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

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Justifiable Homicide

Lets not get bogged down in legalese here.

We’ve all watched enough crime programmes on the telly, to know what we’re talking about. If you do something really, really bad, I can do away with you. I would have justification. So very simple.

Once I have cleaned my bifocals, I in command of the true nature of the crime. Only yesterday we discussed the meaning of ‘signature’ and the legal implications thereto. I was careful to explain the mystifying difference between signing your name and your signature. I remembered that I had been baffled by this distinction as a child myself. Now I find that her signature is everywhere and not just on paper. It’s on a wide variety of furniture and domestic appliances. I find it on clothing, clothing that isn’t even necessarily hers. I am incensed. I am fully justified.

I hunt her down. There shall be no mercy, although the possibility of Mr. Muscle to the rescue hasn’t been ruled out.
“And what exactly do you have to say for yourself?” I demand with my breast puffed up like a rooster, or possibly a recently plucked chicken.
“Huh?” Don’t you give me that picture of innocence face, I am in no mood.
“Why have you scribbled your name over everything?”
“My what?”
“You name, your signature! Look it’s everywhere.” She follows my finger.
“Oh that’s not me.”
“What do you mean, ‘it’s not me’? It’s your name!”
“Yes, I know that.”
“Well what?”
“Why did you do it?”
“But I didn’t.”
“There’s no point in denying it. It’s going to take ages to clean up and you are going to help me.”
“But it wasn’t me! It was him!” She points at the smallest member of the family, him with the grin. I march over to address him, if not mail him without a 'return to sender' sticker. He plays with the pen, twiddles it like a majorette.
“I be write,” he giggles.
“I can see that! Did you write her name?”
“But why?”
“Because she was beed dah annoying.”
I’ll give him annoying!

"Did you see what he wrote on the underside of the table?"
"The what?"
"Look! Under here." I step over towards her and peer.

Still, at least it wasn't the top side of the table I suppose!

Moral - when you carefully explain a distinction and definition to one child, be aware that other people may have a different and distinctive predisposition.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The master plan unravels

My daughter was born in December.

By the time Halloween came around she was ten months old and running. I accepted that I had given birth to a speedy American and that it was entirely my own fault because I had submitted my pregnant bod to an aerobics instructor course.

I knew that I was allergic to exercise but so many of my new pals were American. All Americans without exception are exercise mad. ‘Just try it! You’ll love it Madz!’ I decided that I would prove everybody wrong, so that they would all leave me and my ever growing bump in peace. The net result was a bouncing baby who still bounces to this day.

I also accepted that we must jump on the consumer band wagon and take part in the ridiculous charade of Halloween. I made her a Ladybird costume in a sleeping bag format, so that I could carry her around safely. As it transpired, she escaped, put her round little feet in each corner and pinged around the neighbourhood like a yoyo.

The following year she had a brother. I put him in the ladybird costume at 4 months. I made a new one for her, a bee costume complete with wings. Fortunately she remained on the ground.

Then I made a new one for her, a dragon costume and moved her younger siblings into the smaller alternatives. I planned to make a new one for the biggest one every year, unisex, attractive and non-commercial. It was the perfect plan.

The perfect plan failed due to a wide variety of variables that I had failed to foresee. I failed to predict that children do not grow in a uniform trajectory. Their little bodies did not remain two to three inches apart in height. All too frequently the boys were more or less the same height. If they were sitting they were often mistaken for twins. Growth spurts and plateaus sometimes left me with triplets. It was exasperating. It was all an evil plot to derail the costume campaign.

I’ll gloss over the sensory issues for now, as it would never do to explain how I had to duct tape my child into his head dress. Suffice to say, that here and now, we enjoy a different reality than we once did.

“Accelerate on ice! Accelerate on ice! Accelerate on ice!” he chants in his robot voice, quoting Ben 10, the latest children’s programme produced specifically to torture parents.
“Yes dear?” I wait for his older brother to gain the power of speech. It is very hard to gain the power of speech if there is a noisy mosquito circling you chanting “Accelerate on ice! Accelerate on ice! Accelerate on ice!” in a very annoying motor mouth voice. He stands still as he hunts for the words whilst he little brother continues to dart and chant.
“You are buy it for me?”
“Buy what dear?”
His eyes are distracted by the cavorting brother, but he manages to get back on track without swatting the mosquito.
“You are buy dah costume for me?”
“Which costume dear?”
“Dah Ben 10 Alien costume.” Hallelujah! He got there. I’m ready.
“Well I already looked online for you and this is the only one I can find.” I guide him to the computer screen to examine the view, a disappointing one, frightfully dull.
“Ahhh oooooo!” he squirms with glee. I look over his shoulder to check that he hasn’t accidentally nudged a button and changed the screen. He hasn’t.
“You are buy for me?” he squeaks his eyes about to burst from his skull.
“Er…..are you sure? Is that really what you want?”
“Yes yes, yes!” he responds immediately with no delay, no stutter and no wriggle room. I look at the screen. “But it’s just a boring old T-shirt with some baggy pants. We could buy something like that from Target. In fact you’ve probably already have a pair of baggy grey pants like that.”
“No, no, no. I need it.”
“It doesn’t come with the shoes you know. Look. See there? ‘Not included.’” He does press ups on the kitchen counter to lock and unlock his arms, lift and drop his feet whilst the words percolate up from somewhere or other.

Whilst I wait for the percolation process to proceed, I think of my pal and her not so little girl. Three years ago her white frock made her into a Princess. The following year that same dress made her into an Angel. This year, that very same dress brushes her mid calf as she is dressed like Princess Lea, now that her hair is long enough to be coiled in two lumps either side of her head. One dress, three years worth of dress up on Halloween. Things are quite different around here, whimsical and extravagant.

I look at my whimsical and extravagant child, even though my own reflection peeks back at me from the computer screen. He doesn’t want to wear something home made and unique. He wants to wear something mass produced, selected to impress his peer group, now that he has one, a peer group that is to say.

N.B. the photographs are by way of a public service announcement = the road ahead for a certain percentage of the population. If you doubt my veracity, you will find that other "mums"
are of the same opinion, but got there "first."

If you have trouble loading this site or commenting, you can visit me on my duplicate "loads like a dream" site.

p.s. [to some] yes we did 'feel' the 5.6 quake. The 'locals' hardly batted an eyelid, but you've never seen two old crumbly aliens move so fast up a flight of stairs! One small female person was seriously rattled but everyone seemed to benefit from the tectonic plates 101 lecture, in between the Nebulizer treatments.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Drug Barons and corporal punishment

