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

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Suck on that you Rich Vandal!

We continue our conversation regarding my "unfortunate purchase," of a sound machine as a sleep aid. [translation = extravagant whim]
“I still don’t really understand why you bought it in the first place?”
“I had only the very best of intentions.”
“Maybe, but these impulse buys are always a mistake.” [translation = the road to Hell]
“I was under extreme duress at the time.”
“Oh you had them all with you then.”
“Yup, in Target.”
“Well that was your first mistake.”
“Target or taking the children?”
“Both really now I come to think of it.”
“I only went there for two things, milk, a birthday card and the sound machine.”
“That’s three!” [translation = clocks the mathematically challenged person]
“Well I was only going to look at the sound machines not actually buy one right away.”
“Definitely two then, because ‘looking’ and ‘children’ are mutually exclusive tasks. So what went wrong?”
“I had one lying on my feet, but that was sort of o.k. because at least he was static. She wanted to go and look at the toys, but I needed us to stay together and junior was so noisy I couldn’t think straight.”
“Rhymes or numbers?”
“Is 5000 still his favourite number?”
“Yes, but you know how it is, if he gets distracted or interrupted, then he has to start again from the beginning.”
“With accompanying meltdown?”
“Only level 7 meltdowns, as having a meltdown interfered with his ability to start counting again.”
“What fun!”
“That’s one description, I can think of many others.”
“Anyway. The sound machine?”
“He picked one up, clutched it to his chest and wouldn’t let go.”
“Unusual for him, he’s not usually interested in anything so mundane.” [translation = anything that isn't a Pokemon]
“I thought it was odd too. Then he kept asking if we could take it home.”
“Which interrupted the counting, which brought about another meltdown.”
“How come you know this family so well? It was bedlam, believe me.”
“You don’t usually capitulate in the ‘buy me an X’ department. Why did you give in? Bad precedent you know! You’re your own worst enemy.” [translation = stupid]
“Tell me about it. But he was so unusually vehement.”
“Not just his usual tenacity?”
“No, more, much more.”
“Much more what?”
“Can’t quite put my finger on it.”
“Hey, give me the box a minute.” She examines the empty package. “Did you say that 5000 is still his favourite?”
“Look at all the numbers on this! Could he have been saying them aloud?”
“I don’t know my brain was numb at the time.”
“Look 5106!”
“Maybe he just wanted it for the number 5000?”
“You think?”
“Well in that case, all you have to do is rip off the numbers of cartons whilst you’re in the store and give them too him. You won’t have to ever actually buy him anything ever again!”
“That’s vandalism! I’ll be had up!” [translation = arrested for product tampering]
“What choice do you have? Vandalism or financial ruin. Jail or the Poor House, you choose?”

My daughter saunters into the room, “you could get him to choose a smaller number!” she offers helpfully. We adults smile indulgently at her generous suggestion, “if only it were that simple dear! But you know him, once he’s got a bee in his bonnet about something there’s no shifting him.”

“No!” she explains patiently. “He didn’t want you to buy it because of the number, he wanted you to bring it home because he hadn’t finished counting to 5106. You could have waited until he reached 5106 and then he’d have put it back on the shelf.”

Strangely I have no reason to doubt her. [translation = the ring of truth doesn’t need a bell, just a tinkle]

Thinking Blogger Awards

Can someone please give me an accurate definition of 'meme' as my 1985 Oxford English, two volume dictionary, is of no help?

I have been tagged by "abfh" for the Thinking Blogger meme.
Many thank you's for forcing me up the blogging learning curve!

These are the official rules for participation:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to "this" post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the "Thinking Blogger Award" with a link to the post that you wrote.

That aside

1. I tag "Jambav Parenting" because they were one of the first groups to contact me when I started blogging. Their's is a collective effort, which means that the variety and range of parenting experiences gives me a more balanced perspective. [translation = also, we share a common language, as 'American' is far too tricky to understand]

2. Then "Facing Autism in New Brunswick," because I am a frequent visitor, love the bicameral parliamentary system, which reminds me of home, and I adore Connor even though we've never met. [Should bicameral parliamentary system be in capitals?]

3. I also visit "Kim Stagliano" even though she drives me batty with her irregular postings. She makes me laugh and is out numbered, as I am. Also because, as an aspiring writer, she's cracked it, so I can watch her fly from the wings.

4. "Estee" also gives me great pause for thought, although she also has a nasty habit of posting irregularly - have these people no schedules! [translation = timetables and a clock] She is doing such "sterling stuff" that it knocks my socks off and I don't think I've ever seen her do one of these before.

5. Lastly, a newbie for me, is "John Elder Robinson." Just the name is enough to make me bow, or should that be genuflect? I will be buying his book, "Look me in the eye," [translation = even though it will be a hard back and therefore extravagantly expensive] but in the meantime I am thoroughly enjoying watching the birthing process. [of a book!]

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Suck on that!

“Honestly Madz! You’re such a sucker!” offers my worldly wise pal. [translation = American]

{And there was me thinking that it was only Brits who contracted people's name to a single syllable!}

In the background I hear a debate in the family room, first echolalic and then deliberate.
“Mummy is a sucker?”
“No, she is…..suck ….her, you dumbass!”
“A suck her?”
“Yeah, she not a suck him coz she is dah wimmins!”
“Oh right!”
“Mummy is a suck her, Mummy is a suck her, Mummy is a suck her.” It sounds vaguely normal, in a most disconcertingly offbeat manner.
"What it is?"
"What it is dah 'suck her'?"
"I don know."
"Mummy is dah bad suck her."
"Yeah she don suck no good."
"Yeah wonky teef."

