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

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Visual accuity and 'Jimmy know alls'

It’s my fault, I shouldn’t have called him at just that moment and then he wouldn’t have become entangled in the chair. I wasn’t paying attention to him, so as he walked towards the kitchen, my calling his name like that put him a step or two off course. He is unpeturbed by yet another set of multiple bruises and would be the last to cast blame in my direction. My arms encircle him at the kitchen counter as I check for damage, “what you are wanting anyways?” he asks, brushing off my ministrations. I am impressed that he is following through. So often when you ask either of them a question it doesn’t penetrate the first time, or the second time for that matter. If you start a conversation [translation = exchange] you need to be persistent to extract an answer. Rarely if ever, can I recall him prompting me to finish what I started. I blink and try to remember why I called him over in the first place? Ah yes!

“Look I wanted to show you this!” He looks at the three little plant pots.
“Dey are light Chartreuse or maybe dey are pale lime.” Indeed they are. His interest in assigning the correct colour definition to all facets of his life is a challenge for me. [translation = limited palette]
“Yes, but can you see what is growing in them?” He peers, he thinks, he speaks.
“I know! It is dat time of year again!”
“What time would that be dear?”
“It is dah time of year to grow sticks.”
“Pardon?” I am distracted by a bevy of birds squabbling over the bird feeder, but try and remain focused.
“Last year you grow sticks when I was a little guy. Now I am a bigger guy and it is time to grow sticks again.” Fancy him remembering that!
“That’s right. Now look closely, what can you see?”
“Er I see free lickle smokey black sticks.”
“Good. Anything else?” He peers and squints and squirms trying to come up with an acceptable response.
“Maybe you are giving me a clue?” Great problem solving!
“Can you see a little green shoot perhaps?” He looks from me to the pot and then back to me again to tell me solemnly, “I can see dah little aubergine shoots wiv dah forest green bumpy little leaves.” [Tranlsation = eggplant or purple]
I resist the urge to grasp his skull to my bosom, “you are absolutely right, what great eyes you have.”
“Now I can go?”
“Er sure. Where are you off to?”
“I need my electronics, er dah cable for dah power.”
I open the cupboard door and peer at the jumble of cables searching for one particular adapter in a sea of entangled wires, “Sorry dear, it’s not in here.”
“It is, it is dere, look!” I look. I see a big messy mess, “nope, I think we must have left it in the other room.”
He sighs with one hand on his jaunty hip, shakes his head from side to side, amateur dramatics in action, “ okay, okay, okay, I do it by myself.” With that he clambours up on the counter and retrieves one cable of the many, deftly.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Unprofessional Umpires?

I zip up to the office at school:
“I was just wondering when they were going to start?” I ask the school secretary.
“I don’t know hun but I sure hope it’s soon for your sake.”

I pull a face, because at recess [translation = break time] my little guys are at sea. It has long been recognized that an autistic child often has the toughest time when the structure [translation = scaffolding] falls away and they are left to their own devices. When you observe an autistic child in a special ed classroom facility, you could be forgiven for wondering what on earth half of them are even doing there. However, one glance of the same children at recess, will confirm that any label attached to them is entirely accurate.

For my guys, recess used to mean cowering in a corner , head covered and bleating. For the other, the sensory overload manifested itself in aggression and violent outbursts. Neither child, nor their peers, fared well. Their behaviour also impacted the rest of the school. [translation = mainstream kids] Overall, this was not a happy situation for anyone.

To be fair, I’m not sure of their proper job title, but 'umpire,' [translation = referee] is a good enough approximation for me. It captures the essence of their job’s responsibilities; they have to ensure that everyone plays fairly. [translation = Marquis of Queensbury’s rules please] They don’t constitute a professional body of working people, [translation = no recognized paper qualifications] and are generally referred to as Yard Duty ladies. But at the same time, I can see that this title doesn’t really give full credit to their status in my eyes.

It’s like waiting for the return of the cavalry. These volunteers accept a minimum wage, to spend an hour on the play ground and teach social skills, amongst many other things. It’s also called ‘lunch duty’ here abouts, but it’s not about eating, it’s about children interacting with one another. There is a great deal of interaction between the children but a great deal of it is inappropriate. The children need the expert guidance of the facilitator, so that the children can learn to make better decisions, better choices, that a stick is not the best method of persuasion and that there are other more effective tools, such as words.

For those children that don’t have a great many words, or lack the confidence to attempt to use them, the volunteers are their with on the spot help and encouragement. They are their to reinforce those first tentative attempts, to praise and reinforce, their trials and tribulations. Those children would be the special ed kids, often autistic kids. These women, are in the front line, or the line of fire, depending upon your bias.

They’re there to mix them up, the typically developing children [translation = normal] and the special ed children [translation = those weirdo kids]. And there’s no danger money on offer here. Before the volunteers materilize to take charge, the special ed kids are struggling and the mainstream kids are avoiding. But once the umpires [translation = facilitators] arrive, they ensure that they negotiate. They explain and guide them, each day, every week, throughout the year, until by the time the summer arrives a whole host of new friendships have been developed with their help, and a buffer zone of tolerance protects all the children.

Unprofessional umpires they may be, but for me, they're more a group of unsung heros.

Attitude is everything

I am not much of a 'count your blessings' type of parent; far too wishy washy and sentimental for me. I leave such opinions and attitudes to be flaunted by my American fluffy bunny type of chums.

However, I do know that many persons adhere these kinds of flagrant flights of fancy, and it may just be, that some pals would care to indulge their tendencies. [translation = weaknesses] If this be the case, you may care to flutter over to "Saint Cloud" and get your fix for the day.

Warning - the management does not in any way endorse or positively promote woolly thinking or fanciful philosophies

Monday, February 26, 2007

Tell it how it is

My pal plans to visit me, the recouperating invalid. I glance out the window to see the road filling up with rain, a river. I hear the whiz on my neighbours sprinkler system as it spouts into action, because we are in California.

When she arrives I am busy scrubbing the toothpaste smears off the sofa. I drop a tea towel over the petrified banana that I found under it and wonder how much of a failure the current ‘fruit’ campaign is in reality? I resolve to turn myself into a fruit bat and seek out 6 weeks of fruit in all the usual and less usual places. I try not to be distracted by thoughts of junior and rain and meltdowns and cabin fever. [translation = he is allergic to rain.]