We continue along the medication super highway with one of our sons. The matter is a huge issue for many families autistic and otherwise, but we reach a fork in the road, an unexpected hic-cup. As always in such situations we are caught out and ill equipped to deal with the rapid fire fall out. The best policy at such times is to deal with each child individually, each according to their own unique needs. The carefully tailored answer by an adult can prove that the road can only lead onwards and upwards.
“You are not hug me?”
“Sure I’ll hug you.”
“No, no, no you can not be hug now.”
“I thought….you want a hug later?”
“No. No hugs not more.”
“Oh are you too old for hugs all of a sudden?”
“?” He helps me out as it’s only 5:25 in the morning.
“It’s dah rule?”
“It is? Whose rule?”
“Dah school’s rule.”
“No hugging allowed in school?”
“?” We have already had two false starts and I don’t want to push my luck by asking a stupid question, or alternatively another cumulative silly question. His little brother steps forward to offer his assistance. “No be hug him!”
“School rule.” Oh dear, we don’t appear to be making any progress.
“They have a new rule in school?”
“Yes dis week it is being ‘SAY NO TO DRUGS!’” he bellows at a force ten gale.
“Ah yes, and rightly so. You wore red shirts yesterday, today is crazy sock day…….what has that got to do with hugs?”
“It be dah sign.”
“There’s a sign at school that says no hugging?”
“No! Dah sign it be say ‘HUGS NOT DRUGS.’” I’m not one to criticize a catchy phrase but I’m still no further forward. They look at each other, as if determining who shall be the bearer of bad news. There is a mental coin toss between them, before the little one speaks on behalf of the elder. “Well he be dah drug kid……dah pill....he is eat drugs…….so we cant be hug him no more.”
“Oh no, that’s not drugs…..a drug……..it’s…….medicine, of course, yes, that’s what it is, the pill isn’t a drug it’s a medication. Medication is great, just like the asthma inhaler.”
“Dey are be two drugs in him!”
“Medication!” I hear spouse bumble down the stairs.
“Yes two, but they’re medications not drugs.” They look at me, liar that I am. I can feel myself crack under the pressure of their disapproving silence. Their Dad ruffles their hair and picks up the dregs of the conversation, or rather, interrogation.
“Are you be lie?”
“Are you be dah porky pie?” Deny, deny, deny! He looks on, bemused, the other responsible adult in the household, unshaven with only 4 hours sleep under his belt.
“No, I am telling almost the exact truth.” What is an acceptable definition of ‘drug’ in this context for 6 and 8 year olds? I glare at their father willing him to bail me out, but there is only a sleepy vacant smile on his bristly face. I clutch at straws, “you know, if you buy it at the Chemist…er…the Drugstore even, then it’s medication and that’s good. Right?” I should have kept that rhetorical.
“If you not buy it at dah drugstore it is bad?”
“Who what……..where else you are buy dah drugs?”
The sleeping adult wakes up to add his contribution, “just don’t buy them on a street corner off some dodgy….ouch!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Leith Police Dismisseth us*

I fold laundry and consider the pros and cons of the school’s policy towards treats. I am already a card carrying member of the food police. Healthy eating could be my second name. However, approved treats such as carrots, grapes, watermelon and their ilk, do not fit into my own son’s current repetoire. Until this year I have always ensured that my contribution was a plate of tiny bite sized chocolate buns, each topped off with a flourish of ganache. They are far too rich, decadent and sophisticated for the average 6 year old. He will be fobbed off with nothing less than Belgium, or if really pushed, Swiss chocolate.

Each class has what is known as a ‘room mom,’ a person who co-ordinates the volunteers and their offerings. The current room mom has ignored the food policy, rebel that she is. My contribution, as specified, is a tray of muffins, shop bought, sugary and vile. I shall have no choice but to smuggle in contraband in the form of baggyful of Goldfish crackers.


I move swiftly past him, weighed down with several tones of clean linen, because I am a woman on a mission and I will not be deflected from task completion by minor irrelevancies. I pause and look back at him, the trivial irrelevance. He is still. He is more than still! He is static and has no electronic device in his hands. His hands are limp. All of him is limp and listless, a pillow with half it’s stuffing adrift, chin dropped to chest, eyes hidden under of mop of mousy hair. His bottom is on the chair seat. He sits! Good grief! That is the finest ‘sit’ I have ever seen. He is also quiet. Nay! Silent.

I drop the laundry and jump over to him. My palm glues itself to his brow. I forget to warn him that I am about to touch him, touch him in the ‘off limits’ area, that is everything above his shoulders. It is the invisible bubble of the more extreme tactile defensiveness. He doesn’t even flinch. Not a squalk nor a squeak. My expert medical knowledge alerts me to the fact that death must be imminent. I scoop him up as I am excused from the ‘no carrying’ campaign due to exigent circumstances. With his head back I can see orange mucus all over his face. A clear case of Rabies if ever I saw one. What does one do for Rabies? My only knowledge of Rabies is limited to dogs, usually from a very safe distance, and mainly in my vivid imagination at 3 in the morning whilst I pretend to be asleep. He is enveloped in a sweet and sickly odour as his body erupts with an earthquake of a burp. This proves to be the relief that he needed and releases the words, “ooo I am dah bad.”
“No, no, no, you’ll soon be better now. Perhaps you just have a tummy ache?” which would be a great improvement on internment.
“No, it not be dah ache.”
“Not ache?”
“No? What then? Can you help me understand? Can you use your good describing words for me?”
“Er…..” he flicks his eyeballs at me briefly before continuing, “I fink dat maybe…….I am allergic to sugar.”
“What?” All those perfect words and I have absolutely no clue.
“Or maybe I am allergic to dah orange?”
“Orange? You don’t eat oranges or orange juice or….orange anything come to think of it? ” Are Goldfish crackers orange? My dear little neophobe currently eats the sum total of 17 foods, as we have had no success in moving him on to number 18.
“I be eat dah Halloween.”
“You do?” I glance across at the shop bought tray of Halloween neon frosted cup cakes for the school party. Somebody’s tactile defensive fingertips have fought with the seleotape that seals the tray. Somebody’s uncoordinated, sequenced challenged arms have removed the lid. At nearly seven, after four years of intensive therapy, it has finally paid off. We have a return on our investment. Now we have a thief. Hallelujah.

* a rhyme and a tongue twister

The Leith police dismisseth us,
They thought we sought to stay;
The Leith police dismisseth us,
They thought we'd stay all day.
The Leith police dismisseth us,
We both sighed sighs apiece;
And the sighs that we sighed as we said goodbye
Were the size of the Leith police.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A routine hic-cup

They have been in bed for barely ten minutes when I hear a soft tapping on the front door because I have better hearing than a bat, as is so often the case when a person has a weakness, other senses compensate. I fly to the door and welcome him in, “Hi, come on through.” The visitor’s soft footfalls alert the herd on high. They bound down the stairs to meet and greet, because anything is better than going to bed. Perchance to dream and rats to sleep.

Spouse’s visitor has arrived to discuss very important matters. The menfolk require solitude and silence to accomplish their goal. Their goal does not accommodate three minors who should be fast asleep already. They hang on the staircase dithering between two opposing forces, the Mother of all Titans and an unknown stranger. I lose of course. “What you are?”
“Hi I’m Hans.” He knows about our children.
“You are work?”
“No I’m a friend of yur Dad’s.” He’s a natural.
“You are night?”
“Yes, I think you guys are supposed to be in bed huh?” For a non-parent I am well impressed.
“We are say hello.”
“Hello.” Perfect!
“Come along you lot, say goodnight, not hello.” I am so cross that they’re all out of bed and we’ll have to repeat the whole ‘good night’ routine to get back into the well worn groove. The bed time routine encompasses specific words in precise order for two of them. It is time consuming and ritualized. Any deviation from form requires repetition, back to square one. Nothing less than perfection is acceptable.

There again, I am so happy that all of my children are interested in a visitor. It reflects the change in my multiple choice life of a few years ago. Then I had two choices, the stranger would be unnoticed, the stranger would be noticed and categorized as a ‘thing of terror.’ That was a considerable improvement on previous years, when only the second category existed. When the ‘thing of terror’ arrived I transformed myself into a Koala bear, where two cubs clung to me frozen with fear. The fear has gone because all children develop and grow.
“Why Hans he is here?” I debate. I decide that truth in advertising would be a good policy? I shall appeal to their innate sense of fairness which is deep seated and firmly entrenched.

“Hans is here for a play date with Daddy.”
“A play date?”
“Where he be play?”
“In the garage.”
“In dah garage?”
“We can be play in dah garage too?”
“Well sometimes it’s hard to share a play date, isn’t it?” They look from one to another and internal calculation of pros and cons, privacy and sharing or so I surmise because I am an expert. I know their internal workings and can anticipate all possibilities, instantaneously.
“Dis is yur first play date Daddy?” The men folk exchange cautious glances, wide eyed, “well….er…..yes!”

