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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Stickers be damned

I would like to point out that this isn’t a religious statement more a declaration of independence. Quite frankly, far too much independence, but that just goes with the territory. The world of mothers are busy motivating their kiddie winkies with tokens, stickers, prizes and hard cash, but not around here. I’ll have you know that I have more stickers than is healthy for a woman of my advancing years. Their variety is exhaustive but it never quite hits the mark.

The motivation key has always been a bit cloudy for me. I couldn’t imagine myself as a child being persuaded to do, or not do something for that matter, with the bribe of a ‘sticker,’ but it may be just because ‘stickers’ hadn’t been invented in those dark old days. But I digress.

What is the issue here? Motivation! Don’t we just love it, but what exactly is it and where do we find it? I can tell you one thing with confidence, it doesn’t have anything to do with stickers as far as my autistic sons are concerned.
The magic of stickers has long been a mystery to me, but I’ll try anything once, and then six months later, and six months later and so on.

Now we did have a couple of obstacles in our way as far as the sticker debacle was concerned. The first of these was that the average sticker is made of paper. [translation = the substance from hell for the tactilely defensive one] For senior son, the issue is more complicated, in that in order to peel off the sticker successfully from it’s backing you need a good finger grip in the fine motor skills department, which until fairly recently, eluded him completely. There are additional issues for my two. It’s can’t just be any old sticker, it must be a carefully chosen unique choice to most closely match the current obsession. Failure to observe this basic criterion will result in certain failure. Heaven forgive the woman who buys 20 variety sheets of Thomas the Tank engine stickers only to be able to use the one “James” sticker per sheet. Just shoot her now and put her out of her financial weak willed misery. Someone needs to protect her from herself.

I mean, you think she would have learned over the years that this is never going to work, to say nothing of the heebie geebie meltdown that ensues when one of the precious stickers is torn.

I’m afraid that my sympathies are with the children in question;
“Yes mom? You want me to do what? Eat something I hate and in return you will give me a vile paper sticker that I need to peel off myself with my own inky dinky little fingers and then place on another piece of disgustingly textured paper, which incidentally is a very poor colour choice? Right! What exactly is the purpose of this exercise again? Remind me of whatever inherent logic you’re attempting to achieve? You think this is helping? You are so out of your tree! Who is it supposed to be assisting and how? Go away lady, back to the drawing board, you are just so out of line, I can’t begin to even explain it to you.”

I think he covered the salient issues.

Our only ever single, individualised, successful, nearly 'sticker' campaign!

check tags [test]

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Monday, January 29, 2007

What I am?

I appear on the scene with my limited powers of speech and a wipe board as back, up in case I get out of my depth. A heated debate has ensued, but no umpire is near to hand. Actually there are a couple of umpires handy but both of them are busy with 101 domestic responsibilities.

“I am a vegetarian because I don eat meat!” he squalks at his sister with venom.
“Tell him mom, tell him he’s a big fat liar. Tell him that to be a vegetarian you need to eat vegetables.”
“Yuk, I am hating dah vegetables. What I am then?” I try and write sweet potatoes and fries on my board as evidence to the contrary but my hand writing is too squiggly, they’re already several sentences and topics ahead of me and no-one will look at the board anyway.
“I don’t know what you are? What is he mom?” Senior son comes to my rescue as I start to scribble on my wipe board.
“Hey mom, I know. He is an omnivore coz he is eating dah meat but he is not eating dah vegetables.” The last word has four very distinct syllables when spoken in this deliberate tone. He beams at me with the satisfaction of knowing that answering before anything has been written on the board, absolves him from a duty to read anything. His diction is so pronounced and evuncular, his eyes are so large and his face so close to mine. I have a strange vision of Mr. Bean and an ulterior motive. Junior protests, “dat is stoopid, I am not eating dah ‘oms’ either. What is an ‘om’ anyways?”
“It’s from the Latin! ‘stoopid yourself’!” I wonder if it is from the Latin? It sound’s convincing to me, but my brain capacity is incapacitated and I'm easily swayed if someone sounds like they ought to know what they're talking about.
“Maybe he is a herbivore,” his brother offers with exaggerated helpfulness and three crisp syllables, whilst his hand rests on mine, that rests on the wipe board that is holding the pen. He beams at me, guileless and engaging. I could swear he fluttered his eye lids at me! I wipe my board trying to get three sentences ahead, or two questions ahead, or simply ahead. I resist the temptation to tell him that he is in fact a neophobe, as not only is that not terribly helpful, it will only further confuse the issue between omnivores, herbivores and carnivores.
Spouse and the spare umpire arrive at my side and remove the wipe board, “Mum needs a rest now, but I know one thing that you all are!”