I don't think I have often heard my children discuss me. Still you never hear anything good about yourself if you ear wig. Maybe I exist afterall?
“Mummy is a bad suck her, Mummy is a bad suck her, Mummy is a bad suck her,” they chorus and giggle. They add their own sucking noises to punctuate the spaces and display their prowess. I wonder if anyone else is listening?

“So you really think that’s gonna work!” I return my attention to my pal, although I feel a tad uncertain of my ground.
“Yes. Absolutely. It is the perfect solution. Background noise. White noise. It’s exactly what they need to send them off into blissful sleep.”
She peers at the controls, “You really think sticking them in a room with that thing, that thing that makes waterfall sounds is good for them? He’ll think he’s drowning, you’ll traumatize the little guy.” I look at the options, “I don’t suppose ‘rain’ will do it either?” I mumble. “It does have volume control and a timer!”

“Maybe you could rip that chip out of the machine and install it in the kids?” As always, she has a valid point.
“I’m sure I saw the ‘guaranteed’ words somewhere.”
“Guaranteed to what though? Make you poorer!”
“Money back!”

“So what’s the theory, come on! Tell me, give me a laugh!”
“Don’t be so scathing, I’ve put a lot of thought into this purchase.”
“Oh yeah, like you’re the Queen of research or what!”
“Sarcasm doesn’t become you! Can't you go back to being a nice American again?"
"You've gotta stop generalizing about Americans, it's unhealthy!" [translation = my personal translator of all things American with the bonus of psychobabble speak]
"Well, anyway. It’s like this. Firstly, it’s a plug in not batteries, so it won’t run out of omph in the middle of the night and send them all bazzy.”
“True, but the 60 minute timer means that they’ll be awake on the hour to turn it back on again.”
“There is that possibility if you’re being negative.”

“Whatever. Anyway, the ‘noise’ will mean that it’ll drown out junior’s motor mouth which is driving his brother barmey.”
“You don’t think that the noise of the machine together with motor mouth might just send him over the edge?”
“Can you turn yourself back into a positive minded American again please?"
"Stop generalizing!"
"Anyway, next there are a choice of sounds to meet different people’s perspectives.”
“O.k. so assuming you discount the rain, the waterfall, the rainforest which is also bound to be a bit drippy and the ocean. Far too much water all round for that OCD little guy. So what does that leave you with?”

“Er, heartbeat and summer night.”
“Have you forgotten we live in California? Every night is a summer night, just open the windows.”
“Sure!" [translation = I'm sure that note of derision is growing.] "You know those nights that you can’t sleep yourself? What can you hear?”
“Er my heartbeat, pulse and breathing?”
“Do you find it helps?”
“Er no,...... it makes it worse.”
“Do you still have the packing and the receipt?”
"Ah.....well.......you see..."
"You Europeans don't have a monopoly on saving the planet you know! We Americans file our receipts first and then recycle."
I would appear that I need to practice my sequencing skills.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Engineering perfection

Two of my four children to not like the ‘great outdoors.’ [translation = my autistic boys] In order to overcome, or at least ameliorate this obstacle, we have been working on a campaign to desensitize them. [translation = since each was able to walk]

Timing is crucial, but that aside there are many other temptations available to the wily parent. [translation = deviant] I select my lures with great care, ensure that everyone has protective clothing on, [translation = sunglasses, baseball caps, clothing to the wrist and ankle] add preferred snacks in a shady corner and I’m just about ready.

I run through my check list. What might I have either forgotten or overlooked? Nothing. Perfection has been achieved. [translation = everything is in my favour] I gather the troops and advice of forthcoming proceedings. Two faces scowl back at me. [translation = it’s still a transition and we hate transitions] My daughter skips out into the garden and calls to her brother’s with glee. [translation = an added bonus] “Hey, come and look at THIS guys! It’s awesome!” The boys step out in the garden with caution, I lag behind a second or two to grab a couple of extra, extra towels for security. I hear them through the open window.

“ooo, what is it being?”
“I fink dey are dancing!”
“Squirming more like!”
“No, no, no, dey are makin dah babies! Look dere bodies, dey are wriggling, wriggling, wriggling!”

I dash out into the garden, tripping over towels, to see all three of them in the glaring sunshine, not in the shade. Not in the carefully designed spot that I have been perseverating upon all day.

They peer into the open bag of Bonemeal, that I accidentally left out in the garden a couple of days ago during my latest planting spree. I take a step towards them, gingerly.

“ooo, looky, looky, looky! Dey are all whitey!”
“No, no, no! Dey are not white dey are creamy translucent.”
“They’re pretty slimey!” [translation = reciprocal speech is when you respond appropriately and on topic in response to what someone else has said rather than going off on a tangent of your own e.g. Pokemon are winners]

I take another step closer, jam my sunglasses onto my nose and take a deep breath. I peer, with half closed eyes at the contents of the bag. I can hardly bear to look. I know I should have put it back in the garage. I should have been more careful watering. I should have closed the bag, sealed the bag, put the bag in another plastic bag to avoid sogginess. I can feel my stomach heave.

“I’m gonna be calling mine ‘Jiggle’ and I’m gonna be writing his name wiv curly wurly ‘G’s.”
“I’m gonna…..name him…….trans, trans, trans,….George cos he’s a very curious one.”
“They’re too many to give them all names guys!”