We sit at the table we I sip tepid coffee gingerly and attempt conversation as my elastic bands twang.
“I thought you had cleaners once a week?”
“I do, but that’s a top to bottom affair. I have deal with the day to day, or minute to minute deluge.” I remind myself that I probably don’t have to worry about the ‘whole’ fruits as they’ll just turn into raisins, it’s more the sliced and diced versions that will transform themselves into black, furry mould. I sniff discretely to see if I can detect fermentation? I pay attention.
“I thought you said most people lose weight? You look the same? Sort of.”
“I am the same, 6 to 8 bottles Ensures that. It’s just my face is swollen so I look bigger.” Junior has arrived at the table and waits patiently to tell me something. He is holding his nose, pinched between his index finger and thumb. I know that he wishes to register a verbal protest about the stench of the coffee, as the acrid fumes are offensive to him. I am so heartily impressed with his social skills, by not interrupting that a warm glow envelops me.

“Yes dear? What do you want to tell me lovey?”
“I am here to be telling you somefink else.” I disguise my confusion with a gentle smile. ”What is it dear?”
“I am not talking to you, I am talking to her,” he points at my pal with his other hand, his finger tip dangerously close to her eye. It is hard to tell who he is addressing because his body isn’t orientated to anyone or anything in particular.
“I am saying dat mummy is dah fat one like dah Puffer fish. Not dah Goldfish because dey are being thin in dah face, you see, like dis!” He sucks in his cheeks, concave and purses his lips. I ignore my pal and her giggles. My enthusiasm and warmth for him wanes.

Thanks for the clarification Matey.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Straws and Camels

In San Jose, an urban area, our contact with camels is a pretty rare occurrence, unless you are of a zoo frame of mind. Our exposure to straw is also limited. We generally only experience quantities of straw during October. This phenomenon is closely associated with the festive season of Halloween and Thanksgiving.[translation = Autumn] More often than not the straw is bundled into rectangles, baled. The only other time that we are deluged with straw, is during the non-secular period of Spring break, [translation = Easter] where bunnies, eggs and nests are the main attractions. The eggs evoke straw production of an artificial nature. It comes in a variety of colours and configurations. Other than that, we are pretty much straw free, which is just as well for those delicate creatures who have an aversion to prickly things. [translation = tactile defensiveness]

Two of my children are of a literal frame of mind. They have trouble with idioms, amongst other things. Hence, the phrase ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back,’ causes no end of trouble for us parents. The problem arises at random times of the year, quite often when we are in a non-straw season. It’s odd how often you hear it. It’s frequency of use was not on my radar screen. Now it is. I could probably do with a little advice from one of those literary types with a big brain, such as "Kristina." There's bound to be a Greek god that could make some kind of memory impact.

Every time that those words are uttered, we have to launch into a lengthy explanation, usually the same explanation. The word ‘straw,’ for my two is linked immediately to ‘drinking straws’ rather than the farm variety. It’s only one idiom of many that they have difficulty with.

I am in the midst of recovery from the latest explanation, when spouse arrives home unexpectedly for a supper designed for 2 and a fifth small people. I tinker and stretch the menu whilst we chat.

“How about we watch one of those thingies tonight since you’re back?”
“What thingies?”
“Er, you know! Oh, a CD.”
“Isn’t that what I just said?”
“Which one?”
“Oh the funny one.”
“Which funny one?”
“You know, the period one.”
“Oh don’t be so obtuse! You know, the period drama, set in the thirties.”
“The English one.”
“Which English one?”
“Oh, what is it called again, the one with 'what’s his face' in it.”
“Oh……that man, the one you like, the comedian.”
“Jack Dee?”
“No! Rhymes with ‘pie.’”
“Er, Bill Nye the science guy?”
“He’s American you clot, and anyway he’s not funny.”
“Well actually……”
“Oh do come on! The one you bought me for Valentines Day.”
“Oh, Jeeves and Wooster! Why didn’t you say that in the first place?”

The Neverending Misery of autism

Or why I never answer the phone when they're home! Warning - lower volume on your computer or insert ear-plugs, as misery can be very noisy.

How much misery can you take?

That's it, I can't bear it any more! Did you notice they all had clothes on! Everybody DRESSED at the same time! They almost, sort of dressed with very little prompting. [but I couldn't show you that bit = censored]

They listened to verbal instructions! She has such a way with words. Can you hear me weeping, wailing and gnashing my teeth?
[O.k. maybe not the last bit.] Who needs speech when you can have giggles?

Hope that your day was as splendiferous as our.

Early Intervention is pivotal.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Actuarial skills – 57 varieties

If your home houses a picky eater, you may find yourself spending an unnatural amount of time with fictitious conjectures into the future. [translation = my own food fetish] If your picky eater is also autistic, then the problem magnifies itself into catastrophic proportions. In my son’s particular case, he is the worst kind, worse than a picky or fussy eater. He is a neophobe. That’s right, he’s afraid of neo’s. “What pray?” I hear you cry, “is a ‘neo?’” For current purposes, we’ll say that it is something ‘new,’ which means that he is phobic about eating new things.

A neophobe eats less than 20 different items of food. Currently, he eats 9 'foods,' a considerable improvement on he previous 3 foods, although it has taken us 3 years to reach this staggering pinnacle. Parents should note that it is cheating to count different varieties of Milano cookies. It is cheating to count different brands of cookies that are like Milano cookies, but hopefully cheaper. It is cheating to count Saltines or other crackers. Why does he have such expensive tastes? Who was the idiot who first gave him one of those biscuits? [translation = cookies]

Yes, life is very unfair for the parent desperate in the desire to re-catogorise the primary food groups of the world. If you can call ‘cookies’ a food ‘type,’ [please?] then, whatever configuration they might take on, they still only count as ONE.

For the sake of the mathematically challenged, such as myself, I feel it’s safer to round up, to be cautious. Certainly more optimistic than to round down. So lets say that he’s six years old, give or take a couple of months, so that’s not too much of a stretch. Hence if a six year old manages to consume one new ‘food’ during a three month campaign, this would mean that, all things being equal, during the course of a whole year, four additional foods would be added to his diet. Ergo, by the age of 18, projecting forward, we might reasonably expect that he will have achieved a diet of 48 foods. If we add those foods that he has already managed to acquire during the prior six years, and we must, ‘add’ that is, that would reach a grand total of 57 foods. Could that really be possible? Maybe I should ask "Mr. Big brain,", but since he is also a Brit, I think that automatically disqualifies him, as 'Beanz Meanz Heinz' ain't gonna cut it.