Three little faces turn towards him with anticipation,
everyone’s eyes drift towards his mouth and wait,
little sparks emit from junior’s fingertips……
”you’re all choccivores,” he announces with a flourish
and a bowl of chocolate mousse.

He should come home more often.

Found in translation

As a mum and housewife, I go about my daily tasks, tedious, repetitive and tiresome. I can think of no rational reason why a child should observe his mother during this period of time but he does. He is draped across the kitchen counter, his eyes follow me. Now, would be the perfect time for a casual mother son conversation, but I shun this opportunity. If I talk to him I am likely to break the spell and provoke a meltdown. I turn my attention to the cats and chat to them, the way you do. He sidles up closer to me,
to drape himself on the door jam for support.
“You are talking to dem?”
“You can talk ‘cat’?”
“Not really. It’s a bit like babies, they don’t understand your words, but you talk to them anyway.”
“They can understand your words?”
“Not really. It’s the same as if you were talking a foreign language, Chinese or Portuguese perhaps. You don’t understand the words but you can understand the sound of the words, if they’re kind and friendly, or angry and mean.”
“I talk to dem.”
“I know.” He talks more to the cats than to anyone or anything else, not that I’m jealous of course.
“They are understanding me?”
“Oh yes! Very much so.”
“I fink maybe dah cats are more cleverer dan dah humans are.”
“You may very well be right about that.” We sprawl on the kitchen floor together, alternately stroking a cat apiece. He is careful to count the strokes, take a note of whose hands are on which cat, so that any errors can be corrected to ensure that each cat is psychologically assured of the equality of the bond of affection between them.

“I fink dey are dah clever ones because they can understand us but we cant understand dem so very good.”

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Troglodyte lives upstairs

I awaken late in the afternoon to the sounds of bath time. I can tell that it’s bath time because of the screaming and sounds of braking foot flesh outside the door.
“Noo eeee, I don do bahves, remember! I am dah melting one!” he pleads. He has come to a halt unexpectedly. He has unexpectedly bumped into his brother, who is a heap on the hard wood floor, not because he is protesting bath time, just because he happened to be there at the time. The sister comes up the stairs in a nonchalant fashion, commenting on proceedings at hand. “Well I sure ain’t gonna have a bath with them, no way, I’ll have mine after.” Spouse attempts turn taking and efficiency at the same time, a tall order at the best of times.

“It’s too difficult tonight, you’re all going to have to go in together and then it will be done!” Junior goes into automatic screaming protest together with flailing arms and legs, just case anyone isn’t already getting the message loud and clear. His legs pummel his brother who lumbers to one side a bit and exhales wearily before asking, “Why we are having dah bahf?”

“Because it’s Sunday and you always have a full scrub on Sunday ready for school tomorrow.”
“We are dirty?”
“May be yes, maybe no, it’s just a safety feature.”
“Dirty people have bahf on Sunday?”
“Mummy is having dah bahf?”
“Er, no. She’s too ill to barf, er, I mean bathe, er, I mean have a bath right now.” I pull myself up on my pillows to pay closer attention.
“You don have to have dah bahf if you are dah golden?”
“She’s not really golden is she Dad, more like yellow.”
“Yellow? Golden?” Spouse pauses whilst trying to remove three sets of clothes from three small people who are not co-operating and are semi clad on the top landing in full view of the neighbourhood for approximately half a mile on an early Sunday evening.
“Remember, you said this morning?”
“What did I say this morning?” he queries. I sit up taller and lean toward to the closed door.
“You said that mum looked like she’s been in a train crash because of the surgery. She’d change from mustard yellow, to blue, to purple to black and soon she’d be back to normal again.”
“Is that what I said?” Is that what he said?
“Yup. So the point is, she’s not dirty, the ‘golden’ won’t ‘wash off.’”
“Er. Den she will be dah different colours every day?”
“Right! Right Dad?”
“Er, yes, sort of.” I scoot down into the duvet cover as the door opens and they file past to use the really big bath together. As the water rages out of the faucets I here a little voice say, “I’m gonna tell my teacher dat my mom is a rainbow.”
I hear spouse fight with extraneous clothes, pyjamas, towels and small uncooperative bodies and mutter, “great, that will really confuse her.”
But spouse doesn’t
appreciate how clever those special education teachers are.
Actually, most of the time he does, he's just currently
to overloaded to remember that.
I snuggle down into my bed with my golden glow,
confident that all their teachers are excellent translators.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Pet Police

