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

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Send me a postcard!

We are off on our hols, but we we'll be back soon.

In the meantime, here are a few posts that you have may be missed before I joined the Hub.

Leave me a little note so I'm not all lonesome when we get back.
[translation = chance would be a fine thing!]

1. "The Joys of Autism - Progress for all"

2. "High What?"

3. "No Way Jose!"

4. "I am not a princess"

5. "Ear Wigging"

6. "Static"

7. "Trying not to be critical"

8. "Plan A"

9. "Hemorrhaging"

10. "Mother Knows Best"

11. "Umpire"

12. "Fixations - what to do?"

13. "Undiagnosed - are you quite sure?"

14. "Tentative Steps"

15. "Progress"

16. "Wife Beating and recouperation"

17. "Do we have to?"

18. "Come in Number 2 your time is up"

19. "Secretarial Skills"

20. "A Rose"

Play Ball?

It is a curious development. Pal comes over for a playdate with my oldest son. This pal loves to play outside. [translation = typically developing peer]

When we bought this house, it came with it’s own stick, a big one. At the top of the stick is a net for playing netball. I thought it was a bit of an eyesore myself, so I grew Morning Glory all over it as a disguise. This act did not endear me with the neighbours for some unaccountable reason. I was advised by those same neighbours, that the stick was meant for playing the popular game of baseball and that I should restrict my gardening activities to other areas of the yard. I was at a bit of a loss to know where the yard was, but I didn’t let that worry me unduly. But I digress.

Pal is very keen to play this sport with my son. We spend a considerable amount of time hunting down a ball. Pal informs me that our balls do not meet the required American standard. I am slightly deflated by his criticism but promise to seek out a bicycle pump to remedy this fault, prior to his next visit.

Pal attempts to dribble the ball. Instead it makes farting noises across the driveway. My boys find the flatulence of the ball to be an added bonus. [translation = hilarity] Pal is not impressed with either the ball or the guffawing laughter. [translation = foreigners fail to take sport seriously] I don’t really care one way or another. [translation = my boys are outside, a thoroughly loathed status at the best of times] My youngest son will not play at all. [translation = he must be the best and or win ]

Pal becomes teacher. [translation = coach, but not the vehicle kind] He shouts orders in an upbeat manner. [translation = sounds pretty professional to me, but what would I know, since I am unable to locate a sports channel on the telly] Junior takes part tentatively.

As an experience netball player myself, I can tell that he has great form. [translation = English game] Pal offers his opinion, “no, not like that! You play like a girl!”
I am confused by the comment. Netball is a girl’s game afterall, ergo, he is playing jolly well.
“Try it like this. Watch me. See! You hold it to your chest like this. No, no, put your hands the other way around. No don’t stick yur but out, bend yur knees.”
He does rather look as if he is about to lay an egg. Junior adopts the pose and lobs the ball up into the air. [translation = shoots] The object of the exercise is to get the ball to fall through the ring. The object crashes back down. Junior is incensed that his first attempt [ever] is a failure.
“I bad! I loser! I die,” he bellows.
As he bellows, he bends forward, pulls down his trousers, [translation = shorts] and sticks out his derriere. Pal pauses. [translation = frozen and transfixed at the age of 8] Senior roars with laughter. This behaviour continues for the following ten minutes.

I wonder how many of our neighbours are watching this development, as we cavort around on our driveway with a flat ball, three little boys and a net on a stick. I don’t imagine that they would consider this to be progress. Junior exposes his Spiderman underwear approximately 53 times. [translation = which corresponds precisely to the number of attempts he makes to throw the ball through the net]

Later that night I discuss that matter with his father.
“We need a strategy!”
“We do.”
“Which bit should we tackle first?”
“There’s more than one strategy here?”
“Yes, the ‘anti – trouser’ strategy and the ‘anit-negative talk’ strategy.”
“Ah. Which one is worse?”
“I really don’t know.”
“Well the ‘anti-negative talk’ is already an ongoing campaign, so perhaps we could concentrate on the trousers. An anti-flasher strategy.”
“Well, he didn’t really flash [translation = moon] he just displayed his undies.”
“It certainly gets the message across loud and clear.” [translation = universal comprehension]
“No meltdown though.”
“A new form of protest that isn’t a meltdown is………good, ……right?”
“Definitely, and he used words AT THE SAME TIME.”
“Wow. We are moving into pastures new.”
“He could probably get away with it in a pasture.” [translation = field]
“Pity we’re so urban.”

“You don’t suppose he’s developing into, into…..a sporty type!”
“Blimey I hope not! What on earth would we do with one of those?”
“Can there be anything worse than giving birth to one of those athletic types?”
“The tragedy of it all. How do parents cope with such a disaster?”
“I can hardly bear to imagine. Too, too sad.”
“There again, you did play rugby.”
“Not by choice. Anyway, you played tennis, netball, badminton, and all those ‘throw the thing’ sports.” [translation = javelin, discus, shot put]
“It was compulsory.”
“So tell me? Is it more socially acceptable to drop your trousers in England or in the States?”
“I’m afraid I have no terms of reference.”

Shaving, wafer, after wafer

Many children, and some autistic ones, suffer a great deal of anxiety. Anxiety is often caused by predictable and understandable concerns. With youngsters, many of their anxieties come from a lack of understanding. Simple explanations can help to reduce their concerns and provide guidance as to how to interpret different things. One of my sons is overly concerned with tools that are sharp or made of metal. Knives, scissors and many other ordinary household items cause him grave concern. With my boys a great many of their concerns are unpredictable. They lurk ready to pounce when I least expect it.

Prior to our holiday, I have two pressing tasks to perform – pluck my eyebrows and trim the Passionflower. I start on the latter, secateurs in hand. Two boys play inside behind the glass doors with their father and sister. [translation = still allergic to outside] They don’t watch me, but they check up on me every few minutes. [translation = any attention given to a parent’s doings, that does not have any direct benefit to the child, is to be applauded. I have spent far too many years being completely invisible] Inbetween whiles, I yell instructions at them, every now and then. Frequently, I have my back to them and shout over my shoulder. “Don’t put it in the sink!” “Try and share with him.” “I’ll get you a snack in a minute.” I know that they are miffed by this, that I appear to have x-ray vision. [translation = as all mother’s have] Two wheelbarrowfuls later, the vine is trim. [translation = two weeks of California growth is akin to an attack by Triffids] I nip back inside and check that all is well.

All is well.

Broadly speaking, I attend to matters of personal hygiene either very early in the morning or very late at night when I am child free. Today however, I am out of time. I must attend to my eye brows and attempt to make my eyes visible by trimming the thatch above. I have approximately three minutes to complete this feat.

I nip upstairs stealthily. I put my nose to the mirror and try not to breathe. [translation = short sighted] With the tweezers in hand I attempt to remove as much hair in the general area of my brow as is possible. [translation = speed plucking is an unacknowledged skill.] Not for the first time, I consider whether a razor might be more effective. [translation = quicker] I achieve near baldness on the right side when I am rugby tackled by a screaming Banshee. “No, no, no, don’t do dat! Dat is bad! I love your wonky bad old eyes. I love dat they are old and mold.” I remove the tweezers from my right ear. [translation = stabbed] I look to my ankles where my youngest son is entwined, face down, eyes shielded by my moth eaten socks. I can’t bend down to him because I am hobbled by his vice like grip. His older brother leans against the door jam to survey the scene. I try to explain the concepts of ‘beauty treatments,’ to two clear skinned, perfectly formed male youths. It is an uphill battle.