I glug another bottle of Ensure, strawberry flavour, to nourish the body, if not the soul. If I continue to consume my current 5 flavours of Ensure, I guarantee that I will die of terminal boredom. Why are there not 57 varieties of Ensure? Would be possible to survive on 57 flavours of Ensure for an additional 12 years?

However, such projections as to his future gastronomy, fail to take into account risk; risks of failure, unexpected hurdles that can’t be overcome, which wouldn’t be a very thorough job.

Keeping the food seasonal might help with both establishing realistic goals, as well as minimizing costs, as strawberries in February, even in California, are not to be encouraged. My experiments with spinach and brownies have been a culinary coup, but when eccoli invades the crop, the campaign disappeared down the drain very swiftly. There again, the chance of me getting him to eat a vegetable, let alone something green, is probably still several life times away. I wonder how many leap years there are in the next 12 years? Perhaps I should count in light years?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Play ‘therapy’ – Thomas the Tank Engine and his enemies

I have a deep-seated love/ hate relationship with toy trains. It stems from many decades ago when my baby brother turned five. My father produced box upon box of wide gauge tracks and clock work trains, Pre-War. My brother was only mildly interested but I was enthralled, but I was also the wrong sex. Play with trains was restricted to the male of the species. Over time, interest, what little there was of it, waned. This provided the interloper with an opportunity. Under the pretence of ‘assistant,’ for I was always a very devious child, I would spend hours setting up the track all over the house, and in the garden in the Summer. Maybe his fine motor skills weren’t up to snuff, or maybe he was just little, but either way, I was on hand to ‘help’ with derailed trains, The Flying Scotsman’s levers, and boogies that became uncoupled.

Later, when senior daughter arrived, I played out my ‘deprived child’ delusion on her. Whilst she played with the Brio train set, it was only one of many toys that she enjoyed. I am fairly confident that it was precisely because we disposed of the trains when she was 14, when we came to the States, that we were doomed to make the same financial investment again for the next, unexpected, generation of children.
As it happened, both my boys, like many autistic children, went through an obsessional phase with Thomas. Experts are on heightened alert when it comes to boys and Thomas. I think that the Reverend Wilbert Awdry has a great deal to answer for. He may even be responsible for ‘causing’ autism, or he might have been, if he had carved the trains, rather than written the books. The accumulation of trains in and of itself, should not be the cause of parental concern.

The lining up of the said engines, in a precise formation, may merely be an indication of neatness. For mine at least, it wasn’t what they did with the trains, but rather what they didn’t do. They didn’t actually play with the trains. This was not obvious to the ignorant, such as myself. The re-running of the stories, scripted, word perfect, following the exact page order in the correct sequence, may merely be indicative of a good memory, especially if you’ve read the book to them so many times that you’re practically word perfect yourself.

They would examine the individual trains with minute fascination, from every angle, be able to distinguish one identically mass produced train from it’s fellows. But lets not dwell on the past.

We begin the last day of President’s week holiday with a certain amount of angst. I stagger downstairs with boxes of train tracks, my weight lifting exercise for the day. The two large wooden boxes full of wooden trains appears to be invisible. The clomp sound as they hit the deck, does not register with my super sensitive brood.
I creep up to them and break in.
“Are you ready to play trains with me?” Not a good opener.
“Dat is stoopid. I play electronics.” [translation = Gamecube gameboy etc.]
“Not until 5 remember, that’s the rule.”
“I am die wivout electronics. I’m gonna kill dat rule!” Ah the price one pays for an increased verbal facility. The disappear to the family room to express their displeasure on inanimate objects. I let the meltdowns run their course until they are ready to accept the inevitable.

I discover that I have become so absorbed in assembling an inadequate and conventional railway system and that 17 minutes has passed. I am alone in my own hallway surrounded by train tracks. I seek out the silent ones. In the family room three heads bend over an un-inventoried electronic device, battery powered. I whip it away and herd them into the hall. I endure verbal criticism in response to my endeavours but there is no physically destructive behaviour. [translation = trash my inadequate attempts.]

I work on the psychological approach that currently has some validity with junior and prays upon his superiority complex. The phase of being the ‘winner/first’ should most probably be tempered, but occasionally the more reprehensible kind of parent, may exploit it. I demonstrate ‘pretend play’ with the wrong voice, the wrong characteristics and personal qualities of the train in question. I exacerbate the situation by the use of the wrong name and mislaying the correct primary colour. That is the final straw and I provoke him into action. He snatches Percy from me with a little too much vigour, “hey you! Giv him to me! You are too stoopid to play pretend proper.”

That must be the parental joy of being outstripped by your offspring?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Addict in part time supervisory capacity

I pop more pills because my body ceased to be a temple with the surgeon’s first incision. All the staff express concern for my well being and tell tales of other patients suffering drastic weight loss. I try and pay attention to the dentist’s instructions, but I have childrens’ timetables to attend to in my mind. I hear the world ‘unstable’ drift onto my radar screen. Unstable? How does he know that? I tune back in. Oh good, it’s only my jaw that is unstable but the sack full of elastic bands should hold everything in place. I have thoughts of it falling off, that I might lose it in my hurry to be off. He scribbles notes on my chart and I’m off before the ink has dried.

I drive home deep in thought of weight maintenance, debating whether it would be possible to drink a bottle of olive oil like the chappy in the "New Scientist article?"http://www.newscientist.com/channel/health/mg19325881.

Such an extreme form of weight maintenance seems well out of my league.

At home, all is well. I speak to my children, loudly, kneeling. They all look at me.
“It’s off! Cool!” She gives me a hug and kisses my forehead. The boys step closer, cautious.
“Let me see?” he asks, screwing up his face in anticipation, squeamish but braced for bravery. “Oh yes, it gone!”
Junior shuffles forward, covers his own mouth for protection and commands “open it up!” I oblige. “Why you have dah string dere now?”

“It’s not string, it’s elastic dear.” He ponders, a finger to his mouth in the classic ‘thinking’ pose. “Dat’s good. Den it won fall off.”
'Great' minds think alike.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Wolf in uncertain attire

Once I have steeled myself to the prospect on an increase work schedule, the sale of the puppy falls through, we have been pipped at the post by some avaricious type. [translation = a non dithering buyer bought our puppy] This gives me time for further reflection and absorb the dire warnings of many of my pals. "Jerry" I analyze my requirements that a dog should provide.

For junior, I need a smallish dog that doesn’t jump up and has had it’s bark removed. It would be handy if it were also toothless and clawless but I know that is probably asking too much. It should also have enough zip and zing to compete with the energizer bunny.