I watch the surface of the bag ripple. What is the conversion rate of one 10 pound bag of organic Bonemeal to wildlife?

“ooo, I love dah little guys!” he guffaws with laughter and slaps his knees.
“I fink we could, we should, we might …..be putting dem in the bo, box, er……aquarium so dat dey can be our new pets!”
“That’s a great idea! Good job! I hope Rascal and Unis like em too! I hope they won’t eat em like the lizards. Perhaps we ought to put a top on this time. What do you think Mom?” she looks at me expectantly.

If they think I’m going to have a tank full of maggots on the dining room table, then think "again."

Monday, May 28, 2007

The curse of sun kisses

I am blessed with freckles, so many that you can’t put a pin between them. Whilst I used to loathe them, I have gradually grown to accept the status quo. This occurred in part, due to gentle gentleman in France. He explained to me, that in Germany, people call freckles ‘sun kisses,’ which somehow sounded so much better.

Now that my skin is turning into rhino hide, my ancient wisdom is reflected in age spots instead. I don’t know the German for age spots but they don’t fuss me much either. The ones that really annoy me, are the badly placed marks. In this particular instance, it is not vanity, more the unexpected consequences of having a mark where a mark should not be.

The visual acuity of an autistic child [or adult] can often be quite extraordinary. This means that a cluster of random freckles that overlay one another, especially as the sun moves us into Summer, become the equivalent of constellation study. Groups of freckles can become shapes. [translation = or letters or numbers]

The boring collections of freckles sometimes pretend to be a nose leak or a blob of chocolate on the corner of your mouth. Sometimes, as Summer heats up and holidays are in full swing, they might be mistaken for dried blood, if you were so inclined to interpret it in that manner. Some autistic children deliberately choose to interpret collections of freckles as being dried blood, merely to drive the freckler to distraction.

Snot, blood and all other bodily fluids are a cause of great angst in the little one. [translation = OCD clean] Whilst we are working on this aspect of his autism, like so many other campaigns, it can be difficult to manage them all simultaneously. [translation = some take priority over others, such as the food campaign] Blood would definitely score most highly on the Richter scale. Thereafter would be a wide variety of foods. One can also throw in the variable of temperature such as cold ice-cream or warmer than strictly necessary oatmeal, as well as every variation on a theme. Snot would be a high ranker but it would be hard to place it accurately on the continuum.

By the Memorial Day weekend, I have spent sufficient hours playing in the garden, to ensure that my skin has been exposed to the suns rays long enough to make bursts of freckle compilations appear everywhere. [translation = well everywhere that the sun shone, in any case]

I hunker down to wipe chocolate pudding off his face. Whilst I wipe his face, he watches mine. His eyes scrutinize every wrinkle.

“Ah! You are blood. You are dead? You are ill? What you are? Ah! Ah! Ah! Don touch me or I be dead too, go away!” Verbal expressions are of course a joy. [translation = so much better that the screaming meltdown with no clue as to the cause] Few people could be expected to interpret a meltdown as being caused by melanin. Such worries and concerns can quickly spiral out of control, as demonstrated by my son’s premature exit from the room, a little vortex of over stimulated nerve endings. He takes himself to the furthest point in the house to maximize the distance between himself and the alleged dried blood.

I seek him out in the hope of translating the evidence in a more enlightened view. [translation = I know most of his hidey holes]

I know that he hears my footsteps approach from 500 yards away. [translation = supersonic hearing] If there were any doubt in my mind, that I might accidentally surprise him by my arrival, this worry is dismissed as I hear him crow. He crows like a rooster. He does this because the correct words to accurately describe his distress are unavailable to him. They are unavailable to him because he is experiencing distress.

It only takes about 10 minutes of breathing and massage to calm him down sufficiently for him to be able to attend to my words. The logic of my explanation is faultless. His index finger very bravely checks my veracity. Surprise! Indeed, I was telling the truth all the time, only coloured skin, no blood.

Big brother appears to peruse the scene. He stands with his legs astride his brother to assess the situation. He peers at my face as I explain the difficulty. He contemplates for a few moments. [translation = plays for time whilst he retrieves suitable words of comment] He offers his verbal support to bulk up my conclusions, “it’s o.k.! Listen up little buddy! It’s not dah blood, it’s dah snot!” Gotta love those scripts! Boys 2 : Mum nil. [again]

Sunday, May 27, 2007

No beating around the bush

["Ben Ownby" Found Alive]

I print off the email from the school and march into the family room for a serious discussion. It has arrived minutes after I have read about a "safety" programme in what is clearly becoming "the State" that is ahead of the hunt.

I give them the pertinent facts gleaned from the warning notice from the school, once I have commanded their attention. [translation = no mean feat! Perhaps I should have done this one-on-one instead?] I quickly find that I have taken on the role of game show host.

'Silver Sedan car, white male with dark hair, 'help me find my dog' to one of the children at their school.'

A near miss for that child, who beat a hasty retreat to an adult. We cannot be as confident of a similar response.

“No a dog!” protests the superhero of felines. A group discussion ensues as the merits of saving various types of pets, but rapidly descends into a debate about species of animals. I corral them all in – back on topic. What would each of them do if faced with a similar situation?

Junior pipes up to declare that he would consider getting in the car if it were "golden" rather than silver. I suppress a sigh and sit on my hands to prevent myself from tearing my hair out.

