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

Monday, July 30, 2007

Word play

I have been known to complain about my boys. It's fair enough for them to have different personalities, characters and preferences, but I would much prefer it if their version of autism could be the same too. [translation = parental convenience] Because autism is a spectrum disorder, I often forget that whilst they have little in common, there are residual similarities that can flare up without warning.

My youngest son has an obsession with death, dying and the fragility of human life. As a result of this, we are careful to avoid the subject. It’s not that we are not happy to discuss the issue in general terms. [translation = and have done many times] It’s more when a word, or an association with that trigger word, slips into an otherwise ordinary conversation, that trouble soon follows. Whilst we have touched on this matter before, I do not expect mortality to attack me from other sources.

My older son as waited nearly 18 hours for his sister’s gift. In his mind’s eye, he has anticipated that she would buy him a ‘transformer,’ whatever that might be? He has been told, often, that it will not be a ‘transformer.’ Instead it will be something cheaper, probably something he will not like. We have told him this frequently, reminded him of his impending disappointment, since his sister’s financial base is modest.

Her delight in being cast as the ‘giver of gifts,’ has only served to heighten the excitement. [translation = for everyone under the age of ten] For her, a gift, any gift, is a gift. For the boys, any gift, that is not a specific gift, is not a gift at all. In fact, not only does it cease to be a gift, it changes into an object of hatred.

It is hard to dampen my daughter’s enthusiasm. [translation = I don’t really want to, but I must, so that she in turn, will be prepared to have her gift shunned, her feelings hurt and cope with the disappointment]

It all happened so quickly, during the daily debacle, more commonly known as dinner. The noise is deafening, but fortunately we are in the garden. [translation = polluting our neighbours’ peace] My anxious daughter needs reassurance too. We confirm that after dinner, we will take her to the shop to buy the treats for the last day of soccer camp. The boys will remain at home and go to bed. [translation = status and pulling rank as the eldest] Whilst it would have been preferable to reassure her out of earshot of the boys, sometimes you just have to take the heat.

The boys’ protests rise a decibel or two at the outrage of exclusion.
“Boys! BOYS! BOYS!” she bellows with her hands raised high to catch they’re attention. They stop. [translation = the magical powers of siblings] “Howsabout I get you a prize whilst I’m there? Wouldn’t that be great? Would you like that huh? I’ll buy em with my own money, so it’ll be kinda little……..but only ……if you go to bed nice.” Her face is spread with a cheesy grin. [translation = so is mine] She bounces out of her seat and hugs me where I sit. [translation = the girl done good!]

So how can I burst this bubble? [translation = cigarette burns on a kitten] I have to deflate her a little, to take the edge off when they burst.

I take several opportunities during those 18 hours, to remind the boys about how to behave when you are given a gift that you hate. Since 99% of the gifts they receive fall into this category, they have had a great deal of practice.

Finally, her moment arrived. She presents herself with a flourish, clutching her Target bag to her chest in her hot little hand. She is ecstatic with anticipation. She sinks her hand in to whip out two little sets of cars, the kind that children are often given in party favour bags. Junior snatches his and disappears, shouting ‘thank you’ in response to my prompt to his rapidly retreating back. My other son points to the words on the packet, wordless. His sister reads them for him, even though he knows what it says: ‘die cast cars.’

His scream could shatter every window in the house, as he grabs the packet and hurls it as far as he is able. My daughter is horror struck. My son collapses on the floor to beat it with his fists and kick the hardwood floors as he howls. I settle my daughter with Nonna and concentrate on my son. [translation = before he damages himself]

He remains incoherent for some minutes. Now he is eight, he is big. Now he is eight, he is strong, but his anger is usually internalized. [translation = self mutilation] I stay close because his injuries are swiftly inflicted. The minutes tick by as we wait. I did expect a negative reaction, but not of this magnitude. Slowly his body relaxes. The growls turn to sobs. When he lifts his face, I see fear not anger. I continue to massage his back as I await the return of words. Eventually, they come:
“She is not my friend?”
“Of course she’s your friend! She loves you!”
“She wants me die?”
“She give me a toy to make me die?” Oh no, not him too! Is it contagious, this OCD fixation on death.
“Die can mean lots of different things. It can mean colour.” His eyes follow my finger as I point out all the different fabrics in the room, all their different colours.

I help him to his feet and lead him to the kitchen. I pull out an ice tray. “You can mould ice in this tray. If I put metal in it and the mould was shaped like cars, I could mould cars. That kind of moulding is called ‘die’ cast.” He looks at me dubiously, as his little brother bounces in, the little letter lord. His arrival gives me an idea. [translation = treason. Please don’t deport me. I’ll claim insanity and win.]