I have decided that the evils of television may not be quite as bad as I am prone to preach about. The children have discovered ‘Animal Planet,’ a channel showing non stop wild life of every kind. There is a particular programme [translation = show] where abused animals and their misfortunes are displayed. The RSPCA [translation = Humane Society?] have been dubbed the ‘pet police’ by my offspring, all of them. Yes, it's a joint venture. They discussed it amongst themselves, and when the 'moment comes' they all shout 'send for the pet police.' Really gladdens a mother's heart to see her children working with one accord for a common goal.
Additionally, this has given me a new and powerful weapon against the ever growing developmental progress that they keep making when I'm not paying attention. 'Be nice to cats/ pets/ snails/ living creatures of any kind or I'll call the pet police!" It's my new mantra. I use it often, even when it's not strictly applicable - don't bite the leg on that plastic bear or I'll call the pet police!'
'But it's a toy, a plastic toy!"
"Don't argue with me, it's the principal that counts."
"What will the pet police do?" I think carefully, as I don't want to get this the wrong way around and have to pay for a few decades of trauma therapy for them all. "WEll, if you're mean to animals then the pet police come and take the pets away and give them to someone else who will love them properly.' I pause for breath and to run a quick inventory in case I have mis-spoken in my longer than usual, completely off the cuff spiel. Three pairs of saucer eyes indicate that I was about right.

I know that I'm over doing a good thing, but it works so well! It's so effective and get instant positive results. It's hard to resist. After a few days, I can tell that the magic of the words is beginning to wear off. I retreat muttering to myself about 'consumer over - use,' and 'come to think of it, as the responsible adult I think they’d cart me away first.” I mutter to no-one in particular, although of course that is the phrase that everyone hears and understands all too clearly, despite the speech delays and the auditory processing difficulties. “What do you mean?” she asks, her face a study of incredulity.
“What? What! Oh what? Well, if any of you do anything wrong, you are all under 18, which means that you are not adults, which means that I am responsible if you do something wrong.”
“You mean you’d go to jail,” she gasps. I think hard for a nano second before answering “yes.” I am still in two minds about that answer, which I know will come back to bite me.

When it comes back to bite me within the hour, “go on! Phone them, phone them, I want them to come and take you away,” in joint response to a refusal to do one’s share of tidying up, and the prospect of a mother free evening, I am more than ready. “Oh bliss I get to spend the whole night in pet prison with all the lovely cats, dogs, bunnies and guinea pigs and no horrible children.” A little underhand, I know, but the effect is electrifying. “You can’t go, we’ll be all alone, you have to stay with us!”
“Oh no I don’t, I’m of to prison with the animals, I can hardly wait.” A tad cruel but she speaks on behalf of the junior members of the family as a collective.
“You don’t know the number!” she sneers, the one that is always emblazoned across the television screen.

“Oh yes I do, it’s 408 626 8859.”
“What it’s nearly the same as ours!”
"That's right, we want the local branch not Detroit or Houston!'
“You’re making it up, you’re faking, you’re lying.”
“See you later alligator! Oooh, I wonder if they have any alligators there too?”
“I hope it eats you!”
“Excuse me, I need to use the phone.”
“Oh no you don’t!” She rips the cable from the wall.

“Your choice dear! Tidy or bye bye?"

Fictional Police report filed Friday, January 12, 2007

Nobody eats fruit around here!

The Sheriff arrived at 5:15 p.m. minus horse but with very shiny, pointy star badge. Please not that any errors in transcription are due to the indeterminate country of origin of the police personnel.

Quote - I was called to the property in question, responding to an anonymous tipster regarding a noisy disturbance. On entering the premises, I noted three semi clad children leaping about the place in an uncontrollable manner. An adult female identified herself to me as their parent. Fortunately the old crow was not scantily clad, however her wild behaviour indicated that she was in fact the ring leader. Although virtually incoherent, I did manage to piece together a few irrelevant details, as to the cause of the disturbance.

Note evidence 1 – item = the peel of an orange
The parent appears to be irrationally fixated upon the different sub species of orange, insisting that the peel in question, was not that of an orange but indeed, that of a Satsuma. I had to endure a long treatise as the options available, which included, but was not limited to: Clementine’s, tangerines and Minolas……….. Their significance or the importance of their distinctive characteristics was lost on me. I took this as an indication that the inhabitants are vegetarians, devoid of the karma afforded to us meat eaters.

It may well be that the parent's real complaint was of a 'littering' nature, although I am given to understand, by the said parent, that citrus peel is 'bio-degradable.' I advised the parent that I was familiar the term 'bio-degradable' but failed to see it's relevant in a domestic, interior context?