Further talk assesses skin and hair colour. The colour combinations bear no resemblance to reality or racism, more Todd Parr. I am ready to lie down and die, because we are so far off track and nowhere near the real nub of the dilemma, indeed it would appear that no-one is even aware that there is a dilemma. As usual I have failed to take the time to think through the ramifications of such a topic.

My son back tracks to the make of the car, what exactly is a sedan? I am suddenly aware that I am not at all sure what a sedan is? Knowledge of cars is probably my weakest suit. I operate on a line of elimination – not a mini, not a lorry, not a minivan, not an estate. I know that I’m being cross continental, or maybe just cross, that my delivery only serves to further muddy the waters.

Junior is unconcerned with the type of car, but is keen to examine the potential make or brand of the "tyres" that any erstwhile pedophile might utilize. Grouchiness begins to overwhelm me as Junior quizzes us, as to whether or not ‘see dan’ is a compound word? When ‘sedan’ is broken into it’s phonetic parts. This gives cause for his brother to point out that it is merely two separate words, the verb ‘see’ and the man’s name, ‘Dan,’ providing further evidence of his aural processing skills and attention to his work sheets, where the character ‘Dan,’ features all too frequently for my liking.

I am ready to weep, but instead call for order in the house. Enough. Cease and desist! Attend to the matter at hand, namely abduction, which I refer to as theft. [of the person] I seem to be the only one flustered and frustrated.

Not for the first time, I have cause to recall that I often both mis-read and underestimate their abilities. Such an incident occurred when most of my children were permanently naked. [translation = no ‘dressing’ skills coupled with tactile defensiveness which made the texture of clothing abhorrent] I worried that they were unduly vulnerable, as they had no sense of ‘modesty.’ I was proved wrong during a visit to the ER, where my semi conscience non-verbal son, had a complete meltdown when a kindly female nurse attempted to "unbutton" his flies.

How come 'stranger danger' is so much more complicated these days? If they lured with candy, that would ensure that junior would be safe. [translation = the "neophobic" one] If the stranger sported an attractive bear T-shirt, that would mean my other son would be safe. [translation = "ursaphobia"] My daughter. I look at her giggling enjoying the fun with her brothers. Would "lizards" be her undoing?

I look at my rabble whilst my mind travels through the options of library books, "social stories" and modeling. If the cats have microchips why not the children? Isn't it enough that we have to worry about the "Houdini" issue without enduring further angst from abductors?
“What am I going to do?” I mutter under my breath. My daughter stops giggling to tell me, “it’s o.k. mum, they’re not stupid you know!”
We look one to another, and "another," and "another."

I know she’s "right."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

And other dis orders

Back in the good old days of yore, children played doctors and nurses. More often than not, the boys would be the doctors and the girls would be nurses. [translation = unless you were a big sister] The doctors would examine the victim, determine symptoms and then chop things off. Nurses were left to stitch up holes, apply bandages with non safety safety pins and then clean up the mess.

It is my contention that there are really only two types of people in the world, namely nurses and non nurses. Nurses are caring, sharing, kindly types where nothing is too much trouble. Non-nursing types get annoyed about the bodies messing up the family room. I mean, if you’re ill, you go to bed to get better. [translation = so much tidier] If you’re ill, you do not drip around the house getting in everyone’s way. Illness should always be invisible or failing that, upstairs in bed, where one can be visited and tended too are regular intervals.

Although I am a picture of health myself, if I were ever unfortunate enough to be otherwise, I would do the decent thing and excuse myself. I fail to understand why this should be such a difficult concept to grasp. Ill = bed. I am aware that in these modern times, patients are encouraged to leave their beds and walk about a bit, keep everything moving as it were. [translation = empty the bed at the hospital, fast turn over and minimum insurance costs] But in the home environment for minor ailments, it is quite a different story. You need the patient static and out of the way, together with all their paraphanalia. [translation = used tissues, reading materials and bottles of over the counter medicaments]

I’d like to lay claim to other factors such as the visual cue of being both physically present and noticeably ill. The body, static, is the cue for my boys. Their father is draped on the sofa which means that every time he comes onto their radar, it prompts a whole slew of questions, the same questions, that he is too ill to answer.

“He is ill he is dead?”
“Not dead dear, just ill, a little under the weather.”
“He is hospital he is cemetery?”
“Ill dear, remember, he’ll be as right as rain before you know it.” He stands to get a clearer view of the horizontal adult and prods him in the center of the chest with one perfectly placed index finger. There is no movement, just a gentle snore.
“He is dead when are not breathing?”
“That’s right, no breathing means dead.”
“Ah! He no breathing!”
“He IS breathing, listen he’s snoring his head off.”
“Snoring is breathing?”

“Oh. No cemetery?”
“What kind of ill is he being?”
“Just a few sniffles.” My son sniffs, practicing.
“Sniff is ill? Sniff is dead? I am being dead too?” This conversation, the same conversation, more or less, is beginning to spiral. We have had this conversation several times within the last hour. The intervals between this cyclical conversation are shorter. I step closer towards my son, “he’s just a little off colour, nothing to worry about dear.” He looks at me with obvious distrust. I know that I’m missing something, but I’m not sure exactly what? For the moment, I don’t know the cause but it will hopefully become clearer given time.