“But why?” seems to be the primary refrain to any further and better particulars that I provide to them, by way of an explanation. There secondary concern, oddly enough, is pain thresholds, not theirs but mine. [translation = "theory of mind be damned"]

We give cursory attention to the OCD issues of personal injury, death, visits to the ER and other sundry related matters. I pop my glances back on and peer in the mirror. I calculate when another three minutes might be available to me, to tackle the other eye brow? After further discussion and reassurance, we make our way back downstairs. The boys walk in front of me, exhausted by yet another test of mental gymnastics. He puts a brotherly arm around the little one. “You know it’s o.k little buddy……she is always having dah other one you know.”
“What?” he snaps back. It always sounds like an accusation. [translation = lack or regulation and modulation]
“Dah udder eye in dah back of her head.”

For a truly fascinating perspective on OCD in adults, nip along to my pal, "Lotta" on "Mom o Matic." Brave and insightful.

Bump the hand that feeds you

[translation = when ‘speaking’ is not your first language]

Why do they do that? It is so annoying! You lean down to refill their bowls with food or water and they nudge you, spill everything everywhere, those darned cats. Why can’t they just hold back? It’s not as if they’re helping at all. It’s the same thing several times a day. Why can’t they keep their furry little heads to themselves? What is the point? I need to duct tape their tails to the floor at a discrete distance until the task is completed.

I wish I understood this behaviour. I wish they could tell me why they do it? Why can’t I chat to a cat? There again, there is not a lot of chat around here. Speech delays mean that whilst there are now words, sentences, ‘chat’ isn’t high on their priority list. That’s not to say that they won’t wax lyrical on their given topic of interest, but a monologue is not the goal. [translation = engineer that reciprocal exchange] There again, the girls had a double dose of the chat gene. How much ‘chat’ can one household contain?

I ask my younger daughter to explain this behaviour to me. [translation = animal planet addict] She rolls her eyes in response. [translation = what is wrong with my mother?] She’s growing up so fast. Soon she will be a teen, or should that be a tween and no longer wish to have any associations with me. I must try hard to keep the lines of communication open.

I track down the next one. [translation = superhero defender of the feline population] Now that he can talk, I must seek out every opportunity to ensure that verbal communication is reinforced. I need to find a preferred topic of interest but not something that his main topic. [translation = Pokemon monologue]
“But why do they do it?” I ask in exasperation. He looks at me, straight in the face, “because dey are cats,” he responds, un-phased, unruffled and slightly bemused. Verbal! How I love it.

I find both these explanations unsatisfactory and seek out the little one, he who used to be animal phobic but is now a fan.

I explain my query and then ask “but why do they do it? It’s so annoying!” I plead. He puts down his toy to give the matter his full attention. I see him calculate – ‘can I be bothered to talk to this woman?’ I need to avoid brushing on a distracter, not to be confused with a trigger. [translation = using a word that is of interest to him, such that your conversation becomes ‘off topic’ and then rapidly disappears down a rabbit hole to get lost in the warren] I push, “come, come with me and see the mess they make.” He holds my hand in an obliging manner and follows me to the utility room. I point at the cats. He lets his heels drop to the floor, which means he is going to stay. [translation = tippy toe walker] With hands on hips he examines the evidence and the cats in mid breakfast.
“Dey are eat.”
“Dey are eat dah falling down ones.”
“Are they?”
“Yes. Look! Dey are eat the falling down ones first. Dey are eat the mess first. Dah mess is gone.” He looks up at me. “I am right and you are wrong. Dey are not dah messy cats, dey are dah clean cats. Dat is not annoying.”

Post script - [translation = post blog reading] At least my 'toileting' issue are mainly limited to the cat litter variety, unlike "Nik's mum," who I am sure would welcome some sage advice. Any sages around?

P.P.S. As I was tidying up before departure I accidentally deleted my folder with my bookmarks for all the autism, disabled and special needs blogs that I visit other than those on the Hub. [translation = oops] So leave me your URL so that I can make a new one please. [translation = or explain how I can retrieve the bookmark]
Cheers dears

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Party favours and other irritations

Back in ancient times, party favours had yet to be invented. In those days, a child would attend another child’s birthday party, without a parent in tow as chaperon. The child was at the mercy of the birthday child’s parents. On conclusion of the party, if you were exceptionally lucky, you would be given a piece of mangled birthday cake wrapped up in a paper napkin to take home.

At some time between then and now, party favours were invented. These favours are purchased by the parent and given to;
A] every child in your child’s class
B] every child that attends the party
The parent can make life difficult for themselves by ensuring that the favours match the sex of the recipient. [translation = or ensure that the favours are unisex] N.B. don’t forget to also buy the very expensive little bags, also sexless, that come in packs of 6 or 8 or some other inconvenient number. Good, [translation = creative] parents also decorate the bags. N.B remember to purchase sufficient yardage of ribbon for approximately 40 bags.

The contents of the bags should ideally be the same in order to keep the peace. [translation = same may be boring for the recipient but it is better than different which provokes meltdowns] Technically, your child, the birthday child, should not receive a party favour bag because etiquette dictates that this is a gift for the invitee. [translation = ignore this rule as etiquette isn’t all it’s cracked up to be]

So far so good. Now you are poor, but still have all the big things to do.

It is tempting to skip the whole party favour bag nightmare completely, but that temptation should be resisted. This activity, of assembling the bags should be completed at the dead of night. [translation = whilst you are alone with no small people present to tax your efficiency and sequencing]

So what have we established so far? That Party favour bags, together with their contents should be banished from the earth. [translation – forthwith] What possible justification could one have for such rashness? Oodles of justification since you ask. The modern child is already over toyed! Remember to breathe! Or is that just me? so there we have it ladies and gentlemen, consensus. On a scale of one to ten, how annoying are party bags? Exactly! I was going to say 17 and a half too.

Now we have established the status quo, it is time for a rethink.
Must we?

Firstly, etiquette, as etiquette is paramount around here. [translation = anyone in need of an additional spit bowl?] American’s by their very nature, are overly generous. Guests always bring large and extravagant gifts, so the very least one can do is acknowledge their kindness in attending. [translation = danger money] What else?

The distribution of the bags is the ideal opportunity to put all those painfully acquired social skills into practice, the give, the take, the words, now that he is 8. [translation = climb on your friend, without using any words, give him a bear hug to crush his little rib cage and kiss the nearest part of his anatomy that you happen to come in contact with] Great!

But there are also more subtle skills, depending upon your children’s current disposition. Maybe paper is aversive. [translation = tactile defensiveness] Maybe the fine motor skills are challenged? If you are making your own party favour bags, you can simply cut circles of non-scratchy cloth, wrap the contents inside and close with a loose elastic band. [translation = unless you are on the ‘quatrefoils or bust’ stage of development]

If you choose the contents carefully, you can produce a mini emergency therapy kit for the child, which has the added benefit of thanking the parent too. [gum, sunglasses, koosh, parachute guy, puzzles, kaleidoscope, whistle, gazoo…..all such ordinary little familiar things that can lead to therapeutic learning and play, extra special joy …….or a hideous meltdown]

Lastly, it took Temple Grandin’s book, “Thinking in Pictures," to help me understand the role of novelty in the human psyche. I still don’t really understand the joy of the novel, but I know that it exists. If ‘novelty’ can induce ‘play’ then it certainly gets my vote.

Post script - anyone have advice for those experiencing marital "disharmony?"

Early Days 10 - Happy and Healthy

In the early 1980’s I was a young divorced mother of one. Mum’s would chat and drink coffee, whilst small children played. We would speculate about our children’s future. That one would follow in the family tradition and be a lawyer, that one a doctor, this one and that one, and on they would go. When it came to my turn, I would always said the same thing, “as long as she’s happy, healthy and normal, I really couldn’t give a fig.” They would giggle and tease, ‘surely I must have some higher ambition for my child?’

As far as I was concerned, with all the ‘new’ dangers that young people were experiencing at that time, it seemed a very lofty ambition.

These days, with all the ‘new’ dangers that young people are experiencing today, such an ambition seems to be the pinnacle of achievement, although I’ve altered the motto to ‘healthy and happy.’ The healthy, I can manage as best I may, subject to the vagueries of the plague and other epidemics. The 'happy,' is a bit tougher.