The children's bodies are already turned around in the process of scrabbling back up the stairs, as their spokesperson bellows, “play nice guys.”

I suspect that my own "social skills" could do with a brush up, over "here."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Be careful what you wish for

He always protests at first, that’s just what he does. When in doubt stall at the first hurdle. He fends me off with an arrow head in a neat pincher grip as I swoop in on my prey. As soon as we make bodily contact he starts wailing as I lift him off his feet, flailing, “I am be kill you wiv my fing!” he announces. “What thing?” I ask casually, knowing that he refers to the half inch plastic squidgey arrow head. I carry him fireman style over one shoulder floppy and co-operative despite the noise. Once he is in the bath he will be as happy as a clam, it's just the same old transition resistance. Mr. Clean, or squeaky to his friends has an in-built resistance to everything. “Dis fing dat I am having in my hand.” He stabs me gently in the back to demonstrate it’s magical powers of persuasion.
“Ah, and what is it called? Do you know what it is?” He sounds more adenoidal with every advancing step up the stair case to the bath, but that’s probably because it’s hard to breathe when you’re bobbing along upside down and trying to hold a conversation at the same time. “Yes!” he hisses breathily whilst slurping back the accumulated drool, because lip closure is another ongoing campaign.
“Well, what is it then?”
“It is not dah arrowhead.”
“Oh. Really? What is it then?”
“It is dah magic fing dat makes dah bath water beed disappear.” I step into the bathroom and deposit him upright on his feet in the room of devastation. Piles of soggy towels and clothes are everywhere, along with a few trails of bubbles and a more than waterlogged spouse. “Oh!” he says, standing up from his kneeling position on the bathmat. A cloth dangles from his hand as he wipes the grime of the tide, “I thought I’d already done him! Did I miss him somehow?”
His son steps gingerly towards the bath as the last drops of water gurgle down the hole. “Agh! It is be worked!” he stares at the arrowhead and then back to the empty bath. “Oh no, now I be dah dirty little mucky puppy. I need be dah clean and shiny one. Stoopid arrow.” He hurls it aside in disgust.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Spoil the child

A long time ago I was young mother and divorced.

I worked full time and farmed my daughter out to the only, and most expensive child care centre in the city. Whilst she slept at night, I burned the midnight oil to gain further qualifications, to brighten our future prospects. With hindsight I should have burned the paper qualifications on the flame, but the young are fortunately short sighted. We would run through a check list in the morning of all the many things that we had to remember. Sometimes an important item failed to achieve ‘list status’ and was over looked. Later in the day when I received a phone call from the school or a note home, I would have to admit my error. It was a harsh lesson for both of us. If my employer had been more understanding, if public transport had been a little more efficient, I might have managed to deliver whatever it was that I had forgotten, but all to often she just had to do without. I would comfort myself with the knowledge that those mistakes would help both of us be less forgetful.

Even then, I find it hard to imagine an employer permitting an employee to take the afternoon off to go and deliver a forgotten tennis racket or hockey stick. Maybe it was a different era or a different culture or a different attitude towards children and their needs? Whatever it was, or is, such behaviour by a parent would be frowned upon. Ultimately there would be a price to pay, whether that be in the form of a lack of promotion or a dock in pay. When it comes to cost benefit analysis, a different era brings a different price tag.

Twenty years later, I appear to be even more forgetful, but I comfort myself with the knowledge that I now have four times as many things to remember. My son has a wide variety of preferred talismen, without which, he becomes immobile. These preferred things change from day to day and from week to week. A few weeks ago these things could broadly be categorized as sticks, long handled things such as toilet brushes, toilet plungers and walking canes. I consider it a considerable coup that he now accepts smaller versions, that still adhere to the general principle of ‘stick.’ The four inch plastic lance, is always clasped in his tight little sweaty palm. It keeps him safe at all times, except whilst he is in school, where different and more socially acceptable talismen are permitted. The fact that he accepts that different things are permitted in school as opposed to home, is also a tremendous coup because many autistic children have difficulty generalizing ‘rules’ from one situation to another.

Thus it is, because of the ‘generalizing’ issue, that we stumble. My son is to go to another child’s house for a play date. Horray! On delivery, he finds that he is without his talisman. Friend’s house is not home, nor is it school, it is a different place. Since friend’s house is more closely categorized as ‘home’ rather than ‘school,’ he is unable to enter the premises without the talisman. I dither at the impasse. We sit in the car, by the curb outside friend’s house. He refuses to exchange the comparative safety of the car for friend’s now familiar house. He boils are fever pitch at the unfairness of it all, wild and riled. His exchange system categories are mis-filed. I think. I need a strategy. When his screams change to whimpers, friend’s mum toils to come up with acceptable alternatives, but none of the bribes work. I dither. If he needs the lance to be safe when he’s in his very own home, surely his need is all the greater, in someone else’s home? I decide to negotiate with my 6 year old. I make a tentative suggestion. I almost whisper because I don’t want to rekindle the embers of his meltdown.

He steps out of the car and into the warm and waiting home of his pal. I fasten my safety belt to drive home. As I drive my mind fills with wicked little American words like 'enabler' and 'co-dependency' and 'nit wit.' I collect the lance and return within 20 minutes. He has waited 1200 seconds for his lance. 1200 of delayed gratification must be an all time record. May Mother Nature turn a blind eye to the fact that the planet is defiled for yet another unnecessary car trip.

Moral – if you plan to beat yourself up over your failures, spare the toilet brush and accept beguiled.

New post up on "alien," dedicated to my chum.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Neither a Lender nor a Borrower be*

When he appears at nearly 10 o’clock on a Saturday morning, when we have already achieved steady state. They are all fed, clean and most importantly of all, dressed. Their father is not dressed, even though the long hand is seconds away from 10:00. A robe does not qualify for ‘dressed.’ Nor is he clean. He is already brewing his weekend headache due to caffeine withdrawal, but I am without mercy. I push a mug of black coffee in his bleary eyed direction, with verbal prompt, “there you go dear, that should help.”

I recall the chap in the restaurant the previous night. He sat at the counter with his pal enjoying a beer, when we arrived to collect our take away, which is called a ‘take out,’ in America. A Friday evening chill out, where chaps chat. My spouse was still at work.

It was an exceptionally brave move on my part, not spontaneous of course, but the bribery component was in place. A treat for her, had to be balanced against the pain threshold that her brother’s could endure. One parent, three children. Even a year ago this would not have been a remote possibility. A tiny little step, 'go to a restaurant to collect a take out,' something that most people wouldn't so much as blink at. I am no longer blinkered, I have cast them aside and I'm ready with my whip, lasso and sugar lumps, or rather, Goldfish crackers.

The men sat, drank beer and awaited their food. I was in sheepdog mode whilst the checker made out the receipt, by hand, slowly. There were only a few people in the restaurant but the candles were lit on every table. The boys, because they are small boys, needed to blow out all the candles. I needed them to refrain from fulfilling this quite reasonable desire. Most especially, I needed them not to lean over the diners’ table and spit in the vague direction of the candle, since lip closure and spit production are ongoing campaigns.

They wear a combination of mischief and hyper-vigilance on their faces. The checker takes my very patient credit card from the counter and runs it through her machine. It looks like slow motion to me, but I think that perhaps I am permanently stuck in fast forward.

