucking.' Now, I wouldn’t go as far to say that we’ve mastered ‘sucking’ but we’re well on the way. The lip closure is a bit haphazard, but the motivational part is overcoming the aversion part, which is a plus. [translation = if you have no motivation to suck [or blow] for that matter, you are not going to get anywhere fast] For the moment, sucking on a straw works because of the positive reinforcer of something pleasant tasting coming into your mouth.

However, it appears that all this concentration on ‘sucking’ is all very well but we have neglected this skill's partner, namely ‘blowing.’ I vaguely remember practicing blowing during the summer, but as with most things that I start doing, I stopped doing it when something else cropped up that also needed my attention. ‘Blowing’ was fine in the summer, as blowing, if you’re not very good at it, can be a messy business. Naked in the sunshine blowing bubbles, or trying to, was o.k. with me. The boys both failed miserably with this task, but at least they were willing to try, whereas the previous summer they were not similarly inclined; blow bubbles? Why would we want to do that exactly? Could you explain the purpose of blowing bubbles? What is the gain for us in blowing bubbles? Just don’t get it. You want us to blow bubbles? Well run along and leave us alone with our Pokemons and trains, you blow the bubbles if you find it so entertaining.

The plan, as suggested by his teacher, is to incorporate candles into every meal time. Every meal time with be like a birthday occasion with a small lit candle for them to blow out. Seems like an innocent enough suggestion. Doesn’t it? I’m a bit wary about fire, flames, burning and a skill set that’s not equipped to cope with such a phenomenon.

So are we going to huff and puff and blow those flames out? No, no, no, much to simple. Instead we’re going to learn breath control so that we can bend the flame into a horizontal position without extinguishing the flame. Right. That’s apart from the problem of what food stuff to insert the candle into. The suggestion is to use muffins, but muffins five times a day, does seem like a high price to pay in exchange for breath control. A bowl of Goldfish aren’t up to the job, [translation = like shifting sand they do not provide a stable base for a potential fire hazard.] I envisage sinkage problems with the chocolate pudding, a slice of bread isn’t thick enough. What else? Bananas! Of course! That should do the trick. [translation = work]

As always, good timing is an essential element to the success of the overall plan. I wait until hunger is at it's zenith, fiddle about in the kitchen, matches near to hand, ready to present his prize of the 6 year old equivalent of bananes flambe. Since by 5:30 we are in darkness, and the lights are dimmed, my entrance is spectacular. [translation = an arresting figure]

I approach the dining room table where three small people await sustenance. I find that only one is remaining.
"Oh mom, it's not my birthday until Friday, whadayathinkyr doin?" I look around in the gloom for the other two. I find them hiding under the table with the table cloth yanked down for extra protection. One huge pair of eyes greets me, the other pair is covered with a plate, "don't burn me, I am the good one."
"Why you are stabbing my banana, he is dah good one." [translation = another miserable failure]


My definitions and categories become looser with every advancing year, a very sloppy habit. It’s probably just a survival mechanism on my part. Gone are the days where you encouraged your off spring to delicately dab at the corner of the mouth with a serviette. [translation = napkin] These days I’m satisfied if we can spend communal minutes in one room that happens to have the dining room table and food in it simultaneously.

I sit next to my son at the breakfast table, enfeebled by the 25 minute fruit fight. I’m not sure who has won. Technically, since the fruit is inside him, I should be able to claim victory. He sits cross legged and half naked on his furry red cushion. The chair is at a thirty five degree age to the table, about an eight inch span for his body to stretch. It's the left hand side of his body. This would be an appropriate stance in an old fashioned bar, with a pint at your side whilst you chatted to a friend opposite you. Or would be if you ignored the lower half of his body and the issue of underage drinking. A wide variety of comments come to mind, running along the lines of ‘sit up straight,’ elbow[s] off he table,’ ‘legs down,’ and so on, but they stay in my head.

His spoon flaps from his floppy hand showering cereal over a 4 foot radius with every welcome mouthful. It is stunning just how difficult they make this simple operation. He is a suspension bridge from chair to table, but that’s only to be expected if you have poor muscle tone, as so many autistic children do. [translation = poor core strength] His head is on one side, which helps keep the cereal inside, since his mouth is open as he attempts mastication. I wonder which is more important, to eat your cereal politely or be able to breathe at the same time? I cannot recall ever having eaten anything in a similar pose, even though I try really hard to remember what it was like to be little.