It seems strange to me, that as a prime example of cynicism, pessimism and general doom, that the happiness of my children should be so important. [translation = grumpy, old, misery guts]

Americans are entitled to ‘the pursuit of happiness,’ which is all well and good, but the constitution is silent as to how you nail it down, assuming that during your pursuit, you manage to find it in the first place.

I can help my children acquire skills that foster a sense of achievement, self esteem and self worth. [translation = asking the rhetorical ‘why can’t you just be happy?’ doesn’t really cut it, autistic or otherwise] I am aware of the high incidence of suicide in the autistic community, and I can guess at some of the sources of their despair. I can visualize my boys as adults. They can dress themselves, catch a bus, make a sandwich, hold a conversation with words, and hopefully a lot more than that, but are they happy?

What makes them happy now, may not make them happy when they’re older. [translation = growth and maturity] I am doubtful that a parent can change a child’s innate personality, even if I wanted to. The raw materials are there to guide and mould, but all the therapy, teaching and acquisition of skills in the world, is not going to ‘create’ a happy person.

If you’ve come here for answers, then I’m afraid that you’ve come to the wrong place, [again] as I only have questions. Is it a legitimate goal in the first place? If it is, how do you choose the right path to reach the goal? Do you want this too, or are other things more important? Give me your best guess.

I would add, that earlier today whilst I was reading "blogs" with a small person by my side, we came across a picture on this "blog". It caused great consternation as we are about to board a boeing 747. Fortunately, once I explained that a "jet plane" is not the same as a 747, the logic saved the day.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Filthy Rich

I am not ear wigging, I am cooking. My daughter and her pal [translation = American friend] come in from the garage having chosen their snacks. [translation = in America it is commonplace to keep catering packs of excessive amounts of food in the garage] They nibble and play together in the family room. Spouse is out with the boys and the shoe campaign.
“Yur sooo lucky to have brothers and sisters to play with!” says the only child.
“You have soooo many toys!”
“Yeah, but they’re not really all mine. We have to share em.”
“Yur sooo lucky to have brothers and sisters to share with.”
“So you must be real rich, huh!” she says incredulously.
“Er, yes, um no, actually I don’t know?”

The conversation ends prematurely as the clank of the garage door gives us an early warning of the boys’ return. The noise of the engine is drowned out by the screaming from the car, even though the inner door is still closed. Pal turns to my daughter, “gee is he louder at home than at school?” Her eyes are wide, her head pivots towards the sound, an owl. She goes to the door to watch, my daughter follows. They see spouse trying to extract junior from the car, howling.
“Gee why is he cryin like that? Wuz he real, real bad or summat?”
“New shoes,” she says unhelpfully.

I hear the new shoes hit the ceiling in the garage. Junior now has a secondary problem. His feet are naked. Naked feet cannot touch the cement floor. Fortunately a few years ago I had some off-cuts of underlay [translation = carpet] left over. They create a safe passage from the car door to the kitchen door. [translation = a run way for the flight path] He bounces out of the car and his tippy toes propel him at high velocity to the interior of the house. The girls stand back, part the way, and watch the dust of his wake.

When her mother comes to collect the play date victim, most of the windows are open due to the heat. [translation = too mean to turn the air conditioning on yet] As they leave I cannot help but hear wafts of their conversation.
“D’you have a good time honey?”
“Sure but they’re so darned rich! D’you know they have carpet in their garage!”
“Really! In the garage?”

Pity it doesn’t work as sound proofing too.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Although I speak English, went to English speaking schools and fulfilled their curriculum requirements, I don’t recall ever being taught English grammar formally. [translation = this is probably why I have such trouble with foreign languages] As luck would have it, I am expanding my knowledge of English grammar at my current advanced age of 46. I can manage noun, verb and adjective on a good day, but anything more than that is a bit hit and miss. I have read "Eats Shoots and Leaves," in recent years, but that was more for the purpose of entertainment rather than education. 'Between You and I' gives me a "ghost" of a chance, but on the whole I have other more pressing matters to tie up my brain with.

Strangely American schools teach English Grammar. [translation = as does "TEACCH"] This is proving more than a challenge to someone with such a tiny brain as myself. [translation = can’t teach an old dog new tricks] I struggle with third grade homework. [translation = and second and first grades too] More often than not, I am completely flummoxed by the old Kindergarten worksheets too. The sheet of paper has twelve little pictures for you to identify, but because it is in American English rather than English English, I am a hindrance rather than a help.

We sit at the dining room table fighting with homework. [translation = times three, although my maths skills are similarly challenged] They are simple line drawings, not that I think that coloured pictures would necessarily help. Even after all this time, whereby each of my children progresses through the school system, I still have a 33% failure rate in identifying these little pictures. I know that he can complete the whole thing in under a minute, but instead he prefers to paw the paper and drag out the whole exercise for the best part of an hour.

“It is a compound word?”
“Is what a compound word?”
“Chocolate pudding.”
“Er, no that’s two words, not a compound word. Seashell, sea and shell stuck together would be a compound word, or rather, is a compound word.”
“Anyway, stop messing around, lets get this work sheet done.”
“I can have a not compound word now?”
“How do you mean?”
“Can I have my chocolate pudding now which is not a compound word?”
“You can have your chocolate pudding after you’ve finished your worksheet.” He sighs and drapes himself over the table.

“Look at the sheet lovey. Ooops you’re drooling. Come along. Look at the picture.”
He looks and wipes and sighs. I nudge. “It’s a bed dear. B E D, bed. Can you write it on the little line underneath?”
“It not bed.”
“It is. Look! Look at the picture dear.”
“No bed.”
“Just three letters. You can do it.”
My daughter leans over, “he’s right.”
“What do you mean he’s right?”
“He’s correct then. He’s right and you’re wrong.”
“How else are you supposed to spell bed may I ask?”
“C O T.”
Well really!
“O.k. lets move onto the next one then.”
We trudge through the worksheet. [translation = amid much parental pain]
“What is this a picture of dear?” Now I really know the answer, but he has to find it for himself.
“Come on luvvy, it begins with a ‘c’”
“I know dat.”
“Good, so why don’t you just write it down here, on this little line.”
“Only three little letters?”
“Not three, four.”
“It’s three dear, you’re already written it once.”
“NOT THREE, FOUR!” he bellows.
“Cot dear, just three letters.”
“NOT COT!” His sister leans over, “he’s right.”
“What do you mean he’s right?”
“He’s correct then. He’s right and you’re wrong.”
“How else are you supposed to spell cot may I ask?”
“C R I B.”
Well really!

He finishes up writing out the four letter word. [translation = I swallow all of my own four letter words]
“Now I can be having my chocolate pudding that is not a compound word?”
“Yes dear, of course. Well done for finishing.”
“You are sure?”
“Er…yes, of course I’m sure. I mean, what am I sure of?”
“You are sure that chocolate pudding is not dah compound word?”
“Yes, I’m sure. It’s two separate words and they’re not stuck together.”
He sighs with an air of melancholia. The English language, American or English is curse to one and all.
“O.k……… how about.......chocpud, it is a compound word?”
“It is now.”

I am beginning to appreciate that this isn't just a pond issue. [translation = US v. UK] but also a Canadian v US division. [translation = aren't they more or less the same?] If you like to cook, enjoy a challenge and are not following a gluten free diet, then you might enjoy this "recipe." I might enjoy it too when I can work out which continent I am cooking on?