I hear one of the guys recount his day and plans for the weekend, “then the kids have got their Walkathon at school tomorrow, should be kinda fun…..” The word ‘Walkathon’ brings one of my sons to heel. He parks himself on a stool next to one of the dads at the counter. He hunts his lexicon for social chit chat friendly words, as his feet pound the kick board under the counter. The top of his body is elbowed casually on the counter, an easy stance, the nonchalant man about town, for half of him. The two halves of his body fight each other, frenzied activity versus calm and friendly.

The checker hands me the slip of paper to sign. I need to escape as fast as possible as my ‘holding pattern’ is beginning to crumble. So far it is a success. Out of the car, into the restaurant, wait, patiently, whilst being entertained if rather inadequately, positive feedback and praise for control, loose lead not a choke hold collar, permit constant movement at the cost of refraining from doing other things that would be more noticeably odd, keep pleasant sane smile on face at all times. Seconds pass.

I watch the boys move swiftly around the square tables in the pattern of a maze, but they’re not running. They both obey the 'one finger rule.' A finger from each hand can touch things, but only inanimate things. This is our compromise over the compelling need to touch anything and everything, usually at a high often dangerous speed. We apply the rule as sparingly as possible, because it is an added burden on top of all the other things that they try so hard to do and not do.

We have been within these four walls for approximately 4 minutes, we’re up against the clock as the candles still flicker.

The whole exercise is one huge bribe for food. The French fries wait in the car for Junior. They cool. We have advanced beyond M&M’s, it’s like graduation but greater. This is so much better than a few years ago. A few years ago this would be the equivalent of emptying a cage of chickens into the room to flap and squalk and run around to cause mayhem and consternation, where every trip, voyage or visit was a venture into the unknown.

There are still lots of unknowns and hidden triggers that lurk to trip them up, but as the checker passes me the bag of food over the counter, it is the white flag of surrender, a visual cue that they notice and voluntarily flit towards the door, together, in unison, like the well trained troops that they are.

Only ten paces to the car, but it’s dark and damp. The doors open on command as two dive in to escape the chill. I lean inside to turn on the ignition and warm up the car as the third one collapses on the sidewalk to scream like a banshee. So close, so foolish.

I chuck the bag onto the passenger seat and step back to the soggy one, the incoherent one caught in our very own headlights. It looks like an apoplectic fit because now he is wet from the contact with the ground. Whatever it was, it is now ten times worse, a clash of tactile defensiveness and whatever it is, that I don’t know, for the moment. I won’t know ‘it’ for a few moments more, because he cannot tell me, because he has no words.

When the flailing dies down it is safe for me to intervene and scoop him up. He sits on my lap in the driver’s seat sobbing and soggy. We all wait. They wait patiently and silently in the back, as their legs kick the seats to two separate rhythms.

“Can you tell me what it is dear?” We wait a bit more, before he is able to tell us, faulteringly, “I fink you are go without me.”

But that was last night. A late night. A difficult and long night, the sort of night that tires you out.

Now, this morning, I have been in my usual holding pattern for just over four hours. We will all go to the Walkathon.

I will join them in an hour. I will stay at home for sixty minutes, in the peace and quiet with a book. If you enjoy the friendship of your other half, it is worth maintenance for a union to survive. Neither a marathon nor a sprinter be, accept enjoy the solitary.

"neither a borrower, nor a lender be"

"Neither a borrower, nor a lender be" says that it is best to not lend [money] to other people and to not borrow from other people. When we lend something we risk losing both the thing we lend and the friendship with that other person. {from Hamlet by William Shakespeare; Polonius speaking: "Neither a borrower, nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend"} Example question: "Could you lend me twenty dollars?" Answer: "Sorry, neither a borrower nor a lender be." This says that you value the friendship and you don't want to risk hurting the friendship with a loan.

Make GoEnglish.com your home page

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

7 layer dip

I am on weak ground and failed to research the matter in depth, so I will prevail upon your indulgence. Others, real Americans, are more adaptable. Their "blog titles" are deceptive because really they have it down to a fine "art." We are each of us, far more "complex," than we let on.

Some of us are of a culinary disposition be that chef, cook or can opener. In America, and I believe elsewhere, since we are now of a global persuasion, I notice a surfeit of these concoctions on the supermarket delicatessen shelves. They come in a wide variety of forms.

The principal is simple enough, take three or more slops and pour one on top of another. A common combination would be some bean smoosh, guacamole, salsaish slime and sour cream, which is then sprinkled with a substance pretending to be cheese. The cheese may be approximately cheese coloured, but other than that, it fails completely in all other qualities such as flavour or texture. It’s more of a grated coronary than anything else, unless you are really unlucky and have the low fat, no fat, super healthy alternative.

I often believe that they are designed like a colour wheel. There must be contrast otherwise you might be unaware that the layers differ. Green Pesto next to guacamole would be a mistake, because I would suspect I had been short changed and dipped out. Sour cream and cream cheese, without a layer of alternative coloured muck, would also be an error. Red Pesto on salsa would be suspicious.

In an ideal world the eater should be able to take a tortilla chip or crudite and swipe a slick of all the layers onto the instrument prior to eating. Here, the consistency is crucial. Too thick and the chip snaps, too sloppy and all the layers mix together into one big primordial ooze.

Since I am a grown up person, I prefer my food to bite back, although not literally. Anything that resembles baby food should be avoided. Anything that changes form before your eyes is untrustworthy. I think that’s part of the reason why ice-cream is dangerous, in a shape shifter kind of way. If I’m presented with a cold rock of flavoured cream, it sits there for a while innocently enough. Then before you know it, you glance back and it has started to melt and spread. Leaky food should have it’s own FDA label – danger, substance changes form without warning. Although I have inadvertently revealed my skills in chemistry and physics, there is no doubt that if an egg has the quality of bounce, it simultaneously loses the category of edible.

Overall, I can conclude that there are many things that benefit from being layered, such as hair, clothing or window dressings, but food? Food should not be layered. Food should be neatly ordered on a plate with a one inch mote around each item, as it would never do for them to touch and become contaminated, or is that just my children?

I think these thoughts early in the morning, before my brain is fully functioning. I am prompted by the visual clues of the detritus under the dining room table. Several cloths and a bottle of 409 help me remove the evidence of my slovenly existence, but that’s the trouble with play dates. 6 children for 3 hours brings it’s own fall out.

The cookie crumbs are crunchy because they have been there the longest. It is admirable to note that the neophobe can now stomach the chocolate chip variety that ever other child on the planet adores. Three o’clock in the afternoon. I had no time to clean up the chocolate milk spills which mixed in with the dot to dot paints. Who would think he would ever drink chocolate milk that hadn't been heated for one minute and 10 seconds precisely. If you stamp on a dot to dot bottle hard enough, they explode. An enviable display of foot eye co-ordination and strength. I am delighted that they picked them up voluntarily and otherwise used them appropriately. I didn't have to bribe anyone. I was considered fun.

The red paint has coloured some of the slivers of paper because our cutting skills are improving at an ever greater pace. I’m glad to report that although few people ate the rice, 12 hours later it has returned to it’s original form, white, bent and crispy. I don’t think many people know that it is far easier to clean up dehydrated rice grains than freshly cooked sticky ones. The Parmesan shavings are scattered far and wide, carried on the whirlwind of activity that invaded my household. Although he didn't eat any, he conducted himself admirably in view of the stench.

Shredded mini wheats may be a bonus for the digestive system, but they are a curse to the housewife as they shed themselves like knitted straw. That anyone, only two, considered them to be a snack was an unexpected bonus. I retrieve a banana skin from the corner, still moist and slick like a snail trail. My son, the neophobic thief. Who would have thought that a banana could become a preferred food?