Since the children are on the floor, their Dad’s bulk is in their sight line. If he were silent, he might be invisible, but the snoring keeps hyper-vigilant, sound sensitive people on their guard. For this moment, I decide that my inert husband is both a visual and aural mental health hazard and scoot him up to bed. This is the band-aid approach to the issue, until a more permanent solution can be determined. [translation = tidy but not "OCD"]

Friday, May 25, 2007

Camping – babes in the wood

For reasons too dull to detail, I do not camp, but spouse and the children love to camp.

Nature, in all it’s glory, is best viewed from behind a double glazed window, close to a grate ablaze with a glorious fire and a pot of tea near to hand. [translation = "tamed"]

They camp once a year, overnight. They camp with a family who have been our close friends for a long time. In previous years, I have spent the time alone, making up medical insurance packages for each boy; sorting the bills into date order, child order, therapist order, 13 sessions per week. An empty house means enough floor space for this paper trail.

I anticipate this time with glee, no responsibilities whatsoever for approximately 36 hours, depending upon the traffic. I always doubt that I will manage to complete my paper trail before they return, that they will explode into the house and that my carefully stacked piles of paper will become so much tickertape.

After they have been gone for between four or five hours, the paperwork is complete, because I am far more efficient that I thought I was. Completion of the paperwork permits me another 31 hours to debate whether they will be eaten my Grizzly bears, nibbled by raccoons, bitten by mosquitoes or catch the plague from black squirrels. I have ample time to check weather conditions and perseverate over whether they have enough sun screen and umbrellas.

I know that under the "Muse’s" tender care, all will be well. On the other hand, I distinctly recall her having to endure meltdowns due to her complete inability to create a perfect pancake on a woodfired stove, in a clearing in the forest. Fortunately, her advanced skills of perception quickly interpreted ‘hand washing’ to be translated into some form of perverse punishment for junior. [translation = OCD gone bad]

I think these thoughts in the wee small hours, 24 hours prior to the commencement of the trip. I have awoken because of …………something or other? I leave my bed to investigate. A small person is parked on the throne. [translation = stomach flu] He has a temperature. [translation = fever]
“Why I am ill?” he asks with perfect eye contact. I contemplate the previous 24 hours, mining for clues, food, activities, company.
“I think you swallowed too much pool water,” I suggest with a certain degree of confidence. “Do you remember that you learned how to do somersaults underwater yesterday?”
“Do you remember how many you did?”
“That’s right! Good remembering. Do you also remember that you didn’t hold your nose?” I still cannot believe that is possible, but I was there to witness the endless tumbling and flailing.
“That means you swallowed several gallons of pool water, with all those chemicals. Can’t have done your tummy any good.”

I am in mid clean up when other frail person shadows me. Tummy ache. I tuck two smallish people onto the sofa, so that I can keep an eye on both and simultaneously clean up. Whilst she also did somersaults, there was no water consumption. Are the two incidents related? This provides evidence of parental misconduct. They both partook of the same supper prepared by the head chef. This means that I have poisoned two of my children.

I grab emergency bowls, old bath towels and buckets from the garage. I align my equipment ready for eruptions.

A third wastrel appears. This last small person is fit and well and tired and lonely. [translation = due to the invisible cord between "siblings"] Although he did not eat the same supper, my tired brain interprets his wellness as further evidence of food poisoning. He approaches with caution to announce, “hello, I am wet!” although there is no pause between the 'hello' and the rest of his statement. It is an oddity of speech that makes 'hello' sound like the name of a person who is being addressed and notified of information - 'John I am hot.'

“Why are you wet dear?”
“Oopsie! I accidentally peed on my bed!” Two sick children giggle on the sofa. I want to be cross but his delivery was so impeccable I crumble. No meltdown, no incoherence. I strip him down and wash him off. I tuck the well one on the sofa with the ill ones, because any cross contamination is sure to have already occurred during the course of the night, regardless of the original source. I have three little cocoons rolled up in blankets on the sofa, nose to tail.

I hear the plumbing system spring into action upstairs. Spouse appears. He stands in the middle of the room to rake his hair with his fingers.
“What happened?” he enquires drowsily after completing four and a half hours sleep, and no supper, either at work or at home, “and where’s the toilet plunger?”

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A mere fly on the wall

Warning – ear wigging is dangerous [probably offensive] One year ago......

A few years ago, I began to understand the camaraderie of parents, especially mothers with children on the spectrum. Initially I had thought I was the only person on the planet………then I learned that there were so many other people in a similar floatation device.

I sit in the waiting room at occupational therapy. Two mothers are in mid discussion. The terminology they use, indicates that they are up with the hunt. [translation = done their research] I try not to listen as they chat with each other, but there is only 3 feet of carpet tiles between us.
“So what’s his Rx, if you don’t mind me asking?” [translation = diagnoses]
“Not at all. He has sensory integration disorder and dysgraphia…..of course!”
“Oh course!" they giggle. "No autism then!”
Why does that sound rhetorical?
“OH NO! OF COURSE NOT!” she gasps, her hands to her mouth in that shy, private manner some people have.

They chuckle. A magic moment for two, the bond of friendship is forged.

I feel obliged to say something but I am at a loss to know exactly what, especially as I should not have been listening? It's one thing to be an advocate for your children, it's quite another to poke your nose into other people's private business. I opt for the line of least resistance. I shrink in my chair. A small person. An invisible person. I can almost feel the yellow neon stripe down my spine. Luckily I have my back to the wall. It is at such times that I wish to crawl under a very small rock and die quietly.