A Blight on my life

Of course there are several, but we’ll start with an important one, namely shoes. All shoes should be comfortable, that should be part of the definition of a shoe. If a shoe fails to be comfortable it instantaneously transforms itself into another category entirely, namely a means of torture. Additionally, the ideal shoe should be red, in fact I think it should be compulsory that all shoes are red. I would sacrifice, that is to say ‘trade,’ red for comfortable. [translation = beware of women in comfortable shoes]

I expect it would surprise you to learn that my first ever pair of shoes were red? [translation = the newly hatched duckling fixates on the first visible object] I of course, am in a position of power, since I have the purse, which contains the means to acquire the shoes. [translation = greenbacks] I wield my consumer power, for my children and their footwear too, or I would do, if anyone would honour me with the chance to put shoe leather close to the soles of their feet. [translation = or it’s synthetic equivalents]

Feet have many different qualities, few of which are truly appreciated. Until this current crop of children, I was unaware that feet have rights. [translation = we are in America afterall] Around these parts, feet have the right to be unfettered and free to pursue happiness. As with all things American, the feet have to learn that with rights, come responsibilities. The feet have the responsibility to be protected from themselves and the many textures of the world that are out to get them. [translation = do them damage]

As with most things in life, it’s a trade off. The trouble with the trade off, is that no-one can decide how much to trade. [translation = the barter system]

Essentially the whole matter is a dichotomy without resolve – my feet must be free, my feet need armour. How does one resolve such internal conflict?
That’s right! Very noisily.

Now that my children have advanced up the fine motor skills learning curve, to be able to deal with the vexatious issue of Velcro [translation = tactile defensiveness and noise abatement society, due to ripping sounds] they are able to put their own shoes on by themselves. Hallelujah! [translation = with prompting] Thank goodness for the end of the sock season.

It is a rare sight to witness a person in the midst of this quandary. [translation = is it?] The shoes are on. The shoes fly across the room. They are retrieved and screamed at, given a few slaps to teach them a lesson, then they’re on again, and then they’re in orbit. It would, of course, be very unkind to laugh at such a person. [translation = I recommend duct tape] If two people are in the middle of the same quandary, at the same time, it is probably better to leave the room and compose yourself.

On your return, it would be a good idea to remind your children of the many things that you have said many times before. Commiserate with your children. [translation = validate their dilemma] Concur with the willful conspiracy of shoes. Use all the tried, trusted and familiar phrases that you have been using for as many years as you have been using them.

Ideally, modeling the correct behaviour can be very effective. You probably realize that you are in a groove and might wish to add a dash of something new. [translation= take care, this doesn’t work if you do it too often] Modeling or copying, as best you can, their behaviour, can sometimes be more effective still. [translation = take care, you don’t want to come across as mocking or taunting them, timing is crucial]

Obtain your own shoes from the garage and join in the shoe fest. Berate your shoes before your children. For some reason, biting your shoes has a particularly positive effect. Worry your shoes and shout at them a lot. Cast them aside, being sure not to knock out any small people with your bad aim. [translation = and boat sized shoes]

If you’re lucky, someone, maybe two people will each bring you a shoe and help you. When you hear little voices parrot back your own words, take care to swallow hard.

If you're looking for some helpful advice on some of the many different therapies available for someone you know, here are a few from my good "pal," because we are all trolling through a similar learning curve.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Get out of that one!

One of the many difficulties that one of my son’s has problems with is the issue of choice. For some reason a choice between A and B is a stop sign for him. Although I have researched this hurdle in detail, I have yet to come up with a satisfactory explanation for the matter. [translation = or satisfactory solution] This is one of our many on going campaigns, helping him to choose. His inability to choose is crippling and the source of a significant percentage of his current meltdown quotient.

He appears and pirourettes before me, coming to a slightly unstable halt. He arranges himself at a jaunty angle. [translation = plus cheesy grin]
“Don’t you look smart! Doesn’t he look smart mum!” [translation = well attired not clever, nor sarcastic] I look at my son. I bask in the glory of being granted unfettered access. [translation = 5 years ago I was not permitted to look at him. If my eyes dwelled upon him, he would crumple into a heap, scream and curl into the tightest ball. Do you know how difficult it is to try and not look at someone? Surely you’ve tried, occasionally, not to meet someone in the eye? How difficult was that? Did you find that your eyes kept flitting back, just to check? How difficult would that be if that person was your child? What would you do if your gaze was a form of torture? What kind of monster must you be to invoke such a response? What are you doing wrong? How can you make it better? Why is this so completely incomprehensible? How can you try to understand? Are you blind to the theory of mind? Can you not get inside their head and understand? Who are you? What are you doing to this child?]

“Indeed he does. You are the smartest Birthday boy I’ve ever seen.” I’m not sure if I’m gloating or excessively happy? His sister smooths the fabric of her frock. [translation = sun dress with matching shorts] My son observes the scene, his father, his brother, his sister and me.
“You too?” he stutters.
“What about me dear?”
“You are gonna, gonna, gonna…..I mean, you’re gonna ch ch ch……put on dah frock.”
“Yes, I’m going to change in a minute, put on my best T-shirt.”
He makes a little gasp, takes a step or two in several different directions from a static point, stands to attention, cocks his head on one side, gives his head a little shake before saying “you are gonna, gonna, gonna, put on a T, a T, a T…….a party frock for my party?”
“Oh no, just jeans and my best T-shirt.”
He clamps his lips tightly together, a cartoon of disappointment and disapproval. He is a rigid pole, vertical at a 15% angle. How does he do that without falling over?
I hover, “I don’t have any party frocks anyway.”
He’s on me like a whippet, “yes you do. I have seen dem. I see dem in your closet. Lots. Lots of frocks.”
“Yes, but I haven’t worn those for years…….we lead a different…..well….. the thing is…”
“You go put on dah frock for my birthday party!”
It’s more of a command rather than a request.
“Well, I…….you see……I’m not sure……maybe……”
"Party frock!" he nips.
"But I, ..well, but er.."
"No ifs, no buts, no coconuts!" he quotes with aplomb. Where did that come from?
"I don't know if I can er..."
He steps towards me, takes my hand and looks up to my face, “it’s o.k. I can come and help you do dah choosing.”

So if you see a crusty old woman at the equivalent of Macdonald’s, wearing a tiara, don’t be too quick to judge. [translation = "Rats to the theory" of mind.]
Please excuse crooked feet. They are perfectly co-ordinated with the other end. [translation = crooked teeth]

Post Script [translation = added later after a little early morning reading] We who have young [or teeny tiny] children look to people who have older children so that we can steal their crystal ball for our own benefit. If you're experiencing a little hurtle and wonder if your kiddie winkie has that empathy then take heart and peek into the life of an "expert."

Get with the programme Mother!

Toileting issues are a huge deal for parents of autistic children. Many worry about the social aspects of this delay. Others are weighted down with the practicalities of laundry. [translation = as well as carpet and upholstery cleaning] If potty training is a hill to climb for the average parent, then toilet training is Mount Everest. [translation = jolly big European goal] There are so many complexities associated with this ‘basic skill.’ It’s not just the sequencing of doing the business in the right order, or having the fine motor skills to fiddle with zips, buttons and snaps but also the motivation. [translation = why should I stop what I am doing now, to go and do something so dull and or challenging?]

As the parent to two autistic children, I have a tendency to trample all over them. Although I frequently complain that I don’t understand them, more often than not this is because I’m not listening properly. As a result, I steamroller over my children without so much as a by your leave. I make assumptions. [translation = the wrong ones] I am too quick to judge. [translation = cynical, pessimistic old bat]

From a few months back……

I stand at the stove stirring supper. [translation = lay the table, wash up, make pack lunches and do all the tasks possible during their 30 minutes TV time] My son appears in the kitchen before me make a statement of intent.