I think it’s o.k. for the experienced diner to not orientate themselves towards their food, especially if you’re doing something else at the same time, such as have a cordial conversation with your companion. But of course there is no talking and I wouldn’t be the one to put additional pressures upon him at this junction. This is fine because eating and talking should be mutually exclusive tasks. But then he is not chatting, why would he? He is not an experienced or expert diner, he is but a mere amateur. He should have a big L tattooed on his forehead, ‘caution learner eater, please keep a wide berth.’

How can you eat if you’re not sufficiently interested to even look at your bowl, where the food is located? There again, how do you expect to eat anything if you have to think about holding a spoon and have no concentration? If you can’t connect the spoon to the contents to the mouth, a triangle sequence, then starvation is likely. Clearly a species that doesn’t eat efficiently is on the downward path. I think Darwin would have a lot to say about my son.

He is the picture of disinterest, he is merely refueling on something that isn’t offensive. He is just sufficiently and minimally connected to the whole proceeding of breakfast, to eventually complete the operation. He is perfectly positioned for escape when the exercise is over or whenever his calorie count is sufficient, whichever happens first. When the 334th energy unit is registered, he’ll drop the spoon and catapault off that chair to start anything that isn’t in the category of eating. I watch the floppy spoon flap a bit, debating whether he’s on the 300th calorie spoonful or the 335th?

The spoon clatters like a race bell, the chair tumbles over like starter blocks and he’s off without a backward glance, victorious. I check my watch. Six minutes and thirty seconds to consume 335 calories, dry ones without milk. There again, it is also six minutes and thirty seconds of sitting. [translation = depending upon your definition of sitting, of course.}

A dysfunctional family [translation = a right bunch of weirdos]

We return home late from Karate, although I have decided that the term ‘late’ is no longer appropriate. 'Late' it is the new norm, so really we are on time, which makes me feel so much better. When I’ve dispatched the last one to dream land, I stagger downstairs to the telephone answering machine which blinks at me. I listen to the message. Junior daughter’s teacher. That has to be bad news. A personal message on the machine. Not a note stuffed in her backpack. I listen, poised, braced, psychologically prepared.

She has been chosen to participate in a special group to discuss feelings and improve interpersonal skills. She’s only been there three weeks for goodness sake! I should never have put them in the same school, she’s guilty by association. I know that humming during class is not appropriate, but surely it’s not that bad? Saints preserve us, that’s it!

Interpersonal skills! She’s only 8. What kind of interpersonal skills are you supposed to have when you’re eight? I didn’t have any interpersonal skills when I was 8 and arguably I still don’t have any now either. I didn’t even know what an interpersonal skill was until I’d been living here for a few years, as we don’t have any at home. I still don’t think I’m qualified to give you an accurate definition of what an interpersonal skill really is?

How do they do that? Use the term ‘interpersonal skills’ without pause for breath or contemplation. How can they smooze in such a term into an ordinary sentence without gagging? I live in the land of psychobabblespeak, without a translator. I suspect that an ‘interpersonal skill’ is a mere fiction, invented by Americans to intimidate the rest of humanity.

I can hear them now, ‘those poor little children,’ [translation = kids i.e. baby goats] with a mother like her, she’s certifiable, regardless of which continent we’re on. I bet they spell ‘Kids Connection’ with a ‘z.’ [translation = pronounced ‘zed’ which makes the alphabet song a non-starter] It’s enough to make you weak at the knees. Can I enroll my beloved child in a programme where they can’t even spell a slang word?

This is just more hard evidence of my complete failure. I might as well give up now. My supposedly ‘typically developing child,’ has been singled out for special treatment after a big pow wow [translation = gathering of native American elders and chiefs] of teachers, principal, group leader and school psychologist. This is same school psychologist who is assessing my son’s social deviancy. The same collection of staff with whom I have been communicating with for the past two years. All the big wigs [translation = prominent persons] gathered together to discuss the various merits of the candidates.