The parent declared that her eldest son had eaten a Satsuma of his own volition. I tried to determine whether the said food item had been tampered with, adulterated or interfered with in some other manner, such as to provoke fear and consternation throughout the family. Parent denied credibility of my ascertions.

Upon further questioning it became clear to me, that the family was not in fear of an incident of poisoning, as I had at first assumed. I soon determined that ‘fear’ was not the paramount emotion coursing through the family members, but rather ‘elation.’ I am still at a loss as to why it should be that a celebration had embraced the family following consumption of an orange by one member.

The member in question addressed me as follows “are you dah cop guy?” I confirmed that his powers of observation were correct.
“You see I dah one who does not eat dah fruit. I don eat the vegetables evver.” Whilst I fail to register the significance of such a statement, the child was obviously happy and I saw no need to detain them any longer. I gave a brief consideration as to whether to file a ‘wasting police time’ report, but though better of it.

Trading, a reality check

He accosts me in the kitchen, “hey mom, I wanna play shops. Get me the stuff.” At last! Horray, he wants to play something normal, something that other children want to play and it’s only taken five and a half years. I think of all the packets, boxes and jars I saved from the recycling a couple of years back, so that we could play shops, together with the till and pretend money so that we could model 'how one behaves' and 'what one does' in a shop. Needless to say it was one of my more spectacular failures. I don't think I broke down the entire sequence into small enough bits and I failed to take account of all possible phobias and unexpecteds, as I didn't know their full extent.
“What do you need dear? Shall I go and get the till?”
“Till! Till? I don need till. What I need till for?”
“The till has all the money in, the pretend money.”
“Money! Money? I don need money. What I need money for?”
“Well what do you want then?”
“I want bricks.” [translation = blocks] O.k., not quite the answer I was expecting. I haul out the box of bricks.
“Shall we play together?” I offer, even though I should be cooking supper, but it’s too good an opportunity to miss.
“No I don want to play with you, I want to play with him.” He stabs his index finger towards his brother. I am rejected as potential playmate. His brother is inaugurated into potential playmate status. Better and better. Do I have the opportunity to observe some parallel play perchance?

“Here you wan dis one or dis one?” he asks his little brother in rather an abrupt tone, but within socially acceptable levels of appropriate.
“I wan the red one, no, no, no, de yellow one.” They trade bricks.
“You don want dat one! Dat one is no good!” the little one warns.
“Look!” he shoves the brick under his brother’s nose, “it has a bad bit.”
“Where I don see it?”
“There! Right there! Look with your eyes, on the corner!” his finger nail identifies a tiny flaw. His anger rises at his brother’s inability to see what is so obvious to him.
“That’s o.k.” he says magnanimously, “it don’t bother me, I’m o.k. with that.”
“You are?”
“Sure, what’s the problem anyways?” His little brother’s face is a study of disbelief. Where minute discrepancies are blatant and unacceptable to him, to his brother, they are hardly discernible and of even less bother.
I predict that the bigger brother will be like his father, happy with a bargain, a good trade. I predict that his little brother will also be like his father in other ways, unable to make a decision, overwhelmed by choices, fearful of missing the best offer, "shopping" for hours but returning empty handed. Spouse appears by my side, I check to see if his ears are burning red, but he asks “what are they doing?”
“Playing micro economics in a very closed 'perfect' society, still based on the barter system, without the use of a token system of exchange, yet.”

Food Police

“But I’m hungry!” he screams.
“There are grapes on the table if you’re hungry.” He continues to stare at me, hands on hips, forehead thrust outward ready to charge. I keep my countenance bland, hoping that this will deflect the head butt.

Bull? [translation = full body charge] or goat ?[translation = head only.] My ribs may be bruised but there is no other indication of capitulation on my par. I am resolute and immovable. His nostrils literally flare, a skill I wouldn’t mind acquiring myself. His shoulders shrug attached to rigid arms and clenched fists, “o.k. then, if that’s gonna be how it’s gonna be!” He stomps off past me, in nearly a huff, I think? Yes, I think it's definitely a huff.

I think I like huffs. I think I consider a huff to be progress.

Tentative Steps

He sees his name on the envelope. I can't think of any teacher in their right might who would have written to me, their pupil at the same age. Times have changed.

I open it for him because it is made of paper and his fingers do not function well with such materials. [translation = paper, such as the wrapping on wax crayons, and on many other everyday paper examples, are aversive due to how they feel, which means that he avoids touching them] Even though this is technically a missed ‘therapy’ opportunity, I’m more anxious that he makes the human connection, the social interaction, which is especially tricky since the ‘human’ isn’t present.