“I need wee!”
“Oh! O.k. thank you for telling me that dear.” He doesn’t move, so I watch him for a second, uncertain. We moved past that stage a long time ago. [translation = we had a long period when they would announce that they needed to use the toilet. This was great progress because they were recognizing the ‘urge’ and verbalizing a need.] I thought at the time that they basically wanted me to ‘empty’ them by remote control so that they didn’t have to leave an activity, but it may also have been inertia – ‘please prompt and remind me of the next step.’
“I need wee!”
“Great! Nip into the bathroom dear.” What is going on here? We are way past this. Is this regression? Is he losing skills? Help!
“I need a wee!”
It doesn't seem that long ago, that I would have to carry someone to the bathroom. A child would sit cross legged on the floor with a toy or talisman in each hand. I would lift him like a statue. He would hold his position, cross legged and toy in each hand. More often than not he would be naked, so I would simply park him on the toilet and wait. His arms would remain bent and holding the toys. [translation = he had no active role in this exercise]
“Do you want me to come with you?” Accompanying individuals to the bathroom has only faded in the last 6 months. Prior to that neither would enter the denizen of the toilet alone. Does this mean that it’s come back to haunt me? I dither. Do I accompany him and take a step backwards on the progress scale or do I risk him having an accident where he stands?
“Off you go!” I twirl him around and point him in the direction of the bathroom, just in case it’s slipped his mind where that room is located. [translation = often during times of sensory overload, he forgets some of the basics, or can’t retrieve them, or they’re not important enough to bother retrieving]

He takes a step or two towards the bathroom and then stops dead. He pauses to process and then snaps back round towards me to shout “I need wee!”

I give up, as minutes are passing. He is so much older now that the occasional accident causes untold distress. Self esteem is pivotal, I will not permit it to be eroded. His sense of social awareness is zipping ahead. I take him by the shoulders and propel him towards the bathroom, “I’ll come with you dear. Come along.” [translation = wiped out six months of progress with one moment of weakness]

His hands fumble about his trousers as they often do at such times. I’m tempted to yank his trousers down to speed up the process, but I know that he can do this. I wait. I watch. Should I prompt or wait for him to join the dots? [translation = exercise those synapses, strengthen those neural pathways] What is he being distracted by? Where has his sequencing gone to? Hundreds of carefully engineered little steps come back to swamp me. Teaching people to use their hands to assist - 'hands are our friends, they help us.' [translation = 17 steps to task completion] Not to mention hand washing and drying! [translation = thirteen steps]

“I need wee!” he repeats. Is he stuck? Is this one of those little word circles? Has he caught this exceptionally annoying motor mouth habit from his little brother? Will I be deaf, if this ends up being double motor mouth? His trousers flop to his ankles as he sits down on the top of the lid of the toilet, “I need wee!”

I am becoming more and more confused. Why sit if he wants to wee? We've already mastered that step. “Up you get dear, you forgot to lift the lid, quick before we have an accident.” He's losing it! Do I need to stick up the sequencing charts again? Where are the sequencing charts? Did I recycle them? I am an idiot! [translation = too swift to assume that a skill once mastered, will remain mastered indefinitely] He stands hobbled by his trousers, hesitant, neither up nor down. He lurches away and stumbles out into the family room. No! Not Houdini time again! I bumble after him. He points at the television screen, “I need wee!”

I look too. What is that? It’s a Wii. Poor benighted child!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Leaving on a jet plane

With two IEP’s and a birthday behind us, I am now free to formulate a plan. As with all plans, logic dictates that you start at the end and work forwards. We leave for England on Wednesday the 13th from San Francisco Airport for our annual pilgramage.
529. 3 hours check in.
528. 30 minutes fiddling about with baggage and parking.
527. One hour drive.
526. Put children in the car.
525. Collect children from school
351. Cure aeroplane phobia in one child – remember that the other one is phobic too but goes on shutdown rather than meltdown.

350. Ensure all electronic bribes are packed, together with power packs, emergency power packs, spare batteries and those transformer thingies.
349. Pack sufficient catering cartons of goldfish crackers to sustain life for one, during a two week period. [translation = fortnight]
348. Buy additional suitcase for goldfish

267. Ensure that essentials are in hand luggage – cuddly blanket, cuddly sable, small golden thing.
266. Put small golden thing in it’s own large bag for safety.
265. Buy additional hand luggage sized suitcase for small golden thing.
264. Check whether ‘security’ permits nail clippers in hand luggage.
263. Wean junior of the talisman of nail clippers prior to boarding aeorplane.

132. Remember that we’re traveling on our American passports – to avoid confusion at immigration, acquire an American accent to match.
131. Unpack the books, too heavy and you know you’ll never have time to read them.
130. Consult speech therapist – replace last years mantra – ‘plane fall down, plane fall down, plane fall down,’ at 50 decibels, shall NOT be repeated this year. [translation = especially during the 3 hour check in – yes that was us]
129. Practice whispering, ‘plane fall down, plane fall down, plane fall down.’
128. Research ‘what is the most obscure language?’ Then translate ‘plane fall down, plane fall down, plane fall down,’ and commit to memory.
127. consider teaching him how to say ‘plane fall down, plane fall down, plane fall down,’ with flags. [translation = the joy of crossing the mid-lines]
126. Buy Wedding Anniversary card for spouse so that we can celebrate in our traditional manner on our return flight date, surrounding by three of our little lovies.


35. Can I have the single aisle seat all on it’s own this year?
34. Take paper version of all relevant telephone numbers and addresses.
33. Give all children a refresher course on the essentials of England-
- yes they have shops
- high fives are not compulsory
- they do have funny accents
- get your fries and chips straightened out
- even though it is not green it is still proper money
- it is not ‘dark, dingy and wet,’ I was lying when I said that
- the natives are essentially friendly

6. Pack sun glasses for everyone or some other disguise. Mackintoshes and wellies?
5. check to see if the ‘bolter’ will still fit in the baby reins now that he is six and a half?
4. Train the bolter not to bolt. Buy additional safety pins to the extend life and girth of baby reins.
3. Pack mattress covers, plastic table cloth and two blankets to cover their sofas.
2. Buy additional suitcase for these items.
1. Bring down suitcases from the attic.

Aren’t holidays fun!

Although I have yet to add the time factor to each item accurately, my powers of deductive reasoning tell me that I need approximately 5 years, 2 months and 14 hours to be ready on time.

For anyone planing on 'leaving on a jet plane' then nip over a visit my pal Linda , at "Are we there yet" and her post on the 4th of June,
for some much more useful information.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Define your terms

Because we are the fortunate owners of a pool, during the Summer the children bathe every day. I had wanted the boys to go to the local pool for formal swimming lessons, because they did not take ‘lessons’ well, from me. I thought an objective and professional teacher might have more luck. The echoing noise and crowds proved disastrous. I did what I normally do in such situations, give up and try later. Since we had a pool, I decided that as long as I could get them all in daily, they would just pick it up over the years. [translation = osmosis!] No rush. As long as they were happy in the water, [which took a while] that was good enough for me.

After each ‘swim’ I would hop out on the side where a stack of towels waited. Being the demur and dignified person that I am, I would stand on the side with a towel opened wide, flap it like a Toreador and sing the matching song. At the crescendo, my daughter would rush out to be wrapped up. The boys loathed this exercise and refused to participate in such a pointless and futile exercise. They made their disapproval known by screaming during the few seconds that it took. [translation = always a trade off between children]

I watch my youngest son swim across the pool. This is the first year that all of them are afloat and reasonably secure. I watch him speed across the width of the pool sideways accompanied by a great deal of splashing.

An expert could supply us with an accurate definition of ‘swimming,’* but I probably wouldn’t like it, so I decide it’s better to make up my own. My own definition of ‘swimming’ would be something like, ‘moves through the water without the aid of touching the bottom or side, or being pulled by a third party, not necessarily on the surface. [translation = independent] This suits my purposes much better.