I did not appreciate the pip spitting contest,but when Mandarins are in season and lip closure is an issue, maybe it helps if she can demonstrate by modeling?

They are all such tiny little things of huge significance. All of these things that they now do, occasionally, they do very badly, like someone so much younger might do. You can measure and test and teach these skills. You can monitor progress, plot graphs and pi charts but the thing that is most significant to me, is of no great importance. The pivotal point that overcomes inertia, is a willingness to give it a go, to just try. So few people can understand the utter joy of handing a child a pair of scissors, a weapon of mass destruction, or mere meltdowns, and witnessing them reach out and take them.

The desired behaviour can often be elusive but I think I might, reluctantly and grumpily, be won over by a 9 layer option afterall. It may take a chisel to remove the fall out on the floor, but the evidence is there for all to see.

For additional cleaning tips please visit my pal"Mrs. Bucket" a.k.a. "Kritina Chew."

p.s. I should like to see more of these "99" thingummy do dahs, so if you do one, let me know.

New post up on "alien."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Grumpy is as grumpy does

I drink coffee through as straw as instructed by the Dental Devils and sulk. Another visit to the dentist brings more bad news. Ten months after surgery we are still struggling. I am sorely tempted to clamp a bag of espresso to my hip and drink it intravenously, just to avoid all possible current and future mouth issues. However, I don’t want to tempt fate. It seems only a tiny step until I’ll be old enough to wear a colostomy bag instead, an area of fashion as yet untouched by Calvin Klein.

The word ‘dentist’ and all derivatives have been banned from the household. I refuse to allow my children to pick up negative vibes. They will have American attitudes towards dentistry if it kills me. Spouse and I will not whisper about the subject either, because our offspring have more finely attenuated hearing that the average owl. They absorb our body language and the instinctive shivers that pass between us. Their father’s facial expression needs no interpretation. When he clamps his hands over his mouth and screws up his eyes, all three small people wince in response.

I tried so hard to be jolly with the new pharmacist but we do not appear to enjoy the same sense of humour. This is probably just as well for other patients patronizing this establishment.

I toss back another couple of antibiotics as instructed by the dentist. This is a preamble to another fishing expedition for various assorted hardware, to include but not limited to, loose screws and lumps of cement. I am sadly disappointed with the dental community, not for their lack of dentistry skills but for their complete failure to comprehend Elephant jokes. What manner of medical professional is unfamiliar with such hilarity? Are they all childless or are they just foreign?
“Don’t worry,” he soothed, as I submitted to yet another x-ray to ensure that I am totally radioactive, if not magnetic.
“So you’re just looking for just those two things then?” I ask, an unnecessarily.
“Just allow ten days for the infection to calm down?”
“That’s right. Everything will be just fine.”

For two pins I would just curl up under the desk and admit defeat. Take up permanent residence. In fact I would, but they don't have an espresso machine.
“I’m sure we’ll find whatever they are, when we open you up. Very tiny.” I should probably ask an intelligent question, or maybe two? I should probably ask an intelligent medically question, but I can't think of any, apart from 'does it hurt?' but I already know the answer. I am heartily sick of being the tiniest percentage of dental patients, I want a different spot on the bell curve.
“I didn’t do anything wrong, it’s just bad luck?” I beg.
“Good luck that we found it just in time!” It doesn’t feel lucky to me.
“Right. Let’s hope you just find those two then, and not any elephants?” I offer, as a means of dispersing the tension, although it may only be my own. The radiologist and the surgeon exchange meaningful glances. The radiologist steps closer. She has more qualifications after her name than would fit on the average business class envelope. She smiles to expose her birthright, a perfect line of pearly enamel tombstones. “You know,” she says tapping the x-ray, “an elephant would show up on this.” I examine her face to locate a smirk, spot a wink or some other tiny clue that we are on the same wavelength, as I don’t want to keep making the same mistake over and over again. Blank. I give up. I go home.

What is commonly referred to as ‘dry mouth’ in the States, would more accurately be described as glue mouth. I pout at my son as he demonstrates his vastly superior lip closure, him of the speech delayed camp.
“You are dah suck again?”
“I am.”
“I am dah suck too. See?” he slurps, just to show off. “You can be do dat too?” he taunts. I temper my reply, “well no actually. As it happens I’m having a hard time getting to the bottom of the mug.” I try and remove the sneary tone from my voice.
“Ooo, you are dah dribble.” I dab my chin and demonstrate my perfect mastery of etiquette and table manners.
“Ooo, not dah mouth. Dah mouth is being clean.” I examine the napkin. It is clean, not a coffee stain of dampness. I suppress swear words and dash off to the mirror in the bathroom because my nose is still numb and lies to me frequently. Footfalls follow me at high speed. Oh for a bit of privacy! I peer into the mirror. My son inserts himself between me and the mirror, so that we can both look at my reflection, although not admiringly. Oh the joy of joint attention!
“See! You are dah snot!” I grab a handful of toilet paper and dab gently, as nerve endings are thoroughly unreliable around here.
“Don be sad.”
“I’m not sad,” I respond far to quickly and in the wrong tone.
“Soon you are not dah snot. Soon you are dah big sucker.”
Whilst it sounds like an insult, it's really a rallying cry, a supportive gesture. Yet another demonstration of the heartless, soulless autism that we know and love so well. Rats to the "Theory of Mind."

Ain’t that the truth.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Homework Strategies

The issue of homework comes to a head, as I knew it would. It is tangential to the subject at hand, as I sit in the psychiatrist’s office. We brainstorm the matter. This is both a comforting and disappointing exercise. It is comforting because it reassures me that the psychiatrist is down to earth. He is no fool. He demonstrates a masterful command of the all the hic-cups. He lists each strategy in turn, adjusted for the dynamics of three small children where two are autistic. At the same time, it is a disappointment because I have tried each an every one of them to no avail. The only one I have not technically tried, is the idea to bribe someone to come into my home and help one child with their homework. I have not tried this technique for the pure and simple reason that I cannot find a victim to bribe. He concludes, as I have done, that matters will improve given time.

At the same time, my daughter’s teacher offers the carrot of the ‘after school homework club’ for her. It’s on campus in the library which in America is called a media centre, because it houses materials other than books. This is a tremendous bonus. This means that I will only have two autistic children to coach through their homework. Only two wiggly squiggly squirming screamers. What a boon! There is of course, a down side.

The downside is that we will need to return to school one hour later to collect her. Returning to school means persuading the boys to get back into the hated car. It could take as much as an hour to achieve such persuasion at that time of the day, a thoroughly bad time of the day. I will not spend an hour with two wiggly squiggly squirming homework screamers. Instead I will spend an hour with two wiggly squiggly squirming screamers who will not get into the car AND no homework will be completed.

But there is an upside, a saving grace. When I eventually manage to return to the school, instead of having to remove the boys from the car and take them to the Media centre to collect her, I merely have to park the car at the allotted spot until they spot my arrival and send her out to me. Can you imagine how truly delightful it is to skip four entire transitions? Yes four! One to extract them from the car, one to get them into the media centre, then one out of the media centre and then one back into the car! Be still my beating heart!


The car doors close on my snotty screamers. They have no shoes on, but they won’t need them to collect their sister. They do wear some clothes, just enough so that should anyone be unwise enough to sneak a peek, they will only be rewarded with the odd shoulder here and there and probably far too much thigh. They each clutch Pokemons in their clammy little hands, as the rule of ‘no toys in the car’ has been temporarily suspended. Toys in the car are basically missiles and projectiles to torment the chauffeur.