It’s only us, him and me, not the writer of the note. It is from his former Pre-K teacher. 6 cursive lines of thanks. He reads it smoothly, his pupils trundle over the font until the end, where the ‘Ms.’ makes him stumble, until he recognizes the name that follows. His face is a picture of wonderment and delight, just as it should be.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Self Care

It's one of those little guilty mantras that whirr around your brain. You're supposed to be dealing with the hear and now [translation = chaos] but your also supposed to be planning ahead for the future. [translation = tomorrows chaos] It's very important that a parent should get the balance right. If the parent fails to get the balance right, this tends to result in random attempts at catch up, no matter how inappropriately timed.

Now is as good a time as any. If I start right now, then in a year, perhaps two they will all be capable of taking a shower and washing their hair. I'm not quite sure how I managed to exclude this from their list of current skills, or future skills. For right now, these skills have been skipped entirely. There is an entire blank page where there should be a skill or two, either on-going, acquired, or planned.

I herd them all into the shower having explained all to briefly, the benefits of showering; to be clean, sweet smelling and germ free, not that anyone listens.

It occurs to me that the act of showering, motivated by panic, is not a good synapse to be firing. “I have germs?” he squeaks in distress, “where they are?” he circles, a cat chasing it’s tail in search of invisible germs.

Oh dear. Perhaps I should have waited a year, or maybe even two, before starting this exercise? I persuade them to use the soap pump, to put a spoonful of soap in the palm of the hand and then rub themselves all over, especially the important bits, without thinking through this demand before uttering it.

“What are the important bits? Why are they important?” I definitely should have thought this through more thoroughly before starting. She rinses her hair, “is it all out?”
“No you have loads of soap left in there still.”
“How can I tell if I haven’t got a mirror?”

“Well, you can sort of tell by how it feels on your fingertips. It’s more squeaky when the soap has gone. You’ll be able to tell after a while if you keep practicing.” There are two many people in this shower. There are too many rapidly moving people in this shower and far too much soap.

Senior son grabs me by the forearms, to face me, a snowman of bubbles and soap suds, “hey Mum! My finger tips are telling me that it is all gone.” He blinks and his fingers tips rush to his brow to mop away lava flows of soap suds.
“What’s on your hands dear.” He looks at the ends of his arms to where his hands, alien beings, are attached, although you can’t really tell that they are hands because of the soap suds. He startles and jumps back, deeply offended by the betrayal “my finger tips they are lying.”

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Handy Hint [possibly] Number 1

Note – this of no use whatever to anyone inhabiting Britain or Europe]

Whilst I would like to claim credit for this tip, unfortunately as usual, I have to thank the Muse for her psychobabble ramblings and acute powers of observation.
If you have a child with a speech delay, averaging 5 hour periods of silence, this may a useful way of making any potential listener, listen to what your child may eventually be able to utter or stutter out. It’ really very simple – begin each sentence thusly:
“Please may I…………” fill in the blank. Even if this comes out mangled ‘peez ma hi……’ it still works quite well.

I started out extracting this phrase from my children from birth, using the blanket approach to child rearing. This is what I did with the girls, so I attempted to do the same with the boys. It was of course a miserable failure for many a long year, but eventually they both managed to acquire an approximation of this. I wanted them to use it because that is how people are supposed to start a request. After diagnoses and other hurdles, it was pointed out to me that a simple demand for ‘cookie’ was far more efficient when dealing with a speech delayed child. Why make life unnecessarily difficult?

Extracting any word from a child with a speech delay can seem Herculean task, however there are a couple of unforeseen benefits of using this phrase.

Firstly, the only person who is likely to listen to your speech delayed child is an adult, children just don’t have the patience or interest. Therefore if you speak to an adult and your first word is ‘please,’ subconsciously you already have that adult’s attention – ooo a polite child, I might just give them the benefit of the doubt.

Secondly, the use of the word ‘may’ rather than ‘can,’ is also polite, which confirms to the adult that they might be on to a winner afterall. This combination generally results in a more patient approach from the adult in question. There is the remote hope that if the child can just keep going and squeeze out another word, the child is likely to be rewarded with a positive response, which in turn is self reinforcing, which means that they’re more likely to try again because it works.

However, I should point out that if you are contemplating using this strategy and turning yourself into a drill sergeant to achieve this, bear in mind that in a few years time when the child is older, you will need to abandon this plan and replace it with something more socially appropriate, unless you wish your child to sound like Little Lord Fontlaroy, which will not endear him to any potential peer group.