I am invisible for approximately 44 seconds before my boys explode out of their therapy session wailing. I sit in a chair with a 5 year old on bouncing on my knees. The six year old is by my side mid rain dance. They are VERY happy. They share their happiness in their own unique ways. Words are a little, few and far between. [translation = none on this particular occasion] My older boy concentrates on my upper arm, a tight grip with his slender fingers, his forehead burrows into my flesh, woodpecker style. [translation = very happy]

My youngest son contorts himself, as I discuss their sessions with their OT’s. [translation = occupational therapists] His skull is on my lap, his vertebrae curve up my body, his rear end hovers under my chin, his legs bicycle before us. I peek over his bottom to see a couple of open mouths on the opposite love seat, mothers with a different perspective.

I turn my gaze to the therapists, “good session then?” I ask rhetorically.

A magic moment for five – two skilled therapists, one mother and two boys. One year of progress.

I think I should be obliged to carry a small rock in my handbag, so it is freely available for me to boink myself on the head every so often. [translation = and two little ones to serve as ear plugs to make ear wigging aversive]

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cat therapy

Many children do not share. I’m not talking about sharing of things, such as toys, but the more important kinds of sharing, such as experience. Child development often includes moments of shared attention, [translation = look at the bird flying] and other pointless social moments. [translation = I like that blue flower] Some children, especially if they are autistic, do not develop this trait when their peers do. [translation = but it might come later, if you’re very lucky] This is not to denigrate the power of "dogs," but there is also a place for felines.

Words flow because it is first thing in the morning. [translation = a full bank of words available, retrieval is free and unfettered] Frenzied cats are electrified all around the house and frenetic children also buzz.

My son hurtles towards me screaming. [translation = happy, excited, willing to communicate]
“He is dunning it!” he splutters amid frantic arm gestures that I am unable to interpret. I am distracted by the flailing arms, “who is dunning what dear? I mean…..who is doing what dear?”

“Him! He is!”
“Who is he?”
“Dere, dere, dere, dah cat, Rascal, it is him. Boy is he ever gonna get it now!” he adds jauntily. I ignore the scripting from trashy cartoons because it is appropriate. [translation = exact repetition of lines from many sources] He grins with the mischevious air of the tattle taler. “Come on, come on, come ON!” he adds dragging me by my ever lengthening arm. [translation = hand leading is usually a skill acquired at a much earlier age. 65 lbs worth of torque, from an 8 year old ensures that I cannot help but grin too, but for different reasons.]

We skid over to the front door where my son demonstrates ‘horror struck’ for me, and points at the overturned plant pot. In case I am in any doubt as to the culprit, he advises me of what has come to pass, “he did it, dat bad ol catty, Rascal the trasher! Rascal the hooligan! Rascal the vandal! He done did it.”

Indeed he did.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

If you can’t say anything nice…..

They are all in bed being tucked in for the night after a long and busy day. This is also the time to lay to rest any outstanding snaggles, so that peaceful rest may ensue.
“It dumb!” says my eldest boy with a limited word bank at the end of the day.
“What is dumb dear?”
“Doz fings.”
“Which things?”
“Todd Parr.” [Translation = the decorative ‘transfers’ on their wall]
“I didn’t know you knew his name?” I mutter half rhetorically even though we have read all of those books more often that I care to recall.

“Why don’t you like them?”
“Dey are for babies.”
“Space things are for babies?”
I look up at their walls, spaceships, stars and cheerful primary colours. Spouse is with Junior on his bed, on the other side of the room. All four of us look up to examine their walls. I calculate how many years this theme has been in place? Maybe 6 or 7? His birthday is imminent. He will be 8 years old.

I can just make out spouse’s eyes in the gloom as he catches my glance and mutters “I don’t think my salary will cover gold leaf!” [translation = Junior’s favourite colour is "golden"]

For some reason I am a tad miffed. [translation = upset] I run a surreptious finger along his jaw line. Do I imagine that it is becoming more angular? That little pudgy face with six huge dimples, is just as soft but develops planes. His smooth brow, translucent skin with a tracery of blue veins is that of a boy, not a baby.
“What kind of decorations would you prefer dear?” I watch his liquid eyes retrieve words, but his little brother is too quick and answers for him, “tertiary! Not primary, not secondary! Big boys need tertiary colours like Lilac and "dusty rose!”

Monday, May 21, 2007

Dress for Success - Appropriate Attire

How would you advise a middle aged woman to dress for a day out, to a family friendly, outdoor, public event ? I’ll make a suggestion and you tell me if I am right? Comfortable jeans, sludge coloured to disguise the stains that will be acquired during the 6 hour trip. Cotton socks and comfortable trainers. [translation = sneakers?] Short sleeved T-shirt to avoid the embarrassment of string straps leaving the shoulders and "exposing" more "flesh" than might be wise, even though the climate is warm. An open in the front, light cardigan for those air conditioned tents. Have I missed anything? Maybe a neon baseball cap to make myself more easily identifiable in a crowd. The underlying theme here, is comfort rather than fashion. What do you think? Will I do?