I turn on the CD and pray quietly. I remember just in the nick of time to go via the public library so that I can use the ‘hole in the wall,’ book drop facility, before I need to take out a mortgage to pay off the fines. I’ll pick up the ones I’ve reserved on line another day, a day when I am without children, dash inside the entrance to the shelf by the door, grab the pile for auto check out and skedaddle back to the car.

I hear my tummy grumble but I ignore it. I can feel that one side of my stomach lining is sticking to the other side. I notice the little orange light on the dashboard, which tells me that I have one and a half thimblefuls of petrol in the tank. I grab an emergency bottle of Ensure and glug it down. If we grind to a halt at least I will have enough energy to walk somewhere, possibly. I have some vague recall of drinking from ‘open containers’ whilst driving, or is that empty vessels? Now I shall be had up by the police for drinking and driving. I will sue Ensure and their cohorts because I really am an American. Why can’t they put more calories in their dinky little bottles?

I pull into the curbside at school, hop out of the car and assume the position and demeanour of a respectable mother. I lean back against the car as it rocks. Why aren’t cars sound proofed? I adopt a casual air just in case anyone is watching. I find it hard to maintain a casual air as my back bounces off the car at frequent intervals. How can I look innocent prior to the arrival of the Highway Patrol as they come to cart me away? Please will some come and lock me up? I see her head pop out of the media centre door followed quite quickly by the rest of her. She staggers towards me under the weight of two backpacks, the one she forgot on Friday and the substitute she took today. I hug her whilst we are still outside the car to protect her for the maelstrom inside the car. “How did you get on dear? What did you think of homework club? Did you manage to finish all your homework?”
“Er no.”
“What none of it?”
“Um …..no I didn’t do any of it.” Unfortunately I think aloud, “how can you be in a library for a whole hour and not get any of your homework done? What on earth were you doing in there?”
It is testament to my ever weaker hold on reality that I have forgotten that some people go inside libraries and once there, they read.

A random number of ever moving aliens

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Saturday, October 20, 2007


"tegdrib92" of the Brewer Family over at "And Miles to Go before we sleep," has oh so very kindly given me an award, the Wonder Woman Award.

Of course this is the perfect award for me because I am always 'wondering' or what American's call 'dithering,' or maybe the other way around? As I teeter on the edge of every fence I am now forced once again, to make a decision or two.

I suspect this is all part of some hideous plot, a twelve step programme to force me off the stile onto one side of the other. I may have to reveal my true identity as the unidentifiable "beast." I have confused the authorities by skipping the country and hiding out in the States.

First off, I would like to pass it on to "Chelle" over at "Soodz" because she is a far better foreigner and wonder woman than I could ever aspire to be.

Also for "linda" at "Are we there Yet" because working, indeed devoting herself to such a profession must be a true vocation, or possibly temporary insanity, as well as managing her family single handedly in a truly remarkable manner so that her daughter's creative talents have a worthwhile outlet.

Then to "flutter" over at "fluttercrafts" as her insight is refreshing and it's a great place to poke around for the unexpected. You never know, this little poke might be enough to make her fix her profile on her blog - I am the mistress of the sublte hint.

Cheers dearies

Ordinarily Extraordinary

I drive to school very slowly because I am very early. I am very early in order to secure the one spot on the road that I have identified as being the perfect spot. I am a season ahead of myself because I am exceptionally clever person too. I know that the spot in the scorching sun in October, will transform itself into the perfect spot as soon as the weather changes. To park under a tree in the shade now, will be one that drips with rain, in the future. I don't want to sign my own death warrant.

I am tired after several nights of inadequate sleep. I am relaxed after having thrown many pounds of clay all around my garage. My eyes travel ahead watching the road with care. I slow down when my eyes recognize danger. The danger takes the form of a small boy, who sits a few inches from the curb in a bright orange T-shirt, always my first choice of colour for small boys.

I slow down to a snail’s pace. I identify an adult close by wearing a dun coloured outfit, so that she blends in with her surroundings. I assume she is not the mother, because as we all know, mothers must wear primary coloured clothes or neon, so that they can be more quickly identified by their offspring, should they ever be mis-fortunate enough to be in a crowd. Even without the crowd, indeed, on an arid landscape that is flat as a pancake, a neon coloured 5 foot 6 size mother, can often prove to be quite invisible.

I crawl along the curb to confirm that the extraordinary sight is real, rather than a figment of my imagination. A small boy plays with dump trucks in the dirt, a full 12 long paces from the adult. I know that the adult must be both a marathon runner and a superb sprinter to allow for such a vast chasm of space to have developed between her and the child. The woman plants the edge of her sidewalk. She is about half way through a whole box of plants. I am an efficient plantswoman myself. That much work would take approximately 15 to 20 minutes, if you assume that she prepared the ground beforehand. I look more closely because the woman has a cast on her leg, which means that she must have a leash around the child that is secured to a six foot stake with a 4 inch padlock. I fail to see any of the evidence that my mind needs to witness. I drive on past, confused and befuddled.

How does she do that? What is her secret? I glance in the rear view mirror to check if it was a mirage. It isn’t. They are still there. They are still static, probably for as long as 4 minutes. I rack my brain for the elusive answer? Is there a pocket of extra strong gravity along that stretch of sidewalk? Has she filled his pockets with rocks? Were his sneaker made of lead? Is there a hidden force field or electric fence that I missed?

Of course! Why didn’t I think of that before? I reach the only logical conclusion possible. Obviously the woman has attached a roller skate to the bottom of her cast and the elastic around the child is the invisible variety.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

My dreamboat hauls in an empty catch

At the weekends, bloggers can be more honest and intimate, or maybe just silly, because there are so few of us.

I am given to understand that it is very important to engender self esteem in children, both boys and girls. Fostering their ambitions with the acknowledgment of genuine achievement, is a good path to tread. Where I come from 'false modesty' is the norm, a cultural blip. Ambition must be veiled and disguised unless you want to walk around with a neon arrow that reads 'big head,' for everyone to see. Now that I am old, I can see the middle road between the two, a much more comfortable path.


I find it hard to believe that it is a commonly held belief that women, generally, lack this basic building block, or that their cement crumbles or that the bricks don’t fit together neatly. I, on the other hand, have oodles of the stuff, more than enough for my own purposes and certainly loads to share. It is because of this abundance that I feel it my bounden duty to pass some of it along.

Shall I tell you a little secret? I little dark ambition that I once clung to, like the wreck of the Hesperus?[Ref *]

Well, as you know, intermittently, I like to play with clay. It is great therapy, very physical. However I never make much progress or improve because I don't practice for long enough. Something or other will come crashing in on the great plan, so the great plan is shelved for another indefinite period of time.

Way back in time, my days of volunteer work had been suspended due to an overdose of duties closer to home. I had no income and no time within which to earn it. I knew that I was shrinking. I needed to ‘think big’ as we Americans say. I decided that everyone would learn to love Goldfish and their emblem, Goldfish Crackers. They would become associated with autism all over the world. Little fishies swimming free in the vast ocean of possibilities, rather than trapped in that stagnant little puzzle piece that all the grown up autistic people dislike. Everyone would accept autism as an ‘is.’ Peace, love and understanding would rule the world. Sharks would all be white and choose the vegetarian option. Killer whales would seek out krill and the lion would lie down with the lamb…….

I am a creature of habit, and inspired by my very favourite Goldfish crackers, I began to decorate my pots with fishies. Now we happen to live quite close to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

One day whilst my children were busy vandalizing their merchandise in the shop, I happened to notice some terribly expensive wibbly wobbly pots for sale. So I thought to myself, as one sometimes does, 'my wibbly wobbly pots, are every bit as wibbly wobbly as theirs, and my fish are friendlier.' It was then that I happened upon an ambition, another brilliant plan. I would make my wibbly wobbly pots with their happy little fish and give them to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for them to sell. Any money that people were willing to part with, fools, would go straight into a Charitable foundation to support autistic people. Bingo! I had solved so many birds with one fish.