"Michele Garcia Winner" has a great deal of expertise in this field, namely social appropriate use of language and social skills generally, but since we are way below such advance techniques, this more basic approach might help somebody somewhere.

I suspect that a mid-Atlantic accent would be of benefit too, but I’ll need help with that one.

Unparalleled logic

Being of a scientific frame of mine [translation = boffin] I determine to use my ‘down time’ constructively. The choices available are limited. A glance in the mirror reflects a face the size of a dinner plate. This means that where I once had one square centimeter of flesh, I currently enjoy 3 square centimeters of skin, stretched to a level that I did not believe possible. I accept the seriousness of the situation because I am able to see my face in the mirror without wearing my glasses.

I am unable to wear my glasses because I have a very fat head, which in turn, in part explains the limited choices available for amusement. Clearly this is not an opportunity to be missed. Instead of hunting for facial features hidden beneath wrinkles, I now have a face like an overblown balloon. Logic tells me that now is the time for ‘skin treament’ as I will be able to clean each individual pore now that it is the size of a crater. When the swelling goes down I will have the cleanest skin in Christendom, or failing that, at least in a small radius on San Jose.

I hunt for a bar of soap without any spectacles and fail. I’d like to return to my book but I forgot to take ‘large print’ choices from the library. I feel boredom settle just as junior appears. He doesn’t address me directly, more calls into the interior of the room, “Where is she? Where is my mum? Scuse me, do you know where dah mum is plez Mr. Pumpkin Head?”

Monday, January 22, 2007


I make reassuring noises when she tells me this, that someone asked her if she was? What? ‘Is she hermaphrodite?’ Senior daughter is a long way away and my protective abilities are waning. ‘Pity the poor schmuck and put them right,’ I advise. What kind of idiot uses hermaphrodite when they mean androgynous anyway? The fact that someone lacks the social skills to know that such a question is inappropriate, says more about the speaker than the person addressed. I quell my ire, knowing that such a question comes from the ignorant, the narrow minded and sexually insecure. This was not some esoteric query where the questioner believes that your male side is dominating your female side. This is someone who doesn’t know that snails can produce off-spring regardless of which sex they are designated. I want to jump on a plane, march up to her accuser and give them a good smack around the head, but I cannot justify the defence of a 25 year old child with such behaviour, and I would be a poor role model resorting to such tactics. The fact that the questioner was also an American, where pink denotes ‘female’ devoid of any other clues, makes me rile. But I’m too distracted to give her a proper reply because I have a zillion things to do and junior is standing on my feet, rocking from one to another, so that my metatarsals make crunching noises against the floorboards.

I have sudden recall of a similar query that I experienced myself. I used to walk home every day, [translation = regularly] in my navy blue sweater, navy blue jeans, discrete black boots, with my hair tied up in a knot: “are you a boy or a girl?” he asked one day. I was taken aback, I wanted to correct him: “do you mean androgynous?” or, since I was in my feminist phase at the time, “do you mean ‘am I a woman or a man?’” But of course that’s not what I said at all, as I was young, aggressive and hypersensitive, so I simply shouted “female” at the top of my lungs as I stomped past in a state of high dugeon, clutching my macramé sack to my side, even though it had been fashionable the decade before I was born.

Reflection with adult eyes, makes me wonder why a young man in his early twenties would say such a thing to a teenager, as I must have been about 15 at the time. We were in the street in broad day light with no-one else around. There were so many other socially acceptable ways for him to have discovered that nugget of information. I had seen him every day for a few weeks as I walked home. I wouldn’t describe him as lurking, he was merely walking in the opposite direction at the same approximate time as me every day, which meant that at some time during the 7 minutes that it took to walk from the entrance of my road to my house, I would meet him coming in the other way. Perhaps I encouraged him by greeting him with “good afternoon” every time we passed, although he never returned the greeting. He looked very ordinary, he did not look ‘hip’ or ‘with it’ for the times, he looked safe because he was dressed like my father on a casual day, slub coloured clothes, the garb of a respectable middle aged man, although I didn’t see the mis-match at the time. The short back and sides hair cut made his head and face open, no lizard eyes peeping out under a shag of hair. He was not a lout. [translation = thug] It was not a taunt or a tease, or a come on. [translation = sexual invitation] I cannot remember before or since, ever being asked such a forthright question? Although people may have had the same query, they never voiced it in such a direct manner to my face.