Senior son requires a dog of a gentle and tender disposition, that would appreciate bear hugs and lots of physical contact. This dog would need to be more of a plodder, perhaps an older dog.

Also the issues of asthma and eczema.

I ignore my older daughter since she is out of the country for the next year and concentrate on the younger one. She has ALWAYS wanted a dog. She is well able to argue her own corner with faithful promises of commitment to feed, play and walk the dog at regular intervals, happy to be honorary poop cleaner. She may have the words, but I suspect that they’re hollow. Typical.[!] [?]

Spouse is not keen on a dog. He knows that a dog will mean additional work for me, that is his primary objection.

For myself. Well, let me tell you a tiny tale to explain my innate dislike of dogs. When I was a small person, five, maybe six, we lived in South Africa, in Cape Town. Below Table Mountain, nestled in a suburban district, we lived in an ‘all white’ area. I learned Afrikaans at school, it was compulsory. It also seemed compulsory for the local inhabitants to guard their little castles with large Alsatians, which they kept on long chains in their gardens. The chain link fences bordering their properties, gave the casual passer by a perfect view of the dogs’ slathering, jaws. Their hollow barks confirmed that they were not potential pals to the unwary. One sunny morning, I recall them all being sunny mornings, I walked along the path. [translation = sidewalk] Despite my youth, it was safe in those long distant days, for people to go about their business. ‘Protection’ was everywhere if you were sophisticated enough to see it.

A large creature, matching the above description, managed to escape his [?] chains, bounded over the fence and chased yours truly until he managed to make physical contact with my right buttock. Fortunately, an adult person arrived in time to disengage the dog’s teeth.
What can I say? My body is not physically scarred for life. Despite my penchant for ‘whodunnits,’ I still cannot watch ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles.’ Dogs, contrary to popular belief by cat owners, are intelligent. They can smell fear.

This in part, is why the ‘dog debate’ has continued for several years in an unresolved manner. Anecdotal evidence of the many benefits of dog relationships with autistic children, has tipped the bahttp://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.giflance in favour of expanding our household to welcome a dog.

Although I have studied the questionnaires, ‘what kind of dog is right for you?’ with due diligence, I am still in a quandary due to the disparate needs of so many different people. A dog with numerous personalities comes to mind, which need not necessarily be a disorder.

My minds eye can already see "Estee", the puppy [regardless of 'it's' sexual orientation] gamboling joyously with my children. But at night I have other visions of a middle aged hag, walking a dog alone with a pooper scooper in my left hand.

I know that I need to address the flip side, compose my advertisement for the 'Dawg Day Times' - 101 benefits of making your home with us!' a sort of misstatement. I ignore 'Truth in Advertising' legislation, with criminal intent.

As I come back to the here and now, I tune back in to my domestic situation as one of the cat climbs up the back of my leg meowing; spouse is attached to the computer, my daughter watches Animal Planet on the telly, senior pogo’s in front of the Gamecube and junior has his Ninendo DS at full volume. I shake out some kitty crunchies for our furry friends.

I quite fancy a stroll outside in the peace and quiet with wolf at my side.

Prosody is contagious?

For a faster loading version search here:- Whitterer On Autism

[Ref 1 Prosody = the pitch and cadence of speech, also tone or volume for current purposes. Many autistic children, including mine, have speech patterns that distinguish them from other disabilities.]

It is my nature to be annoyed. The list of petty annoyances is long and continues to grow. One ongoing annoyance is when someone telephones and begins gabbling away with a thick incomprehensible American accent. They do this because they have mistaken me for my daughter. These youthful chums are taken aback to learn that I am ‘the mother’ because we ‘sound the same.’ Whilst I would like to ‘spit blood’ in response, I am incapable at the moment, due to the jaw surgery. There again I can’t answer the phone either, which is equally as annoying.

Very occasionally I will hear my own voice, perhaps after we have used the videotape on the children. I find it disconcerting, as it doesn’t sound like me at all. I wonder how many people are familiar with how their own voice sound, as if one were an external listener? But I digress.

I attempt to speak the Queen’s English with a huge plastic splint in my mouth. I sound…..weird , even to my own ears. My BBC accent has morphed into a slurred, drunken dialect of unknown origin.

I have a stack of library books on the dining room table, in an attempt to resume ‘business as usual.’ Because the cuisine on offer is not to my children’s taste, I lure them to the dining room table with the bribe of stories. I ignore the little voice pricking my rules of decorum, because everyone knows that to read at the dining table, is the very height of bad manners.

I attempt careful articulation with lips that are numb and pins and needles fluttering over my face. Clarity of speech is essential or I will have to repeat myself, which may be more than I can currently endure.

I avoid the tactile books as there are only so many issues that I can deal with at one time. [translation = the books that have texture, are part of junior's 'sensory diet' but generally provoke meltdowns unless carefully choreographed.]

It is more of a picture book, which means fewer words and lots of attractive illustrations. I read slowly, with careful annunciation, which still sounds as if I have a mouthful of marbles. I keep each word distinct and try not to spit all over ‘Voices in the Park.’ [Ref 2] I draw their attention to the anomalies and visual jokes, which further distracts them from the torture of dinner.

As I close the book and reach for the next one, junior asks, “mummy, why are you dah sound of dah robot?” Oooo the life of a marble mouth.

Ref 1 = from Pervasive Developmental Disorder, An Altered Perspective by Barbara Quinn and Anthony Malone [The best introductory book.]

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

[Un]Favourable Peer Review?

mcewen.minti.com [test]
Presidents week means that the children are at home on holiday. With a brief preamble and a schedule board to hand, I suggest a bike ride in the park.
“Do you think that’s such a good idea Mom?” she asks politely. I am pleased that she is aware of the many pitfalls of such a venture, all the possible meltdowns and squirmishes that we may need to deflect or endure. The boys are close by. They do not ‘attend.’ They are not ‘included’ in this exchange. I am fairly confident that the content of the conversation is being processed.