“Do you know what?” Both snap back with ‘what?’ Hallelujah! “When something isn’t alive, that's ‘die.’ All these other kinds of ‘die,’ making toys, colouring fabrics, that’s a different kind of ‘die.’” I double check that I have everyone’s attention. Miraculously, I have everyone’s attention. “You call it ‘D,’ ‘Y,’ ‘E.’ Not the same thing at all. See?” I waggle the ice tray with one hand, and flap my skirt with the other. Both boys’ eyes travel from one to the other and back again.

I wait.

One shrugs his shoulders. The other offers, “I fink I am liking ‘dye.’”

Both scamper off without a backward glance.

I only wish my ‘OFF’ and ‘ON’ switch, was as efficient as theirs. [translation = bad gene pool]

If they had glanced back, they would have seen a haggard old woman, trembling against the kitchen counter. I suspect that I shall pay for this crime of corruption, later in the school curriculum.

Post Script - I offer my humble apologies for my somewhat erratic visits to all your blogs, but now we are on Summer routine. [translation = a contradiction in terms]
Just in case you missed it, your reward for waiting for this blog to load and if you would prefer a blog that "loads like a dream" I am now a duplicate over "here." [although I'd rather have a few real clones than a mere duplicate]


Jeni said...

Thankfully, so far anyway, Maya isn't that up on words, vocabulary, dual meanings and such. She has her own set of "fixations" as does her baby brother. The little guy has/had some aversions to certain types of sounds - screaming fits if the vacuum cleaner was being operated, the hair dryer, food mixer, food chopper/processor. Fortunately, no carpeting downstairs so the vacuum rarely gets used on this part of the house but the mixer - wow, I had to work on getting him over that fear, for sure as I wasn't about to try to mash potatoes by hand and definitely not going to mix bread up completely by hand either. By having someone hold him while I used the mixer on several occasions has finally gotten him to the point with it that he doesn't come completely unglued. Just enough noise from him to more or less tell us to hurry up and get the job done will ya, this noise is killing me but I'm trying to be good about it.
Peace, my friend!

Ange said...

Those are the types of explosions that my older one has (7). When they are triggered by something that just doesn't compute right with him, it just breaks my heart. His latest phobia is insect-related, but he also can't stand "the color coming out of his eyes" (this one took forever to figure out what he meant) and he also has issues with death. When he turned 6 he was terribly traumatized (because people die 'when they get older') and wanted to be younger. He counted backwards saying "I want to be five again. 6-5-4-3-2-1." over and over again in this explosive trance...so scary. Anyhow, I really hurt for your son when reading this. Glad it all turned out ok though. :)

Suzanne said...

poor kid, thinking his loving sis would wish him to die. Glad you could explain it to his satisfaction, and that he could express what the trouble was!

Anonymous said...

I admire you. You know what to do and when to do it.

Jade said...

Poor little guy. That must be hard to know that any little insinuation of death could set him off. Especially since it is almost an everyday occurrence on tv, news, radio, even cartoons.

Hopefully, like many behaviors autistic kids grow out of, I hope this is one that your little guy bypasses soon.

Anonymous said...

Everything is taken literally here too. The children at school were doing thinking skills - something which Amy finds hard - Teacher says "what is in my head, what am I thinking?" Amy only ever hears the first or last part of a question, she can only digest one part of any sentence. Her answer to teacher was, "Your brain." Said in all seriousness.

Crystal xx

Linda said...

I think that you explained it beautifully and it was quite clever of you to use the ice cube tray as an example. School teachers across the world should applaud your ingenuity and ability. I'm not a teacher but I applaud you anyway!

Unknown said...

Oh M, I fink I am liking "dye" too. I feel like I was right ther e with you.

la bellina mammina said...

I admire you too. But regarding the gifts, boys are usually specific in what they want to receive and are quick to be disappointed when it's not what they've asked for/want. My boys are like that!

Brett said...

That's what I call thinking on your feet. It's good practice, it just keeps getting harder (but at the same time easier).

And by the way, I've come to the conclusion that "childhood" itself is a spectrum. The autistic spectrum is (obviously) different, but the same skills apply. And you are definitely building up those skills.

sweetpeas said...

You think very quick on your feet!

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

Oh, the trauma of dealing with presents! I think I am going to have to blog about this myself... Glad you figured out what was going on and were able to deal with it. I promised myself I am not going to go commenting on every post, but they're all good, darn you!

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