Of course, it never came to anything. I am nothing if not naïve and deluded. Brain lint. Many people benefit from day dreams, and I'm one of them. As a child my career ambition was Christmas tree climber and star shiner. This is probably a better career choice than the previous one, chimney sweep. It utilized the same skill set, but a step cleaner. Today I’m far more comfortable with realism and cynicism. It’s just one of those comfy little pipe dreams, mental meanderings that bring solace and calm to the often trouble minds of some parents, probably only one or two though.

post script - I did take a first preliminary step and contacted Pepperidge Farm about the matter. A feeble attempt to raise awareness.

I can't quote them directly, but the message I received by return could be roughly summarized as 'how much do you wish to donate to Pepperidge Farm Madam?'

That was enough evidence to convince me that I lacked any powers of persuasion, had no ability to communicate effectively and that my feet of clay had turned into cement.

[* Ref]

It was the schooner Hesperus,
That sailed the wintery sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
To bear him company.

Blue were her eyes as the fairy flax,
Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,
That ope in the month of May.

The Skipper he stood beside the helm,
His pipe was in his mouth,
And he watched how the veering flaw did blow
The smoke now West, now South.

Then up and spake an old Sailor,
Had sailed the Spanish Main,
"I pray thee, put into yonder port,
for I fear a hurricane.

"Last night the moon had a golden ring,
And to-night no moon we see!"
The skipper, he blew whiff from his pipe,
And a scornful laugh laughed he.

Colder and louder blew the wind,
A gale from the Northeast,
The snow fell hissing in the brine,
And the billows frothed like yeast.

Down came the storm, and smote amain
The vessel in its strength;
She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,
Then leaped her cable's length.

"Come hither! come hither! my little daughter,
And do not tremble so;
For I can weather the roughest gale
That ever wind did blow."

He wrapped her warm in his seaman's coat
Against the stinging blast;
He cut a rope from a broken spar,
And bound her to the mast.

"O father! I hear the church bells ring,
Oh, say, what may it be?"
"Tis a fog-bell on a rock bound coast!" --
And he steered for the open sea.

"O father! I hear the sound of guns;
Oh, say, what may it be?"
Some ship in distress, that cannot live
In such an angry sea!"

"O father! I see a gleaming light.
Oh say, what may it be?"
But the father answered never a word,
A frozen corpse was he.

Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,
With his face turned to the skies,
The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow
On his fixed and glassy eyes.

Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed
That saved she might be;
And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave,
On the Lake of Galilee.

And fast through the midnight dark and drear,
Through the whistling sleet and snow,
Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept
Tow'rds the reef of Norman's Woe.

And ever the fitful gusts between
A sound came from the land;
It was the sound of the trampling surf,
On the rocks and hard sea-sand.

The breakers were right beneath her bows,
She drifted a dreary wreck,
And a whooping billow swept the crew
Like icicles from her deck.

She struck where the white and fleecy waves
Looked soft as carded wool,
But the cruel rocks, they gored her side
Like the horns of an angry bull.

Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice,
With the masts went by the board;
Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank,
Ho! ho! the breakers roared!

At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,
A fisherman stood aghast,
To see the form of a maiden fair,
Lashed close to a drifting mast.

The salt sea was frozen on her breast,
The salt tears in her eyes;
And he saw her hair, like the brown sea-weed,
On the billows fall and rise.

Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
In the midnight and the snow!
Christ save us all from a death like this,
On the reef of Norman's Woe!

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

More grumpiness over "here" on "alien - because I say so!"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Line up your ducks Old MacDonald

Sometimes you’re too close to it to notice.

The patently obvious is ignored by my radar.

The reports from school tell me important information that fill in some of the gaps, but I fail to note the duplication at home.

Habituation has set in, not particularly for them, but for us, the parents. We’re so used to the squalking, bleating and rooster noises that we hardly hear them any more. Ear plugs are unnecessary as we just tune out the ‘white noise’ of his mouth, as well as all the clicks, clucks, sucky and blowy noises.

They used to be irritants, now they are more of a semi musical accompaniment, a back drop or wall paper to our daily existence. I imagine, that if you were unfortunate enough to a secure the desk next to him in the classroom, you would have little chance of concentration. We need to address this.

Answer comes to me like a flash of lightening, because I am an American. The quickest solution is probably the best one. The strategic placement of a six inch strip of duct tape. Unfortunately we have to fall back on less immediate methods of assistance.

To understand just how all pervasive this noise machine is, I can give you a little snippet, as examples sometimes help. The noises take precedence over words. They’re easier to produce and require no thought. It’s usually a far more accurate response than searching around the word bank, identifying the right one and then verbalizing it, all of which is terribly time consuming. It is also very hard work. Even if you go to all the effort of finding a word or two and speaking them aloud, attempt articulation, the dim witted adult that you’re talking to, doesn’t get it. How frustrating is that? If adults fail to respond appropriately, or if you the child are under pressure, it’s much easier to just make noises. Part of the benefit of making those noises, a by product as it were, is that you actually feel better just by using them, like a little steam release valve of pent up emotion. The judicial use of squalking can actually aid word production, once the excess pressure is dissippated. Almost a win win position.

I need to remember, that when the rooster crows and nods his head towards the cereal box, although I know he wants me to open it, instead of obeying, I need to prompt or wait for him to find his words. This might seem unkind, but people in the general public are not going to make the same connections that I am able to make, especially if it’s not a box of Kellog’s cornflakes.

I think it’s difficult to understand this fizzling down to the lowest common denominator. If you can spell, write and know the meaning of ‘compromise,’ why would someone like that find it so difficult to ask a simple question like, ‘please can you pour some cereal into my bowl,’ or alternatively if that’s too difficult, skip the words and actually do the pouring yourself?

The answer to that question differs slightly for each of my sons, involves several different steps and theories, all of which would take far to long to explain here.

It’s enough to know that this is the nub of the problem from their perspective ‘too difficult but if I squalk I get results.’ This isn’t so very different from any other child's response in my humble opinion. The key for me, is to remember correct my own behavioural response. This old dog, must learn a new trick. I must not react like Pavlov’s dog.

And less of the 'old' thank you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Slap on the head for the hand maiden

I trundle through the day with all the usual hic-cups, the known and the familiar.

“I am done.”
“Oh good. I’m glad you’re finished.”
“No! I am not done done, I am done.”

I look at him covered in dot to dot paint spots, a rare achievement for those battling with tactile defensiveness. I doubt if his tolerance will last much longer, especially as the paint begins to dry and flake and itch. For the moment he is still at the soggy stage of body painting, but it’s none the less impressive for that. The paints are easier to manage in this format, where fine motor skills are thin on the ground.

“Well are you finished or are you not finished.”
“I am not finished I am done.”

Well really! This pernicketiness over words is beyond the pale! Must he always be so American! I remind myself, again, how lucky I am to have ‘non-verbal,' autistic children, who choose to communicate with me verbally.

“Alright, fair enough. So you’re done. Shall I clear away and help you get cleaned up?” Tis truly a foolish woman, who offers a child a choice. This tenacious adherence to ‘done’ rather than ‘finish’ is so tedious. How can I take them all back home to England in December, if they insist on bellowing “I’m done” every five minutes? It will give my mother a fit of the vapours!

“No! I wan you to look at my done.”
“?” I am unaware what ‘done’ might look like. “Er which…..what ‘done’ do you want me to look at?”
“Dis done.”
“Which done?”
“Dis done on my tum…yes, on my tum. It be rhyme like dat.”