I thought I would do, but I didn’t, ‘do’ that is to say. I had forgotten a few things. The first thing that I had forgotten, was that my boys’ fine motor skills are now so advanced that they can undo "zips." [translation = graduated with flying colours] My light cardigan has a zipper and two more zipper pockets, in the front. As we queued [translation = lined?] my boys discovered the zips and demonstrated their mastery of this new skill for twenty minutes. [translation = with matching sound effects, towit, ‘zip, zip, zip.] There again, I accidentally transformed myself into a form of entertainment, which is no bad thing when waiting is on the cards. Fortunately, there were three of them, zips that is to say, so there were more than enough zips to go around. [translation = simultaneous sharing skills were avoided]

Whilst I would be the first to admit that my mother is right [translation = my arms are two inches too long, to be in proportion to the rest of me] this current habit is only making my bodily defect worse. I don’t know quite how to describe this trend of hanging, [jelly legs] off each of my arms, to drag me down, now that they are 65 and 48 lbs respectively, but there again, that doesn’t relate to clothing, unless I’m foolish enough to wear long sleeves. But I digress.

The other unexpected quality of this garment, was that it was cuddly and "soft." Two pairs of hands greatly appreciated this facet, such that I spent the remainder of the time being stroked, pummeled and kneaded, a bit like cats when they’re getting themselves comfortable. [translation = "bread making"] But at least it kept them in place. What if I had made the mistake of wearing my other one, the one that feels like sand paper! I would have made myself a pariah and they’d have run away. Anyway, it was probably the nearest thing I’ll get to a massage in the next decade, and it was free.

I do worry slightly as hands flurry over my chests in a public forum, not an attribute to be encouraged, but I notice that spouse gets the same treatment in confirmation of their anti sex "discrimination" policy.

I also forgot that jeans have pockets. I have yet to evaluate accurately which is more of an impediment to ambulation: a small pair of hairs in your back pockets or a small pair of hands in your front pockets? There again, I was indeed fortunate to only have one pair of additional hands at any one time. It’s easy to see how front pockets help when you’re trying to walk in time with your mother, your feet on hers with the pockets for balance and a firm purchase point. The white trainers were a mistake of course, but not a fatal one.

I’m seriously toying with the idea of throwing away all my T-shirt and replacing them with the modern skin tight version. It’s not so much to update my image, more a means of prevention. If there’s only enough room for my skin beneath the fabric, this might prove a deterrent to people sticking their heads in there, for fear of suffocation. I am gradually adjusting to the raspberry noises that they make on my skin on contact, therein proof positive of lip closure. This development has meant that the general public give me a wide berth, in the mistaken belief that I am flatulent person.

So as you can see, my wardrobe and fashion sense may be dire, but other people are making great strides in all kinds of "unlikely" directions.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Don’t try this at home

Your mission, should you care to take it………is to herd three children from the school yard [translation = playground] to the car parked by the curbside at a distance of a mere 50 yards from where you currently stand?

Recipe – take two people, one adult and one child. Ready? Stand together so that as much of your body is in physical contact with the other. [translation = it doesn’t matter whether you’re front to back, back to back etc.] This is your starting position. Set? [translation = get ready] It is now the smaller person’s duty to rotate around the larger body, whilst remaining in physical contact at high speed. Go! The bigger person must now walk towards the car whilst the other continues to rotate.

The smaller person must move their feet with greater agility to avoid entanglement. [translation = a bit like French skipping] Additionally the smaller person should repeat a phrase of three words continuously, preferably rhyming, at just the right pitch and at 50 decibels in order to ensure that the adult brain is incapable of functioning.

Now, would be the ideal time for the small person to stick their head under the upper garment of the adult such that flabby female flesh is exposed to those who look on bewildered. It will not help to yell ‘proprioceptive input’ at the aforementioned audience at this time. [translation = or any other time come to think of it]
Continue thusly in the general direction of the car.

Additional garnish – choose from the following [wisely] –
Hold the hand of the child that falls down a lot.
Ensure that you haven’t left the third one behind.
Be aware of personal belongings, yours and theirs.
Add crowd.
One pinch of noise [wide choice available to tune into or out of]
A smattering of well wishing comments from friends.
Traffic safety persons [with whistles]

Yes, it is ‘oh so cute’ when they are two, maybe three, but at six and a half, the general public do not vote this way. They register deviant and give a wide berth to the spectacle.

Repeat as necessary, [translation = daily] until phase passes or a suitable ‘intervention’ can be manufactured.

It would probably be wrong for the adult to break free at this point and run away, right?
[translation = where is a trampoline when you need one?
Why isn’t there a swimming pool there instead of a storm drain?
Why didn’t I bring his weighted vest?
Don’t you dare carry him!]

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Flip a coin

During the lull at the IEP meeting, when i’s are dotted, t’s are crossed and photocopies made, I chat to the other team members. I remark about how well the play dates have been progressing with the child we called Joe, in my older son’s class; what a delightful boy he is, so sweet natured, such language facility, how my boys are able to ‘share’ him, how patient he is with them both, how’s he managed to magically lure them outside……I glance up when I realize that I am rambling, to check that we are of one accord regarding Joe’s outstanding personality, so that they may contribute to his adulation, that "paragon of virtue," lucky boy, lucky family, lucky school. I see widened eyes and electricity pass between them.

Initially I put this down to confidentiality, which is as it should be, but a blurt or two corrects my misapprehension. Their experience differs from mine. I note the double check. Are talking about Joe here? Indeed I was. Joe, who like my son, is a filthy little ragamuffin at the end of the day. Where do they find so much dirt? How do they manage to get quite so mucky? I beam with warmth for that exceptional child. A polite puff or three follows. We are not on the same page, or even them same book. I am happy for things to remain confidential but it made me reflect upon the truism, that children behave differently in different circumstances. [translation = as do adults]

For as long as I can remember I have had a healthy respect for this truism. I used to be somewhat fearful and cautious about these differences, but in the light of Joe in my home, with my children, whatever the truth of the matter, in my eyes, Joe showed his true colours, the rainbow that he is and the hidden treasure.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Early Days 8 - cracking the code

That innocent word, 'play' can be huge hurdle for some autistic children. "Scheduling time" is a marathon and many of us, parents that is to say, have a hard time planning out what to do, how and when?