I watch him carefully trying to work out how exactly he is getting from point A to point B through the splashing water screen. His legs pedal frantically, as if he were on a unicycle, perfectly upright. His perpendicular little body moves sideways? His arms are clamped to his sides, bent at the elbow but both rotate in the same direction like propellers. [translation = high speed.] It is quite remarkable to witness. How does he have the energy? It looks like such hard work. It is his own invention, as at the tale end of summer last year, we were still working on doggy paddle. [translation = compulsory arm bands /water wings]

I am just getting to grips with this new ‘free style,’ when he changes tack entirely. He launches himself into a leaping splat, a cross between butterfly and a bi-plane. It bears no resemblance to anything he has been taught and I cannot imagine where he might have seen something similar? His sister pauses to observe him as she has been given strict instructions to give him a wide berth, due to his status of ‘novice swimmer.’
“What is he doing?” she asks, perplexed.
“I’m sure I have no idea,” is all I can offer. Junior persists, oblivious to the other swimmers. He moves into third gear, a whale, a body that rises and falls, breaking the surface with waves, as he lollops across the pool. [translation = complete with blow hole spurts] He comes to the edge and puts out a steadying hand, winded and slightly breathless.

“O.k. time to get out guys!” I call, opening a towel for my daughter. [translation = the same way I have been doing for the past eight years. The boys bob about, heads just above the surface like a couple of sea otters. Both watch as I sing our ditty, “hey guys, why don’t you do it too?” she calls over her shoulder as she charges into my arms. I wrap her up snuggly like a Swiss roll, hobbled. She turns back towards the boys, expectantly. “Come on you two!” she commands, “mum! Get him a towel!” she barks. I hold it out gingerly. “Sing it mom! Get out of there when we reach the end!” she bellows. We sing together at the boys in the pool, who half cover their ears and bounce in time. On cue they both plough out of the water and huddle into one towel and one pair of arms.

They clunk skulls of course!

*Inflected Form(s): swam /'swam/; swum /'sw&m/; swim·ming
Etymology: Middle English swimmen, from Old English swimman; akin to Old High German swimman to swim
intransitive verb
1 a : to propel oneself in water by natural means (as movements of the limbs, fins, or tail) b : to play in the water (as at a beach or swimming pool)
2 : to move with a motion like that of swimming : GLIDE

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Wading through Treacle

Let me just say at the beginning, that I have long been aware that my children, like many others, are not the kind of children that can be hurried. Although I have the standard stock of phrases at my disposal to engender hurrying, I have yet to detect any crumbs of evidence, that they are effective. [translation = in any way whatsoever] For some strange reason, I continue to use them, frequently. [translation = very old dog sticking with ancient non-functioning tricks]

Elderly brains are quickly confused. If the mother in question visually witnesses a great kerfuffle, [translation = children bouncing around the place] she may mistakenly interpret this as movement. A wiser mother would recognize this phenomenon as prevarication and avoidance. [translation = think zebra herd blending] No-one is actually going anywhere. [translation = circling the befuddled wagon]

Now you would think, where two sons have severe speech delays, I would adjust how I talk to them? [translation = I refuse to define ‘severe speech delay’ because it is meaningless] In my defense, I would point out their receptive language [ translation = incoming messages] is good, but their expressive language is poor. [translation = outgoing messages] That aside they frequently stumble over little hurdles. [translation = sabotage by mother]
“Come along now, get your skates on!”
When I think of the time I have spent translating this one phrase to my idiom blind children, I realize the many other, more positive things, I could have done in the alternative.
“Come on you old slow coach or we’ll never get there!”
Using references to other vehicles when you’re planning to travel in the family car, are not helpful. Translation into the local lingo ‘slow poke’ produces even more dire results. [ translation = of a more violent and personal space nature]
“No dilly dallying.”
I mean! Who invented that phrase? Why is it still stuck in my brain. How can I eradicate it’s usage?
“Last one in is a rotten egg!”
Obviously food references are lost on this rabble but allusions to anything that ‘rots’ does not engender the desired effect. [translation = move swiftly in the opposite direction away from the thing that rots]
“Get a wriggle on you lot!”
Perhaps if it was wriggle ‘off’ or wriggle ‘to’ it might work. [translation = perhaps I am clutching at straws?]
“Stop dawdling!” This has the same magical effect as shouting ‘freeze!’ But at least it stops the bouncing for a second or two. Thereafter two people topple over from the effort of balancing.
"Make it snappy!" only encourages some of the behaviours that we are trying to eliminate. [translation = gives a mixed message and provides a positive reason to bite]
"Jump to it!" [translation = they don't ask 'why' any more, they just 'jump,' which might be considered progress?]
Now that I am in America I have attempted to update my phraseology by using “come on already!” which I hear a lot, but I’m never sure if it’s ‘already’ or ‘alrighty’? Since neither version works, I’ve let that one slide.

I resolve that today will be different, better. I will do it properly. I gather the troops, hunker down, salvage as much eye contact as is available and sequence them through the steps in logical order-
“Bathroom, then socks, then shoes, out to the garage, into the car, seat belts on and drive.” At the signal ‘drive’ two people fall on the ground wailing. [translation = inconsolable] What! What? What now? I know they don’t like the car but really! There sister leans against the kitchen counter rolls her eyes, arms folded in disgust. I massage backs and wait for calm. [translation = restoration of the powers of speech] One sits up, the other props himself up on one elbow, “what dears?” I ask imploringly.
“We be crash. We be deaded…….er dead.”
“Dying den.”
“Dying, why dying?”
“Coz we crash dah car if you not open dah garage door!”

Monday, June 04, 2007

Not autism just complex advanced laundry skills

When I was a youthful person, several life times ago, one of my hobbies was sub-aqua diving. Dive suits are made of neophrene. After every dive it is necessary to rinse off your suit with fresh water to ensure that this expensive piece of equipment does not rot prematurely. Ideally it should be left to dry under natural conditions. [translation = say no to tumble driers] If you care for your suit it will give you years of trouble free wear.

Like many of the younger generation, my spoiled children enjoy the pampering of a lightweight wetsuit. [translation = no goosebumps for my little wimps] It is a well documented fact, that they only people who have swimming pools are movie stars, millionaires and show offs. [translation = and a few Californians, although these categories are not mutually exclusive] Around here, we lucky people enjoy a swimming pool in our very own garden and it is kept warm by solar panels on the roof of the house.

As soon as the pool water reaches 96 degrees, junior deems the temperature acceptable, dons his wet suit and gingerly makes progress. [translation = there’s the ‘wetness’ campaign too.] Each year, the wetness campaign becomes shorter. As the days pass and the water becomes warmer still, we find that junior delights in wetness at a sloshing 99 degrees. [translation = but still in his wetsuit] My little chap is his own personal mobile sauna. [translation = and a very speedy one at that]

Following a nasty bout of stomach flu, we have returned to our normal routine. Children splash, scream a lot, and frequently give the appearance of drowning. [translation = senior prefers to hover just below the surface, immobile for long periods of time] Thus, when the squalker erupts from the pool making rooster noises, I am immediately aware that something is up. The something that is up, is unknown, because the ‘up’ is so distressing, that words have abandoned him. Instead, he rain dances at high speed and tippy toes on the hardcore. After a couple of athletic jumping jacks, he kicks starts his body into remedial action and spins off in the direction of the toilet.

I supervise the swimmers deep in thought. Why does he look like a cartoon so much of the time? 85% of his time is spent at high speed. [translation = fast forward] He runs where most people would walk or saunter. It’s not just the tippy toes that seem cartoonish. What is it? The fact that his arms are straight, rigid against his body? That may be part of it. I run the video of the runner through my mind's eye. Of course! It’s because usually when you run, you lean forward, sort of in to the wind, whereas he is vertical, suspended by an invisible, taught string running through his torso, so that his legs seem disengaged from the rest of him. [translation = "Irish Dancing"] I am just patting myself of the back for unraveling this conundrum, when the rooster crows reach level 10 volume with accompanying bangs and crashes. Oh no! He’s in his wetsuit! The one with the zip up the back. I dash into the loo. Too late. He lies on the floor, curled like a shrimp having convulsions.