“Oh, I’m sure it will all be just fine dear, don’t you worry, we have all day to manage it.” What a nice young woman she's developing into. We women of the world need to rise up and unite.jaw surgery.” Oh gosh, such thoughtfulness shows her ever growing empathy and maturity. I attempt a sweet smile, although it’s a bit lop sided. “That’s so kind of you dear, but my body is fine, I’ll just need to be careful about my face that’s all.” Why isn't the world populated only by womankind? I can feel my feminist banner on the rise above my head.
“That’s what I mean!” Enough spunk and spice to tell it how it is. The banner flutters against the ceiling.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, your face is going to scare little children!” Ah. Such consideration for her fellow ‘man.’
“Oh it will be fine, I’ll be cycling so fast I’ll just be a blur.”
“But you’ll have to stop sometimes and then people will see you,” she squirms with a tone of alarm. Such sensitivity delights my heart.
“I don’t think that there will be many people in the park, most people go away for the week on holiday.”
“Some of my friends aren’t going away on vacation!" she translates unnecessarily. "Some of my friends might see you and then what?” I had no idea that her pals were of such a delicate disposition.
“It’ll be soooooo embarrassing to have a mom who looks like a …..a…….well, not very nice.” Ah. Don't sugar coat it dearie. My banner crashes down on my head, causing only psychological damage.
Junior jumps to attention and skitters over to us, scatters a pile of Pokemon and shouts, “but mummy has dah beautiful knees, so dah little kids can look at her kneeses!”
“Oh you’re so dumb, my friends aren’t little kids, they won’t be looking at her knees.” Senior son snails his way over to the table where he collapses slug like, with a sigh to add, “it’s o.k. I had dah big friends in my class too. My friends like mom’s talkin.”

Rats to puppy dog tails! Such a shame that I still sound like a marble mouth.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Time to clean up your act

Around this neck of the woods where fine motor skills are in short supply, the management relies upon the use of liquid soap to keep hygiene at acceptable levels. Cleanliness for one of my boys, is a high priority, falling into the OCD category. My other chap is indifferent. I sometimes consider allowing the dirt to build up to the level where I can simply chip it off like a crust with a chisel, to save time.
Liquid soap of course is one of those new fangled extravagances of modern life, but I hadn’t realized quite how insidious such shopping preferences can become, especially for one such as myself, someone "allergic to shopping."

I decide to indulge my family. I ponder if I really want to squander this gift upon my unappreciative herd, but the thought of those beautiful bars of soap spending another year on the top shelf of my closet, makes me wince. It smacks of the ‘best china’ or ‘parlour,’ things that are only used on High days and Holidays, imposing an unnecessary paucity on daily life. I pull off the lid to be enveloped in wafts of lemon scent. It even smells clean, which is just how a cake of soap should be.
I am apprehensive in view of junior violent objection to cleaning solutions that involve fruit. I determine to choose my words carefully.

“What it is?”
“It is soap”
“Soap! Soap? It is not soap!”
“It is really. You use it to wash and get clean.”
“Er, no, I am finking dat you are making an accident, not a deliberately.”
“Because dah soap is er…..I dont know er……dis is not soap because it is being hard.” Oh of course, why didn’t I think of that?
“I see. Well this is an old fashioned cake of soap, this is what people used before liquid soap was invented.”
“Cake! Cake? I am never eating it, it is terrible for me!”
“Ah, no, you don’t eat it, you wash with it, just like liquid soap.”
“Not cake?”
“No that’s just the descriptive noun, like ‘pod’ of whales.”

I demonstrate usage of the strange item to my kinesthetic learner. He makes no comment upon the lemon fumes, merely wrinkles his nose. “Here, you have a try.” I realize immediately that it’s a large item to hold for small hands. I also realize seconds later, that it has a hitherto forgotten flaw as it shoots out of his grasp and skids into the other room, an erratic spinning top. He squeals with glee and chases after it. His delight alerts the others that something is afoot. I observe three children gamboling in my kitchen, as smears of soap begin to adorn every surface.

Junior has his own light bulb moment, stops abruptly and takes a marching step towards me. “You know, I fink dat it is fun to be playing wiv cake. We should be having dah chocolate soap because it is smelling nicer than lemon fruit stuff.”

Those moments of self generated problem serving reward us both - isn’t that killing two birds with one stone?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Count ‘down’ for meltdowns

At breakfast he screams at me in a rage of frustration. We have progressed to the stage of 'bowl and spoon acquisition,' a precusor to cereal consumption. The bowl is empty, the spoon close to hand. He yells at me again, “what about the milk?”
I give in and give, fetch the milk and pour it into his empty bowl, as I don’t have enough voice volume to compete after jaw surgery. This act provokes a full meltdown of even greater frustration and rage. Although he has a rule about cereal first then milk, he missed that step in the sequence.

Simultaneously, junior is having a horizontal meltdown on the kitchen floorboards, caused by an absence of his preferred bowl, without which, he is incapable of eating his breakfast. The combined level of screaming is impressive.

Why? To the casual observer these meltdowns seems unreasonable, because the underlying logic is hidden. As adults we have preferences. If the favourite blend of coffee, made in just the right manner is unavailable, we might be miffed, put out, it could ruin the start to the day, but we have learned coping mechanisms to deal with the frustration. For some autistic children, not only have they yet to acquire coping strategies, often they are not able to articulate the source of frustration in the first place. Even if they are verbal, their emotions are so volatile and overwhelming, that this may override the ability to communicate effectively.

The preferred bowl is the easier of the two to explain. Many children have a special something or other. The problem for the autistic child, or rather the parent of that child, is that the special something or other category, applies to just about everything.

As with typical children, generally, this development doesn’t happen all at once, but creeps up on you by stealth. First it’s just a couple of things of no great significance, all perfectly harmless, makes the child more content and everyone’s life more peaceful. Gradually, the list of special items applies to just about everything in that particular child’s life. If you align this principle to both children, before you know it, you have effectively trapped yourself and your children into a rigid cage. Rigidity or what I prefer to term ‘predictability,’ becomes the new ‘norm.’ Deviation from the norm invokes meltdowns.

Whilst there are often complicating factors, depending upon the make-up of your child, the theme is the same; safety, comfort and security are provided by the availability of these props, even if sometimes they serve no practical use, as with the many tiny or particular talismen that accompany every waking, and sometimes sleeping, moments. Preferences for colour, texture, smell, sound when touched, and so on, all can all play a part in the choice, due in part to the sensory make up of the individual.

I know that it is a mistake to slide into this situation in the first place, but it is hard to resist. Once you find that you have buried yourself in this pit, is it a long climb out again. The temptation is to maintain the status quo, to transform yourself into the most efficient air steward in existence, so that they are never ‘without’ whatever it is. [times two] This was the path that I initially chose, although I can’t say that I actively chose it. It was more the line of least resistance, because I was out numbered.

The child that ‘tantrums’ at two for the big yellow duck or die, brings an indulgent smile to the parents. The same behaviour, when the child is 5, 6 or older, is quite another matter. It would be handy for the parent, to cut these ties and free themselves from the yoke. It might also be of some relief to the child, if some of these rigidities could be softened, to relieve them of the agony that they experience each and every time that perfection cannot practically be achieved. It is likely, that as they get older, greater degrees of control will need to be relinquished, because whilst it may be possible to control your own home environment, the world at large has more variables.