I can see him now, me on the path [translation = sidewalk], him in the road [translation = pavement] but that, in and of itself, was not odd, 30 years ago in a single track cul-de-sac road. No, it was something more intangible, the way he stopped so abruptly, spoke so simply and directly, not an accusation or a threat, but a question which he wanted to know the answer to, quite a simple question really, but a rare question in the tight lipped Island known as England. Such buffed toes on his tan leather shoes, neat lace-ups rather than trainers. The shirt and tie should have alerted me, to say nothing of the crease in the trousers, the empty hands without baggage, the person with no physical adornment.

If I examine myself with a critical eye, it is easy to see the confusion. In that summer when I was fifteen, I was shaped like a plank, straight up and down, no in and outs. Tallish and lanky, without make-up or other visual clues, I didn’t assist a casual observer, I could easily have passed for male teenage youth, which perhaps was what I was aiming at?

When I think of the harshness of my response, feathers flying, although I didn’t stop to watch the effect, I know that the following day, whilst I was braced for a rematch, he never re-appeared. I hope I didn’t do him permanent psychological damage?

Sunday, January 21, 2007


I am definitely feeling far to well to submit myself to being ill again quite so soon. I am very busy contemplating my impending fate with the surgeon when spouse voluntarily asks me a question;

“What what?”
“What are you deliberating about?”
“How bored I’m going to be.”
“When are you ever bored!”
“I will be bored when I am ill.”
“Are you planning to be ill? How can you plan to be ill? You’ve only just got well again!”
“The surgery, nit wit!”
“Oh, of course. Yes. Well that’s not really ill, not that kind of ill anyway. What’s that got to do with being bored?”
“I’m bored when I’m ill. It’s very boring being ill, you can’t do anything. I’ve had ten days of being ill and now that I’m well again it’s too soon to be bored again.”
“You want to postpone the surgery because you’ll be bored, is that what you’re saying?”
“Er, yes, I suppose it is.”
“Don’t worry, you won’t be bored you’ll be unconscious.”
“Not afterwards I won’t.”
“As near as damn it. You’ll be so whacked out on drugs you won’t know if it’s Christmas or Easter!”

“You think?”
“Definitely. Don’t think ‘bored,’ think ‘semi conscious.’”
“Are you trying to make me feel better?”
“Of course. I know how you’re allergic to ‘bored.’”

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Fallen Woman

On the whole, my campaigns start with great enthusiasm. I think this stems from my goldfish mentality, in that I always forget that most campaigns are pointless, fruitless and ultimately, a failure. Does this do anything to dampen my resolve? Not initially, but that’s because of the goldfish memory. I always think that this time it will be better, we will succeed and surprise ourselves.

I await such surprises with caution. Nevertheless, despite my impending surgery, I collar spouse to share my latest brilliant idea. I need his input to confirm that this time we are surely onto a winner. I wait until all small people are asleep, whip out the carrier bag and insert the batteries. I have to wait many hour until he returns from work in the wee hours of the morning. I try and remember that he is awake and alert and I am……..neither particularly.

“What do you think?” I beam, waggling the device before him.
“What do I think about what?”
“This! Look! Let me show you. You pass your hand under the magic eye and voila!” An annoying little tune accompanies the dispensation of a large dollop of soap into the palm of my hand. “Here, smell! It’s ‘Tangerine’ scented! Can you tell?”
“Pooh, what a niff! It certainly honks something cronic. What’s it for?”
“It’s a natty little automatic soap dispenser to encourage them to wash their hands. I think they’ll like the tune.”
“Exactly how much did you spend on this natty little device, or the putrid soap for that matter? What a colour! It looks like baby barf!” I pout, a gesture that is difficult with the new all super powerful braces wires. “You’re not impressed then?”

I ask rhetorically and unnecessarily.
“Well. It’s a bit of a gimmick, isn’t it?”
"It will pay for itself is saved soap!"
"In about 349 year and 25 days!"
"Did you do that in your head?"
"Ignoring the battery isssue!" [translation = number one household crime against the environment]
"It's therapeutic."
"Acclimatize them to different smells?"
"Just means that they'll never go near and never wash their hands again."
“You don’t think they’ll like it?”
“Depends how you define ‘like?’”
“A five minute wonder?”
“Five second! If you’re lucky.”
“I’m an advertisers dream aren’t I?”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself old girl, you’re just collateral damage to a diagnoses or possibly just normal or frivolous, take your pick?”
“Financially challenged.”
“Well in the red!”