What we [parents] refer to when we say 'play' seems simple enough and doesn't need any explanation, but 'play' when it comes to autistic children may not be quite so straightforward.

If you looked at my boys when they were little, you would have seen them playing, not just the typical autistic play of lining things up, moving toys in a mechanical and repetitive manner, examining some tiny feature on a toy but behaviour that would 'pass' as typical play. Teasing these elements apart, unless you are very observant or a play therapist, is not that easy for the novice. [translation = me]

The key element that experts often refer to is 'lack or impairment of imaginative play.' When I looked at my boys, I would see them pretending to be dinosaurs, or dinosaur eggs. To me that looked like imaginative play, there was no impairment that I could see. I knew what my eyes saw and yet I knew that I was missing something, but I didn't know what it was?

A typical exchange at that time would be when I watched my son be an Allosaurus. I wasn't allowed to join in, though I often tried. [translation = on each occasion that he pretended to be whichever dinosaur was in favour that day] He didn't mind me watching by then. [translation = first he was unaware that I was watching, then when he did become aware that I was watching, he objected violently] This was something that he played alone. Since dinosaurs were his area of enthusiasm, this was my cue to engage with him. [translation = joint attention]

I had learned to be upbeat and use simple language. His mimicry was superb, his body and gestures matched those in the many, many books we had about dinosaurs. I knew that to praise him, would guarantee a level 10 meltdown. It also took me a long time to correct myself. [translation = not to ask a question that elicits a response, which would seem the most obvious step when you're dealing with a speech delay, but instead, to make a statement which removes the pressure and stress of having to find a response]

At that time we were still trying to fathom out his rule matrix. [translation = the many triggers to meltdowns] One trigger was buried in this daily 'pretend' play, but I didn't know what it was. The experts always ask you, 'and what exactly preceded the outburst'? I knew that I was doing something wrong and provoking his meltdown. I changed 'my script,' my 'approach,' and everything else I could think of, to try and make it work, but the outcome was always the same. It remained the same until he was able to use enough words for me to be able to translate and interpret their meaning.

I watch. I have a pad of paper and pencil behind me listing in detail each exchange we have attempted over the last 27 days all of which have been unmitigated failures, each of which I've crossed off, eliminated. I am going to play dinosaurs with my son if it kills me. [translation = or the T-rex bites my head off first]

"You are a Lambiosaurus!" He rears up a little in response, bears his teeth a little more and claws the air in slow motion. I watch carefully, willing myself to see the trigger. Nothing. So far so good. He jumps onto the sofa a morphs into a different dinosaur. Which one? I watch. I watch until I am sure.
"You are a fantastic Stegosaurus!" He snaps a glare at me! I used a 'praising adjective' by accident! It just slipped out! I hold my breath waiting for the explosion. Nothing. I got away with it, but he did notice the word. Maybe I've made a mistake? Maybe all this time I've been assuming that he didn't like praise but actually it's something else that's setting him off? What could it be?

He lumbers off the couch onto the floor and morphs into a, into a ? yes, into ..... "You're pretending to be a fabulous Parasaurolophus!" I blurt with unsuppressed excitement. He arches back raging at the ceiling, screaming his lungs empty, not as any dinosaur but as a misunderstood child. He rolls on the floor crying and beating the carpet. What? What? What? Please help me understand.

I can't believe that I've blown it again. I rub his back as he curls into a small hard ball, blocking me out. I wipe away the tears coursing down his cheek his body wrapped up like an egg. Why is there no manual? No book? No 'how to?' Can you plead with a four year old?

All I can say is 'sorry' quietly, again and again as I stroke his silky hair. He calms, slowly and lifts his head, "I not pretend," he says crisply. These are probably the only three words he will utter during the next 24 hour period. 3 words. His eyes stare into mind. Eyes may be windows but I still can't see. He says it again with emphasis on 'pretend.' 6 words in 24 hours! Does this mean they'll be no words tomorrow, that he's used up two days supply of words? I cringe at the thought of the future silence, wasted on a repetition because I am too stupid to understand him the first time. I stare at the surface of his glistening eyes willing myself to see.
"You're not pretending you ARE a dinosaur!" I gasp. He dives at me, medicine ball head to sternum shouting "YES!"
We rock. 7 whole words! We rock back and forth clutching each other with all the force that can be mastered by a four year old.

He bursts away from me, "I am egg! You sit on me!" I am in a state of shock, too dumb to quibble, I simply obey. I sit on my son who is curled up like an egg. [translation = proprioceptive input on the sly] The egg starts to crack as I move off, to find that a baby Corythosaurus has hatched, tweets mewling noises and preens his crest for my wonderment. He had invented a game for us to play together, our first real pretend play. He has used 14 words in one day. We played it every day. I try hard to forget to count words. It was my all time favourite game ever.

Lastly, a lesson in imaginative play, brought to you by the 'guy' I love to hate, Spongebob et al in 'The Idiot Box.' [translation = television]

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