18 months ago, junior had 6, level 10 major [translation = severe] meltdowns in the same 40 minute morning period. His older brother varied upon that average. Both could sometimes squeeze in a few more meltdowns into those time period.

Eighteen months prior to that, there were so many meltdowns from both of them, within the same time frame that there were too many to count.

Then and now, it’s a great ratio.

A note [possible solution for some children]
This is a ‘do as I say’ note, not a ‘do as I do,’ note.

The primary commodities required for success are patience and calm in the parent, which are also two attributes that are a bit thin on the ground around here. All children pick up on their parent’s frustration and agitation. Neither assists either individual.

First determine the cause of the frustration. This is the greatest difficulty with my children due to their emotional state causing an inability to communicate. To help find out what it is that’s causing the bother, PECS may help. Even those, or other clues won’t help, unless your child is calm enough to be willing to attempt communication. There are a great number of calming strategies available. For mine, breath control via example [doing it together] and massage, help considerably. Taking the one that is having the ‘problem’ away from the situation that is causing the ‘problem,’ also helps. [I think this is because the visual reminder of the ‘problem’ glaring at him, only makes matters worse, although this is tricky if there are other children around]

The super crush bear hug works for the other. It calms him and lets him know that it’s o.k. to feel this way.
Once you can tease out clues, you then have an opportunity to find a variety of different solutions. This may also be tortuous because many of my ‘adult’ solutions, don’t hit the mark. E.g. he wants a blue bowl, several are available, but none are the right shade of blue. This may be a long exercise to teach the concept of ‘compromise.’

These strategies help at the moment, now. They may not be effective next week, or tomorrow for that matter. Previously, other skills helped, but they don’t now. As your child grows, different things will work or fail, but fortunately this is positive proof of ‘change’ and development. Life would be so boring if it remained the same.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Sparks and spikes

First thing most mornings, senior son has his full repetoire of words and more importantly, he is willing to demonstrate their use. This child’s speech delay has transformed him from non-verbal for semi verbal, although an expert has yet to confirm this. He can struggle to retrieve the word ‘green,’ [translation = expressive language, what he can actually say] and yet in the alternative, use the preferred world of ‘chartreuse.’ [translation = receptive language, the words that he understands as they come in.]

This is in part why it is so difficult to accurately assess language use. I would liken it to being unable to remember the name of a film, an actor, that woman who used to live at the house at the end of the road; it’s on the tip of your tongue but you just can’t hook it. The frustration this causes, often means that it preferable not to speak at all but it is debatable whether a meltdown in the alternative is better? I need him to practice using words. The meltdowns are a by-product of his effort.

Although breakfast and the morning routine is fraught with stumbling blocks for the unwary, his ability to talk coherently often leaves me breathless with amazement and unadulterated joy. In a home full of rigid narrow rules I gasp at his expertise. Breakfast cereal follows fruit consumption. The fruit is compulsory as this is when they are at their most hungry. The reward, is a choice of about half a dozen types of cereal, some more preferred than others. The choice is limited by cupboard space. Until one box of cereal is empty, when there is room for a replacement, they are denied additional choices.

He skips to the cupboard and clambers up on the counter for a better view as I start my verbal protest. He waves a hand in my general direction saying sotto voce, “now just calm down now, it’s gonna be o.k.” He says it to [me], not to himself as he usually does. The cupboard is stuffed to overflowing, “now let me see,” he pauses, his eyes flicking between the cupboard and my face as he calculated. He jumps down with alacrity and heads off to the garage and additional cereal packets, but now before calling over his shoulder to advise me, “I be right back, you just wait there nicely.” Not only at the phrases appropriate and delivered in a fluid flow, but he turned his head towards me whilst running in the opposite direction. Although this increases his chances of an accident, the very act of turning his head to send his message is striking.

When he reappears with a new packet, leaps onto the counter and jams the box between the others, he announces in triumph, “you see! It fits! I was right, you were wrong, but that’s o.k. I forgive you.”

He tumbles back onto the floor. He visually checks that I am in the correct position before he turns his body forward again, so that he can gently reverse into my body, so that we curve together like spoons. His hands reach back to hold my thighs before he does a little jig, a backwards cuddle. To you it is disconcerting with sexual undercurrents. To me it is the demonstrative child exhausted by his speech efforts, yet wanting to communicate affection.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The lowest common denominator [translation = use it or lose it]

[from a couple of weeks back]
Whilst I am allergic to exercise in any shape, form or description, if forced, I would come down on the side of the sprinter. Short bursts of energy and enthusiasm. If such a strategy doesn’t work, then give up. This is not a good parenting style for the autistic child, where consistency and persistence are required over long periods of time.

I emerge from my steaming pit [translation = bed] after surgery. I adopt a vertical position and stumble downstairs. I find my three youngest children draped across various pieces of furniture clutching electronic devices, semi naked. I attempt a verbal greeting but it’s not loud enough and has no impact. As they are content, I make do with bodily contact, a hug that is shrugged off as interference, a stroke of the hair which is flicked off like a wasp and a caress for the one with no nerve endings.

The home help has been hard at work. Almaz has ensured that the house is clean and tidy. Three lunch packs are stacked neatly on the counter. She is a gem, tireless, dedicated and hard working. She dresses them, cleans their teeth, picks up after them, feeds them with a spoon. They have no responsibilities, no chores and no input into their own lives. She is their slave - they adore her.

I consider the time of day. I suspect that my inert children have been engaged in this activity for hours. [translation = plural] I recall that it has also been peaceful enough for me to sleep, which confirms my worst fears.

The Gameboy, Gamecube and telly, are used specifically to elicit compliance. They are motivators, powerful ones. Over a long period of time, you can use these ‘bribes’ to achieve extraordinary things, such as toilet training, eating, or trying to eat a new food, wearing clothes, or maybe keeping your clothes on. As long as you pick something specific [we’ll do this homework sheet /homework question together and then….] the results can be miraculous. As with most matters, it is not a quick fix. You have to start with a small, discrete task that is within their capabilities, with the rigid application of the rules that you have determined to be equitable in advance. If you bend the rules once, the whole matter quickly unravels and you’re back to square one.