Let the floor open and swallow me now. They probably suspect that she’s ADD or ADHD, which I know nothing about because I’ve not had time to research it. I've been too busy beetling about in the world of autism. In any case she’s a girl, so I thought I might be able to get away with it, that no-one would notice. ‘Socially immature’ and ‘an energetic child’ have been enough to let her slip through the net thus far.

A whole family of misfits. Why don’t I have recessive genes? Why did we breed?

Can the teacher send home a permission slip for me to sign to let her participate? -they ask. I might just as well invest in a rubber stamp with indelible ink, so that we can just tattoo it on our foreheads and save everyone a lot of trouble.

Of course! Why not? I'll sign it! At least someone around here might as well learn a few social skills for the rest of us to copy. No problem! Send it home! Several copies! It will give me something to tear into tiny fragments to eat. [translation = instead of humble pie.]

The Porn Fairy

[translation = add to DSM IV?]

Bondage, sexual stereotypes, niche penchants. [translation = to name but a few] If your security is malfunctioning, inferior, or not turned on, you may be greeted with a visual extravaganza not often experienced in middle age, in the privacy of your own home, on your own personal screen. [translation = unfortunately?]

Now someone as worldly wise as myself, was of course familiar with all the material, positions and unusual words, [note to self = practice translating text messaging] that appeared by magic overnight. It’s wasn’t the quality that amazed me, but the sheer quantity.

There I was, [translation = here I am] minding my own beeswax, [translation = business] but they found me! Little messages from cyberspace inviting me to participate in adventures that could only be accurately described by ‘text messaging.’ [translation = a means of communication favoured by the young and also those residing in Europe]

I had been warned. Technical talk like ‘word verification’ and ‘security.’ But did I listen? Yes, but I had no handy translator, as spouse was otherwise engaged. [translation = and he’s a newbie too.] I should be used to techno talk, almost as bad as pychobabble, but I admit that I had tuned it out.

I admit my error, apoligise fulsomely. [translation = especially for the ‘s’ instead of a ‘z’ {sub translation = pronounced zed}] Reluctant as I am to offer unsolicited advice, as always, I would respectfully suggest that new bloggers turn their attention to that section first, before posting. I would offer to help, but that is not the sort of help that you want, as clearly this is not my area of expertise. [translation = disqualified by guilt, neglect and ignorance]

It has been a long time, since the porn fairy visited me and I apologise to my networker for undoing all his hard work. But if he’s good, I’ll let him take a peek before I delete, even though this means that I have failed ‘be an American 101 = freedom of expression]

But I have my rhino hide to protect me. [Translation = and I wave my Rhino horn at you {sub translation = in a non threatening manner}]

Sport – catch

Several decades ago when I was a youngster, [translation = teen] games or P.E. [translation = sport{s}] were compulsory, a daily event in the curriculum. One game that we played in a particular season [translation = although I can’t remember which
season] was netball. [translation = only for girls and exactly the same as basket ball] For as long as I can remember [translation = 4] I have been allergic to physical exercise in any shape, form or description. [translation = literally, a pointless exercise] Nevertheless I participated and attempted good sportsmanship skills, even though I didn’t know then that that was what they were called. [translation = psychobabble]

I dislike physical exertion and failed to comprehend the purpose of pursuing a small ball. I also learned to ‘defend.’ To ‘defend’ meant to block the path of the person holding the ball to prevent them from throwing the ball through the net. As I was an exceptionally short person, I wasn’t much good at that either. [translation = but that’s the price you pay for being the ‘youngest’ in the class] This latter skill has proved useful in later life. [translation = now] I spend an unnatural amount of time corralling the boys away from things that they have no business interfering with. This is an unfortunate turn of events. Until quite recently all sorts of ordinary household items were invisible to the boys. They had no interest in appliances such a telephones. The result of this ‘blinkered’ approach, was that the majority of my possessions were safe. [translation = because they were boring] As they develop and change, boring things are not quite so boring. [translation = horray!] Which means that they have to be investigated. [translation = oh no! How do you ‘baby proof’ a home were the babies are huge?] Hence I sweep around the house like a sheep dog, attempting to lick them into shape. [translation = occasionally literally]

So whilst I adhere to the original posit, namely ‘sport is a waste of everyone’s time and energy,’ I have to admit, that in one particular instance, I was grateful to find that ‘sporting’ skills are pretty much universal in America. [translation = this household excused.]