60 minutes

I am so full of zip and zing, I am ready to conquer the world. [translation = black coffee and antibiotics] It’s a lot to ask but with less than 2 days before surgery, I need to make up for lost time. [translation = stop being a sickly wimp] It used to be one minute and that was a struggle. We progressed to minutes, a plural, but it took us the longest time to get into double digits. Three years ago I honestly thought that something like 10 was impossible, but now, here I am asking them to play with me for a whole hour. I gird my loins. I wonder where they are, ‘loins’ that is to say. I repeat my mantra, ‘new, fun, exciting, different.’

I prepare myself for the transition, namely ‘stop doing that and start doing this,’ because that’s the main flaw in attempting anything, the transition. I ensure that the new toy is free of tape, ties and any other extraneous matter that will cause delay which in turn will cause more meltdowns. I arrange my face and rally the troops.

“Ta dah! This is going to be great!” I tell myself, ………I tell them.
“It is boring and stoopid!”
“It is dumb!”
“Isn’t it for little kids?”
she asks,
the only one managing eye contact.
“Actually it’s none of those things, it is a toy that we can all enjoy together, now lets see what we can make?” I think fine motor skills and sequencing. I dither over task completion and frustration levels. I fumble with pieces to try and make something that looks like something. I notice that everyone’s fingers are fiddling with something too and that the vocal protest has become silent. I cast a beady eye on each of them, and catch a flicker of eye contact here and there. I do not attempt conversation as I don’t want to break the spell. I watch the timer tick down.

“You are better?”
“Better? Better than what dear?”
“Better than ill?”
“Yes! I’m much better. Thank you for asking………..why are you asking? I mean, er……how did you know?”
“Because your cough is going silent.”
“Gosh, how very observant of you dear!” The other one chimes in.
“I was knowing that you were betterer because you are coloured again.”
“Coloured? You mean not so pale and wane?”
“’Wane?’ What is ‘wane’? No, I am meaning that your body is coloured.” I look down at my red T-shirt, purple socks and brown jeans. I recall that I have been in a white, now slightly grubby, toweling dressing gown for days. Now my energy reserves are revived I am actually dressed.

“I like you in dah cloves bestest.” It is not until much later, at night, when I am hunting for my dressing gown, to wash it before my hospital visit, that I eventually find it, in the rubbish bin. [translation = trash]

Friday, January 19, 2007

Slice and Dice

Some autistic children have problems with co-ordination. This brief post is my idiots guide to ‘mid-lines.’ There are many scholarly articles available and an OT can give you a much better explanation. For the rest of us, where speed reading the relevant chapter is the only way to survive, this is my synopsis.
Take one child. Place in a standing position under a guillotine and slice him down the middle so that you have a front slice and a back slice. The front slice doesn’t talk to the back slice, there is a communication problem, most likely bad wiring. Duct tape the child back together, return to the spot under the guillotine and turn him [it’s probably a him] 90 degrees and slice again. Now you have a right side and a left side with the same faulty wiring problem. Last time. Lie child on the ground, on something soft and slice him in half so that you have a top and a bottom. Same problem.

All these sectional pieces of child fail to communicate effectively with the other bits. Some or all of the pieces may be effected, because autism is a spectrum disorder. Is this your child, or you, come to think of it? Test the theory.
Take child’s favourite food. Place child in front of table with the favourite food in sight. If your child is right handed, place the food on the left. If the child reaches for the food with the left hand, [remember he’s right handed] this MAY mean that he doesn’t want to cross his mid-line, the right / left one. This in turn MAY mean that you might want to investigate a little further.

If you are female and wear a garment for your female appendages, does it do up at the back? If you buy one’s that do up at the front, maybe you have a front/back mid-line issue? Maybe you have short arms or fine motor troubles or arthritis? If you always put your shoes on without the use of your hands, prefer slip ons and avoid shoe laces and the like, maybe you have a top/bottom midline hic-cup, or lack flexibility, or have some deplorable foot fettish that we really don’t want to know about?

With a bit of luck, this mid-line business is completely irrelevant to you and yours. If on the other hand, you’re starting to get a bit worried, furrowed brow, brain working overtime trawling through your child’s life for ‘evidence,’ cease forthwith! Firstly, you need to check it out with a professional and save valuable worrying time for other things. Secondly, if there is an issue, like most things with autism, it isn’t fatal. You may not be able to ‘cure’ it, perish the thought, but there are lots of things that you can do to help reduce it. Being aware of the condition means that you are in a position to help. If your child remains in a diced condition up to and including adulthood, it isn’t the end of the world.

Lastly, I have one crumb of additional useless advice to offer. When you try and think of a visual or verbal prompt to assist your child, try and avoid 'left hand helps right hand!' uttered in a cheery tone, as I can tell you that after three and a half years of saying it, I wish I'd come up with something better. Any offers?

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