It is therefore with some alarm, that I realize that two and a half years worth [?] of painstaking progress has dissolved into a cats cradle. I would like to describe these tasks as ‘my winnings,’ but to be more accurate, they are ‘triumphs of achievement, the culmination of the acquisition of specific skills, and a demonstration of the remarkable accomplishments’ of my children. Or they were.
I can feel my fat lip quiver and my piggy eyes sunk in my swollen face, begin to leak at the thought of square one. I do not like square one, the square of several years ago, I much prefer square 7, where we were three weeks ago, prior to surgery.
I remind myself to ‘pull myself together’ for fear of betraying myself to my children.

Then I remember that I am invisible again, out on the periphery, that I have inadvertently renewed my membership to the irrelevant, relegated and forgotten. A selfish viewpoint. My children are tuned out, turned off and internalized. An even more selfish viewpoint.

I must quickly transform myself from invalid, to taskmaster. I have no option but to take up the reigns and become ‘the enemy’ again. It is not a role that I relish. I would much prefer to lounge around and just let them be. I would be happy to let them exist in their electronic wordless world. A life free from school, therapy, people and verbal communication. A world with French toilets, the ‘hole in the floor’ kind. A monastic silent nudist colony, in an video arcade, where junk food snacks are freely available for refueling purposes only.

The strains of Frankie Laine's 'Rawhide' whisper through my brain ad I start hunting for my dusty whip, ready to renew the marathon.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Visual cues – are you guilty?

He trips over laundry soaking in a bucket as he comes in from the garage.
“Sorry dear, I left it there to remind me to put it on to wash.” He shakes the water off his sock and steps into the kitchen where I’m standing at the sink. He leans on the counter and hastily removes his hand, “oh sorry dear, I’m just leaving their paintings to dry there so that I don’t forget to pin them up before we go to bed.” He stretches past me to reach the soap but tips over the upside down bottles, “don’t tell me, you’re just trying to get the last few drops out, right?” He knows me so well.

The floor is strewn with piles, socks to match, paperwork to be completed, junior’s collection of oral desensitizers to be sterilized, backpacks to be filled, library books to be returned, each an indication of my diminished brain capacity as the years advance. He taps the sack of slug pellets with the tip of his toe, “yet another job?”
“No, I did manage to get out into the garden but the sacks there to remind me to put it away somewhere safe.”
“Great, so of all these things that you want to do, productivity today has been limited to the annihilation of the gastropod population!”
“World peace would have been a better option.”

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Learn by observation

Many autistic children are reluctant to make eye contact and mine are no exception. Additionally, they do not naturally orientate their bodies or faces to the person that they speak to. The average person, even when they leave mid conversation, is likely to talk over their shoulder as they depart. To have a conversation with someone who is in a constant state of movement is disconcerting. Generally speaking, it is my habit to attempt to reduce those movements, as it is supposed to help them concentrate on their speech, although I’m not entirely convinced. Occasionally, they manage it all by themselves.

I hang over the sink sputtering ineffectually as junior appears at my side. He lies his head on the counter for a better view, pillowed and protected from the cold surface by his long sleeved arm. “You are a spitter now? We can be doing the spitting togever? You are all better now?” I turn to face him, bespattered by toothpaste, grab a wash cloth and hold it close to my face.

“Do you get dirty when you spit dear?” He cogitates as white foam dribbles down my chin and drops onto the waiting cloth. He puts his index finger to his lips, an affectation that indicates that thought processing is in progress. His pupils sweep my face in assessment. His nose crinkles and eyes narrow.

“Er……you know I am finking dat you need to do the practicing more.”

Monday, February 12, 2007

A fate worse than death

I busy myself in the garden whilst spouse supervises inside. It may be only February but Spring has sprung. Tender shoots have shot. I pause to admire a ladybird. [translation = lady bug] Oh the delight of living in California! Then I step on a snail. Tender shoots and gastropods at the same time. I drop the secateurs and dash inside to execute plan B.

Spouse has plans for two children, so I am left with the short straw. I explain the situation to junior, but he is not impressed with his options; “not dah garden center,” he wails as he runs away at the speed of light. I do not punish merely torture him with this trip. It’s not deliberate but necessary, before the slugs and snails consume all green matter that emerges in the garden.

I make sure that he is appropriate attired for such an expedition; shoes not sandals, long trousers, long sleeved jacket, hat and gloves to ensure minimal skin exposure. I throw the umbrella in the car for good measure, as they have hoses in the garden centre and he mistakenly believes that an umbrella will ward off the evils of wetness.

We set off to the garden of Eden which holds more therapeutic power for me than any spa. Junior does not share this view. For him, there are so many things wrong with the garden center that it would be hard to list them all. The potential for becoming dirty or wet is high on the list objections. Because it is outside, there is also the chance that a breeze may ruffle his hair. Plants and soil [translation = dirt] can smell disagreeable. Flowers, not that there will be many at this time of year, may have perfume. Even if the fragrance is pleasant for most people, for him it is often too powerful. [I think?] The ground is uneven with channels to remove excess water, so that little rivers criss cross the pathways. The shelves drip. The hoses and taps drip. There can be beeping fork lift trucks moving palettes around. They move in unpredictable directions. They jerk and spout plumes of black sooty smoke.

I determine to make the exercise as swift and painless as possible.

I stand at the check out queue clutching a sack of slug pellets under one arm, my other hand securely grasps junior's as he jitters and skitters in a two foot radius. All of a sudden he stops. A gasp of true awe matches his eyes out on stalks. He cannot talk, but he does point. I look but I do not see. His hands cover his mouth as he tried to contain his excitement. I look again but I cannot see whatever it is that has transformed the torture trip into a treat. A little rain dance of joy starts in his tippy tapping toes and then convulses up his body. He’s off at a gallop. I drop the sack and run after him but he stops just as abruptly so that I nearly fall flat on my face. Before him is a big golden coloured ball, a garden decoration I believe.

He admires his warped reflection and grins from ear to ear, “it is dah golden one!” he whispers. I peek at the bottom to find the price and gasp myself. I am about to splutter about the value of a dollar to my six year old as I watch him squeeze his eyes shut, cover them with his hands and then explode in delight again. I put the ball under my arm and return with junior to the check out and the sack of slug pellets.

The ball is strapped into the spare toddler seat next to junior. He lays a palm on the smooth surface to keep it safe on the journey home. He spends the seven minute drive giggling and sighing with adoration. I spend the same seven minutes trying to work out how too explain how a bag of slug pellets could be so expensive to spouse?

I wonder if I could sell him on the idea of it being a lure to get junior to go outside, therapy, but not retail?

Do we have to?