He takes a considerable amount of time to cleanse his personage to his requirements. [translation = not just clean, but sanitized to hospital standards] Remarkably he is in fairly good spirits following this trauma and anxious to return to the pool. [translation = stomach flu free and returned to normal functioning] We both glance at the contaminated wetsuit. “Sorry dear, that’s not going to be so easy to clean.”
“Oh no! What am I be going to be doing now?” he sighs.
“It’s a bit of a stumper!”
“Good golly! This has gotta be the end of life as we know it on this planet!” [translation = gotta love the appropriate scripting]
“Maybe you could wear a swimming costume instead?” [translation = trunks?]
“No, no, no. I am not a fish.”
“No net, no net, no net.” I think. I think about boy’s swimming costumes, those loose garments that permit unfettered movement when swimming. I look at the three new virgin pairs of swimming trunks that he refuses to wear even though I have washed them many times in order to soften them. I grab a pair of scissors, vandalize the garment and remove the netting.

“There you go! Perfect!” He rests his forehead against my hip bone for a few seconds, all the thanks and acknowledgment I need. [translation = more than] He skips towards the pool and hurls himself in with glee. [translation = wet all over but no wetsuit.] I stand next to the soiled wetsuit.

[translation = how do you wash them when they’re in that condition?]
Should I have posted this in "Alien" instead?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Autism and loss

If you have an autistic child, you lose a great many things. Parents of autistic children are martyr’s of self sacrifice. I for one, would be the first to lie down and let my children trample all over me. [translation = deep proprioceptive input] Some of those sacrifices are huge and important. Other things are tiny and insignificant.

One of the most hugest things that I lost, by having autistic children, was the joy of creating a birthday cake, once a year for each child. Matching the cake to the child, chocolate for one, lemon for another and…….well no cake at all for him, come to think of it. To make the perfect cake to match the perfect child, is no mean feat. Although I fancy myself as quite a baker, if truth be told, I am but a mere amateur.

Once you have chosen the perfect cake, you have the delight of toying with the perfect frosting, the endless possibilities and combinations. The only greater pleasure in making the perfect cake, with the perfect frosting, is decorating the perfect cake perfectly. None of that shop bought rubbish around here, on no. We have far more exacting standards. [translation = self imposed]

It was alright when they were little. [translation = less discerning] I could make a cake shaped like a banana, [translation = a preferred food] or a house, [translation = indifferent] or an ark, [translation = animals are o.k. as long as you avoid bears] generic story book characters, [translation = as long as it’s not associated with any specific illustration] But as they grew older, unless I could create a perfect replica of Thomas and his rabble or Pokemons and their gangs, then I’m afraid my efforts really wouldn’t do at all.

Whilst it looks close enough to you and me, for other people, it was a travesty, a sham and an inferior interloper. No room for an artsy approximation. [translation = creative license withdrawn, and non renewable] No matter how hard I tried, I was always going to miss the mark. Unless it was perfect, [translation = uniformly manufactured] it was trash.

How does one solve such a difficulty? How can one advance one’s cake making skills to meet ever higher standards? Will this be the end of life as we know it, if home made birthday cakes are allowed to slip away from our grasp? Will my psyche remain intact if I am barred from performing this act of maternal devotion?


The solution? Well for me, or for us, the answer was complete parental capitulation. Buy the cake and stick a plastic something or other on there. Result = perfection and perfect happiness. How does one cope with this change in events, this new status quo? Mourn the loss of love at this unique offering? Perhaps, but alternatively, I can count the hours of labour that I’ve saved, [translation = days] whilst I sit down and pretend to eat ‘shop bought’ cake with a happy person. [translation = but only after I’ve washed the plastic decoration to a sterile standard]

Afterall, cake is severely "over-rated."
Now I know that there are a few amongst us, who are of a "scientific disposition" and doubt my powers of deductive reasoning, logic and conclusion.

For those who need such proof, I can only say that given my mathematical genius, I am happy to supply the proof that you crave so desperately, with the following formula.

If we allow for all possible variables such as 'sweat of brow,' strain on bifocals, challenge to fine motor skills of the elderly, permitting, plus or minus additional factors of grey hair, wrinkles and blood pressure, not to dismiss or in any way devalue the contribution of the co-efficient of excessive stirring causing pain to a factor of 3.33 recurring, recognised in the well known medical condition of housemaids's knee, or should that be elbow[?] as a ratio against the happiness of a child, measured to a standard deviation, not to be confused with deviance, the result adds up......perfectly.

Please feel free to supply your own formula together with your workings in full by return.

No time like the present!

The sense of urgency when your child receives a diagnoses of autism can be overwhelming. It is as if everyone is yelling ‘early intervention’ at you. As a parent, you are of course willing to do anything and everything possible to help your child but the choice of options is phenomenal as well as expensive.

Lets move to the best school district tomorrow. No make that today, or yesterday come to think of it. Wait a minute the best therapist is in the opposite direction. Can we commute? How often can we commute? Can we afford it? Should we live on a train permanently and save money on rent? Nevermind, the best therapist in the area has a waiting list of over 8 months. Goodee we’ve avoided living on a train for the next 8 months.

It is at this early stage, that parents most resemble headless chickens. Every free moment is spent on research. Every other moment is spent worrying. It is a frantic time for everyone. Do something! Do something now! Anything! Fix it before it’s all too late. Someone will be shutting that window of opportunity and you’re going to squish your fingers. [ translation = or something much more dire]

As I look at my son on his eight birthday, I’m not so sure about that window of opportunity, but if there really is a window, it’s wide open, and the view has a bit more perspective. Many happy returns of the day. Now pass me that chicken, I have the time to pluck it.

If you'd like a different take from a high brow perspective, you can nip along and visit "Kristina" - must be something in the ether.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


When I mention that my son has a limited diet, many people are sympathetic. Many people experience the child who only eats a diet of pizza, chicken nuggets and other fast food items. My son eats "none of these" things, with the exception of fries. [translation = chips] Currently he enjoys a diet of some 17 exclusive items. Whilst I take many opportunities to widen his diet, I’m not in the least averse to a little help from any quarter. [translation = I have no shame]

I am up a ladder in the kitchen replacing the camping items. It is a galley kitchen. [translation = major thoroughfare with the family room and garage at one end, and access to the rest of the house at the other end.] My daughter pursues her little brother with a vengeance. I stand back and let her do her stuff. I have no idea why she has suddenly got a bee in her bonnet, but I’m more than happy to give her free reign, if only for my own amusement. The bag of salty pistachio nuts was a treat for the camping trip. My eldest son is the nut aficionado, like his Dad. My daughters like nuts, but they can more or less take them or leave them. Junior has yet to eat a nut, any nut. Even the universal peanut butter is poison to him.

Junior now likes salt, preferably from the salt cellar in a continuous stream. [translation = the consequence of permitting ordinary household items to exist without being bolted down or locked up]

She grasps a handful of pistachio nut shells, not the nuts. She’s eaten the nuts herself. She figures that the shell without the nut, salt covered, would be a great preliminary step, shell licking, prior to nut licking. I’m with her. It’s a sound theory. A shell is an inert thing, not a nut, a mere casing and not food.

“Lick it!” she commands. Junior makes rooster noises in response and legs it. translation = runs away very fast] She is nine and a half, and fit. He is six and a half but he has greater motivation on his side. [She stomps after him, “Come here you! You’ll like it, it’s salty, hmmm yummy, I just love it, you’ll like it too, give it a go.” Jumping Jack flash is still careening all over the house, utilizing a zig zag running approach to throw her off the scent. “Stop it! Stop it now! Stand still or I’ll sit on yah!” she bellows. Still shriller shrieks are emitted from Sparky as she hunts him down, a squib on the loose. “Just lick it. You love salt, you’ll love this, it’s great,” she persuades.
“Come here you little monkey!” she squalks, getting breathless. Junior responds with monkey noises and swings his body around the newel post of the staircase with aplomb. His agility is startling and his tippy toe escape sounds like a machine gun on the wooden floor.