This occasion that I refer to was six years ago. At that time I was in the hospital awaiting the arrival of junior son. My doctor pal [translation = OBGYN {sub translation = doctor of potential babies and women’s bits}] was there too. He was, and still is an American. [translation = has basic sporting skills {sub translation = is a sporting champion}] The doctor stood at the ready, issuing the usual orders, such as ‘NOT YET,’ and other helpful instructions. When the moment finally came, junior shot out like a greasy monkey.

Had it not been for my pal’s ball catching skills, junior would have skidded under the gurney like an over-ripe peach. So what can I say? Way to go doctor! [translation = doesn’t really work with an English accent] Spiffing good show doctor. [translation = he’s a jolly good egg]

Not a hair out of place

She has a bit of a hissy fit [translation = tantrum]. It’s not that I don’t take them seriously, she has her troubles too as she’s not eight yet, though I doubt if 8 is some kind of magic number. [translationi = typicallly developing siblings get a bad break] It’s more than her grievances are not of the same magnitude to rise to the status of one of the boys’ meltdowns. More importantly there is usually a kernel of rationality in her complaint which helps a great deal. In between her rambling protest, I gather that her jumper [translation = sweater] is not cool. I recall which child I am talking to and dismiss the temperature option. I remember [almost] instantaneously that by ‘cool’ she means 'fashionably acceptable' by her current peer group, without straining my brain cells too much. I know it is not cool, but that is because is it a school uniform jumper and she is going to school in the appropriate attire. That is what a school uniform is all about, therefore I am trying to determine the root cause of the problem. That’s why it’s called a uniform, ‘the same.’ [translation = uni]If everyone wore different things then by definition, it

Further grumbles are muttered, where she advises me that ALL the other children are wearing cool jumpers. But of course, now it makes perfect sense. I remember seeing a flyer explaining that they were clamping down on school uniform and would start enforcing school policy. I have no concerns in this matter. School uniform is a gift to the parent, and indirectly to the child. I already have forty years experience of school uniform, a couple of decades for me and a couple of decades for senior daughter.

The joy of school uniform if you are a parent is laundry control, always a high point. [translation = draconian rule and no arguments.] The agony of school uniform for the wearer, is the inability to express yourself through your appearance. [translation = horray! There is no individuality. Horray! You are all the same. Horray! Fashion does not exist. Horray! You are sexless at aged 7. Horray! Your financial circumstances are a mystery. Horray!]

Back in the good old days of yore, uniform was truly uniform. Deviant children such as myself, senior daughter, junior daughter, and anyone else cursed with school uniform, find that their imaginative powers come into play, to make small variations on a theme. [translation = a longer or shorter hem-line, socks that might have a small emblem that no-one will notice, a tie at a jaunty angle, the list is endless, but also futile.]

When Sister Theresa comes up to you aged 11, rips your tie from your neck and advises you that you ‘look like a harlot,’ when a ‘harlot’ is an unfamiliar term, [translation = any relation to the ocelot?] you sort of know that the road to hell fire and everlasting damnation is your only path.

Alternative terminology though the years, affirms that uniform is not a choice, it is a straight jacket;

“Those are the shoes of a street walker!” Aren’t all shoes, by definition, the shoes of someone who walks on streets?

“Mark my words carefully girl, fallen socks mean fallen morals!” Pardon?

“Dirty shoes mean a dirty mind!” That’s almost defiantly true, I can feel that one ought to be true.

“And make no mistake, the state of your undergarments is no mystery to Him.” Oh dear!

“You look like a Christmas tree, take them off this instant!” Ear rings are a little obvious, even if they’re stuck on with glue.

“Cover your modesty!” Which bit is my ‘modesty?’’

“A girl without a clean handkerchief will never be ready for anything!” It’s all so confusing.

“I tell you truly now, a hole in your clothing is an opportunity for the devil.” Which holes? The proper holes or the extra one’s or both? How can I have been on this planet for 11 years and not know all this stuff?

“Good Catholics don’t ask so many questions?”

Absolutely spot on [translation = Ain’t that the truth.]

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