If my mum had suggested that we play a board game when I was a child I think I would have died of joy on the spot. That’s not to say that we never played games, it more that the occasions when we did, were few and far between. Generally we played card games when we went on caravan holidays and other games during the Christmas holidays. Other than that, it would be a real red letter day for such a thing to occur. Perhaps it's something to do with being an older parent?

It is with this mind set that I approach my own children, "older" but not necessarily wiser.
My daughters are always eager, willing and enthusiastic. Not so the boys.

The suggestion of playing a game is always greeted similarly. It is a predictable as night follows day, which is why you need to be mentally prepared prior to commencement. You can pick a game, any game and make the suggestion. The suggestion is made verbally, with enthusiasm, the visual clue of the game box in your hand on bended knee. Assuming that the message penetrates in the first place the response is always ‘why?’ I know this is what they will say, and whilst I thank the speech gods that they are able to tell me this, at the same time, it reminds me that it is often the most simple concepts that are the most difficult to explain – because it will be fun, because we will enjoy ourselves, laugh together…………. Whatever the magic words are, I have yet to find them.

I know that I will have to herd and bribe the boys to come to the table – play this game with me and as a reward you can………… [fill in the current obsession]
Bizarre! The game should be the reward in my book, but that is of course because I have the wrong book and I’m definitely on the wrong page.

So saying, after all these years I have finally worn them down. They will play the game, sometimes perfunctorily and occasionally with a modicum of enjoyment, but I suspect that they’re doing it for me, rather than as a pleasurable form of entertainment for themselves. There again, such selflessness on their part, as well as this additional nugget of evidence to thwart the theory of mind, gives me considerable delight.

Now they will come to the table, muttering the kind of phrases that you get from teenagers when they finally capitulate and agree to do their chores; “Alright, I’m coming,” they sigh, dragging their little bodies over in slow motion, deflated and drained.

Hey, it’s compliance! No complaints from me, and I get to 'practice' teenagers a decade in advance.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

If's, when's and maybe's?

"I'm just saying 'if' at the moment. We'll have to see."
"Oh but please, please, pleeeeeeeeez?"
"We've not decided yet, Daddy and I have some more, er, talking to do."
"O.k. so when we get the dog..."
"Not 'when,' 'if' dear..."
"O.k. so if we get a dog, what shall we call her? I like Shyler or Piri or Nelly or.. ooo there's so many to choose from. It's going to be so great, I'm gonna love her soooo much! I've wanted a dog like now foreverrrrr."
"What about you dear?"
"Er? He is a boy? He is a girl? What he is? Um, I dont know, we can call him 'dog' coz he is."
"Right. What about you dear?"
"I call it 'wolf!'"

Crazy Talk

I’m not sure if it’s because they’re autistic or whether it’s the speech delays or some random combination of the two, but now that they talk so much more than I ever imagined possible, far from improving our understanding of one another, it seems to make comprehension some kind of cerebral gymnastic exercise, one that I am not qualified to deal with.

For example, because examples usually clarify, I say to junior ‘go and put your shoes on now dear.’ Note the use of a statement not rather than a request, which would invoke an automatic negative response or meltdown. What kind of a response might a rational parent expect? I suspect that ‘I don’t have any shoes,’ would not be your first guess. If you had personal knowledge of our family, his aversion to texture and shoes, this might be on your radar, but that answer still wouldn’t be the words you’d expect. You might guess ‘I don’t want to wear shoes because I hate them,’ that would be o.k. and logical. The denial of the very existence of shoes, isn’t quite so high up on the expectations league, or at least not on mine.
I used to consider myself quite a linguist, agile in the word department but this doesn’t marry well with my everyday performance, or lack thereof. Time after time I am floored, defeated and dumbfounded, and that’s only within the average hour.
Whilst we skimmed over the issue of using statements rather than questions in the hope of eliciting a response, there is also the matter of giving choices, the A or B type of choice, mainly because for senior, choices are a hardship. So you say to him, ‘do you want a tangerine or grapes?’ Whilst neither are preferred, neither are they loathed, so it’s a choice between two indifferent items. Clever timing on my genius part, ensures that he is hungry before I ask the question, but food is still generally a refueling exercise rather than a social or pleasurable experience. So how will he answer? I can cope with the;

a] I don’t know
b] nuffink
c] no
those are all just fine, we’ve been having those for at least 18 months, it’s the ones that spring out of nowhere to hijack and confuse me. These can take a variety of forms such as the unexpected return question that is off topic;
“You like Pikachu or Absol bestest?” Whilst my knowledge of Pokemon and my sons’s preference for them, I did not anticipate that my question would provoke his question. Alternatively, his response might be a different question, one that refers to an incident 6 months or 6 years ago, that is not related to the current topic either;
“when I was 4 did I have an accident?’
There again we could have the relevant ‘on topic’ question, that still comes out of the clouds to zap the feeble minded brain of the adult;
“Citrus fruits are poisonous? I am gonna die!”

Am I complaining because my speech delayed non-verbal children are less so? Well yes of course I am, that’s what I’m best at afterall, but at the same time it’s such at monumental development that my brain is still lagging behind. The fact that I cannot anticipate their responses reflects my own very narrow field of expectations. It also reflects the fact that they do not have those same limitations, they literally do ‘think outside the box.’ Who wants to live in that kind of a cage anyway?

My synapses and neural pathways are strong, swift and travel over familiar well rehearsed territory. Their’s are relatively unformed, fluid and free flowing. I know where my typical conversations will end up. Conversations with my own boys are uncharted, without a script or map. But maybe it’s better for all of us to travel hopefully than to arrive?

Roll up, roll up, get your spit bowls here!

Handy hint [possibly] no.3

This is more of a mini book review. Many parents have problems with food and their children. This is by no means an exclusively ‘autistic’ matter. Other parents have difficulties with Pica. [translation = eating or mouthing non food items] If your child falls into the former category then this book may prove to be helpful, I hope. It’s called “Just take a bite,” by Lori Ernsperger, Ph.D and Tania Stegen-Hanson, OTR/L. The forward is by Temple Grandin! which is the seal of authenticity for me.

I may have read every book written on the subject, but has proved to be the most effective for my child.

It explains all the pertinent factors in language that is easy to understand with lots of examples and hints. It provides a planned approach for the parent to implement which removes the pressure so that the whole exercise becomes stress free. but A change in approach for the parent, based upon a greater understanding of the interplay of numerous different factors, means that calm may be restored to your household, I hope.

It may not be a quick fix, but under the present circumstances, a very slow fix is probably about as good as it's going to get around here.

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