They traverse through the kitchen, back and forth on switch backs. “I’m gonna get you!” she taunts, more positive than practical. Squeaky now has springs under his feet and wings for arms, so light on his feet, as fleet as a hummingbird. [translation = but a lot noisier] “They’re just shells darn it! There’s no nut, just the shell, the salty shell, it’s not even food!” she barks with frustration. “They’re only……er……..made of….? What are nut shells made of mum?” she asks, leaning against the ladder for a breather whilst junior sputs and spurts.
“Well, they’re er. … made of……woody….” I’m saved from declaring my ignorance as she hares off after her prey. “Stop it. Stop running. You know I’m gonna win,” she declares without any corroborative evidence. They dodge around the sofa, each vying for position. “Listen, sea shells aren’t food right? So nut shells aren’t food either. You’d lick a salty sea shell wouldn’t ya? This is no different it’s just a shell!” She launches herself over the body of the sofa, but he’s off like a whippet at the starter gate, miles ahead. They streak back through the kitchen. She pauses. “Why won’t he lick em Mom? Aren’t they just like sea shells? What are sea shells made of?”
“Well….they’re er…..made of……” Junior skates past again darting hither and thither like a beserk clockwork mouse. She plops herself down on the floor, “I just don’t get it. What is his problem?” I step down from the ladder and hunker down next to her, beads of sweat forming on her brow.

“Thanks for trying lovie, but maybe we can find better ways?”
“I thought that was a better way.”
“I know you did dear, very logical, and I think he was having fun really. I think you’re right, that making food more fun is a good way to go.”
“Do you remember when we made things out of mini marshmallows and cocktail sticks?” she beams.
“I do.”
“Didn’t work though huh!”
“Well he "touched" them and after a few days, he would join in and make them too.”
“Do you remember when we played finger soccer with peas? That was fun too.”
“I do.”
“Do you remember when we made faces outta fruit?” I listen to her list the many ways in which we have attempted to entice her brother to at least be on touching terms with food stuffs. It is a very long list. I’m surprised that she remembers so many of them.
“Do you know what?”
“What dear?”
“I told my friend about the funny things we do with him.”
“Oh yes.” I wait, her shoulders curl inwards, her chin drops ever so slightly, her fringe languishes over her eye lashes.
“They said that he was weird.”
"I know," she sighs, "everyone is different, it's o.k. to like different things," she parrots back at me. There's nothing like a direct quote to make your appreciate the full banality of your own words. [translation = tolerance sounds so feeble]
“Ah! Well…..did you have fun doing those things? He started to have fun too. As long as we’re happy doing the things that we’re doing, and not hurting anyone else, then I don’t think it matters what "other people think?” Now there's fighting talk!

Early days 9 - Please explain what you are doing and why?

I consider myself to be a logical and efficient person. All too often I find myself in an odd spot. This spot and it’s oddness, are usually revealed to me by an independent third party, the really logical and efficient one.

Like most parents, I adapt my own behaviour to cater for my children’s needs. These behaviour patterns build up over a very long period of time, especially if your children happen to be autistic. What seemed like a jolly good idea at the time, [translation = step in the right direction] can end up being a straight jacket. [translation = the need for sameness, routine and predictability]

I open the door to my chum in my dressing gown. [translation = good friend and robe] My pal visits for coffee when my three youngest children are at home with me. We are in the family room attempting play, without coffee. [translation = we don’t want any accidents and anyway coffee ‘stinks’]
“I want it!” screams Junior.
“What do you want dear?”
“Dah Bingo game.”
“Great! I’ll just nip up and get it. Back in a minute!” I dash upstairs leaving my chum and my children. I am back in the blink of an eye and deposit the Bingo box in front of him. He pats the lid and reads all the writing on the box.
“I want it!” screams Junior.
“What do you want dear?”
“Dah Marbles game.” I excuse myself and go to retrieve that game from his bedroom. I return with accompanying cheesy grin, because I am so proud of him.
“What are you doing?” asks my friend as Junior starts to verbalize his next request.
“Oh just getting the toys that he wants. Isn’t it great!”
“Which bit of that is great?”
“That he asking, using his words, that he wants toys, that he’s not having a meltdown because I’m too slow, that all hell doesn’t break loose whilst I’m upstairs, that they can hold it together long enough for me to get back down….delayed gratification isn’t it? Great! Great! All great!” She looks at me with a withering stare.
“What?” I squeak.
“How many times have you done that?”
“Done what?”
“Gone and got what he wanted?”
“Today or over the last month? This is such a break through.”
She sighs and mangles her hands, “let’s say today?”
“Hmm, let me see. He’s been up since about 5, it’s nearly 11 now, er……I’m not sure, but lots. Lots and lots.”
She looks around the family room where every available space has a toy, a toy brought downstairs by me for my son because he asked me to.
“You’ve not had time to get dressed then?” she asks innocently.
“Not quite, but I knew it was only you. I knew you wouldn’t mind.”
“Would you like me to watch them so you can have a shower?”
“Oh no, that’s o.k.” She looks at me again. I am not sure what that look is saying?
“Was it tough getting them all dressed this morning?”
“We were done by nine thank goodness, but breakfast was a bit of a disaster.” She looks across to the table with the detritus of ‘breakfast’ remains.
“Have you thought that maybe he could go upstairs and get the toy himself?” she offers, ever so gently.
“Oh no. You know that none of them will go upstairs, much too scary. That’s probably one of the next steps I should be working on ‘de-sensitizing’ upstairs.”
“Maybe we could help him ‘play’ with some of the toys that you’ve already brought down?”
“What rather than reading the words and patting the boxes?”
“It’s a thought, although I know you’re very pleased that he’s able to touch the paper!” she acknowledges warmly. [translation = tactile defensiveness]
“Oh you’re so clever to remember! Isn’t it wonderful!”
“Yes.” She mangles her hands again. “The words are great, but he’s still …….quite loud.”
“I’ll be working on that next, modulation and regulation, using an inside voice, saying please, all that kind of stuff.”
“I can see that you’ve thought it all through,” she says hesitantly, slowly. I beam and bask back at her, my true friend, one of the few people on the planet who understands.
“Maybe he could choose his own toys by himself?” she repeats.
“Well the toy cupboard’s locked anyway, so I’d have to do the de-sensitization to upstairs at the same time.”
“Why is the toy closet locked?”
“Because every morning they wake up at about 5 and empty it. Take everything out, dump out everything on the floor and then run downstairs. It’s more of a cupboard emptying exercise. They don’t play with anything once they’ve emptied it. I’m not really sure why they do it apart from to drive me completely batty. I couldn’t think what else to do so we just put a lock on it. I’m not at my best at 5. Am I 'fading' or 'extinguishing,' I get in such a muddle?” I suppress a yawn.
"Neither at the moment, but don't worry about it. No time for the gym I suppose?”
“Gym! Are you mad, you know I’m allergic to exercise.”
“It would give you a change of scene.”
“The child care won’t have them, we were banned, oooo 18 months ago.”
“Have you made any progress with the Respite Care application?”
“I’ll try and do it later. Would you like some lunch?”
“Thanks but no, I need to be off.”
“Er, what are you having for lunch?”
“Oh I won’t bother if you’re not staying, I’ll just make a start on theirs.”
Our entire conversation is punctuated by weeping and wailing from various parties. The meltdowns are frequent but also low frequency. I am outnumbered, and even with the help of my Muse, we are hard pressed to keep everyone occupied. [translation = for the 40 minutes of her visit.] She is probably the only adult person I will converse with in a week. [translation = spouse works for a Start up]

A good teacher has a lesson plan that has been carefully devised after school hours. The good teacher also has qualifications in her chosen profession. A good teacher then puts that lesson plan into practice with her charges. If there is not time to devise a plan, then the weak teacher finds that she falls into bad habits, unless there is someone else around to guide and highlight the mistakes. Unfortunately, ‘on the job training’ and irrelevant qualifications, are the norm for parents of autistic children.

My worthless piece of advice for the day? Find your Muse or become one yourself, they are invaluable for your sanity, and we all need a good chum.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button