I look at his tummy. He extends it to it’s maximum capacity, no doubt to aid my bifocaled vision.

“See?” I look. I see brown paint on pallid skin.
“It be done. I be mix.”
“What did you mix?”
“I mix dah red and dah blue and dah yellow and I bin done make done!”
“That’s called brown dear, not done.”
“Nooo. Not brown. Brown be dark like chocolate. Dis be light brown, dah tan or dah done which it dah light.”

“Oooo you mean ‘dun’!”
“Yes, you’re absolutely right, it is dun coloured.”

I hear his father stumble in from the garage and turn to advise him of the turn in his son’s tertiary colour wheel, but he trips over something in the utility room and curses, “damn! I stepped on a lance!” My immediate thought, is the vision of several gallons of blood. My knight in shining armour has just fallen off his horse and impaled himself.

But of course I so rarely get these things right.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Whimsical investment

Parents of autistic children are vulnerable both to the hype of those who promote snake oil as a cure, as well as the demands of the children themselves. Some parents of autistic children have more money than sense, or certainly little sense, when it comes to money. In their favour, parents of autistic children readily admit their shortcomings – encyclopedic knowledge of dinosaurs, [C +] time table details of Thomas and his rabble, [D-] plot graph of the powers of Pokemon, [E for effort] Yukio qualities, [F--] just let me die now! This is how parental bias sneaks into the equation.

I grind the sleepy sand out of my eyes as I shuffle around the kitchen in my black fluff muffs, willing the life blood to flow back to my toes that I can avoid gangrene and digit removal. A small, bouncy fast moving person comes into focus. “What it is?’
“What is what dear?”
“What is what be rhyme?”
“Er what word do you want to rhyme?”
“Chocolate.” I knew that! I really knew that, or I could have guessed it. I think. What rhymes with chocolate? Anything that ends with ‘ate’ with two syllables before it.
“Dat is not a word!” he bellows. Suddenly I am back in school and still failing.
“Dat is four! I am need two!”
“Well it's not four syllables, that's because your enunciation is ……..” I eliminate ‘crap’ and substitute ‘in need of assistance.’ “Chocolate has three syllables. Choc o late, just like Nonna says. It’s not ‘choc’ ‘late,’ two syllables as Americans say, nor ‘choc’ ‘lit’ as Brits say. Both of them are wrong. Nonnna is write, I mean right. Nonna knows best.”

He pouts, doubtful but drawn by the inevitable truth of a superlative and peerless grandmother.

“Nonna say it be three?’
“She does.” I lie without thought, as Nonna and I have never discussed syllables in detail.
“What it is?”
“What is what?” Are we really still here?
“Ah well, 'ambulate' comes from the Latin, which means walk or movement forward and ‘per’ means before……. so you, push the ‘thing’ before you as you walk and the ‘thing’ is the pram which is…….like a pushchair….um...a stroller.” Beam me up now. I know not what I do or say and Latin is old and mold and I am being dumbfounded by a six year old!
“You are being dah dumbass!” I know! Don’t you think I already know that? How come your tiny brain is so huge? Why do you care? Do not taunt me with your speech delay! What I wouldn’t do with a mere fraction of your brain capacity!
“Where it is?” Please, please, please!
“Where is what dear?”
“Fing? Er thing? What thing?”
“Dah fing dat you said in dah perambulate?”
“Um?” He summarizes for me, so I can get back on track, pick up the thread and hang myself with it.
“You have dah ‘per,’ you have dah ‘ambulate’ but you have lost dah ‘fing’” I have lost more than a thing dear. I decide that surrender is my best option, that or deflection, “hang on a minute, I have something to show you!”

I run off to the spare room to retrieve the Rhyming Dictionary that I bought as a present for a pal. I kept it because I discovered that she already had several vastly superior volumes. My paltry offering was an embarrassment. I dash back.

“Do you know what this is lovey?” He reads the title. He knows the first word but not the second. Is it a good idea for a child such as him, to become familiar with the second word? I hesitate. I am already out of my depth, maybe I am giving him the opportunity to drown me? Do I give him the Keys to the Kingdom or open Pandora’s Box?

I glance at the clock, 6:03 a.m. It is far too early in the morning for me to be able to calculate the odds. I quickly run cons through my mind. He will be frustrated and overwhelmed. There will be a slew of negatives associated with failure. He’ll kick it, rip it, chuck it or bite it. There will be snot and tears and meltdowns. We will start a new day under a big black thundercloud that will haunt us all day.

This perspective has to be balanced against the potential for……fun? It will not be fun, it will be a disaster, a disaster that I will have engineered myself. Take any 100 opportunities for fun and 99% of them are sure to induce misery due to faulty miscalculation by the parent.

I must acknowledge that I am habituated to the negative. No matter how many times I push the enveloppe it always results in a stamp. I need to get up at 5 so I can be awake at 6 and stop these knee jerk reactions. I need to function as an adult and make better calculated positive decisions. Spontaneity has died as I am too scared to deal with the fall out, I merely respond. I am the B actor. I wait for the star to initiate and follow my best guess. Even my best guess is usually several miles off from the true target.

He is nearly 7. How would the average 7 year old react? Is there an average 7 year old on the planet?

I err on the side of self help, keep the faith and begin to explain. His eyes widen. Hyperlexia is often the heightened ability to read words. It does not always carry the ability to understand them.

The print is tiny, but that could be the dusty bifocals. The average book that he’s familiar with, is printed in font size 24, this on the other hand, is minute. I watch his sliver of filthy fingernail guide his eyes along the list, his feeble lip closure sounds out the syllables. “What it is?”
“What is what dear?”
“What be dah rhyme wiv ‘gold’?” All my children shout out the usual offerings. Collectively we cover most of the bases.

“Let’s check. Let’s see what the dictionary says?” I cross reference and leaf through the delicate pages. I read them all out to him. He is especially taken with ‘twofold, threefold, fourfold,’ and their ilk, but I’m inclined to favour the release of the stranglehold and relinquish my toehold of control.

New post up on "alien."

If you struggled to load and comment upon this page you might like to try my other duplicate "loads like a dream" site over "here."

Awards - well more awards really

"Linda" over at "Are We there Yet" was kind enough to give me this "Community Blogger" award.

I'm mystified [just for a change] why she picked me as my blogging is so frazzled lately that I feel far less than worthy.

That aside, I can think of some other bloggers who are worthy.

There's one blog I visit that worries me sorely. It worries me mainly because our "thought" processes are often so similar. I don't think you should be allowed to drive an aeroplane and have those kind of thoughts at the same time. [I deliberately write 'drive' because I know that will be very annoying.] It's so fun to push someone else's buttons just because you can, so nip along to "White Noise" and write an "annoying comment," as we all need something to perseverate about.

Another good spot to poke about, lurk and read would be "Pendullum" over at "Dribbling Wit." The title tells you all you need to know, that an the nom de plume will send you swinging back and forth, hopefully in a gentle manner.

Then there's "Carol" over at "Shrinkwrappedscream" who is an incredible community blogger. A fairly new one for me, but great fun and well worth the visit.

Cheers dearies

Monday, October 15, 2007

Do little hicky

A bonus, for "Kev" and his "Clan"

We embrace, spoon style as he’s rather twitchy. Tickly and prickly. He pecks the inside of my elbow like a machine gun. I reach out an arm to enclose another one because it appears that everyone is in a touchy feely kind of a mood. The infection proves contagious as the last one snuggles into the huddle. I am lucky to have exceptionally long arms, the kind that poke out two inches from every cuff ever designed. They giggle in a piggle, with far too many sucky and gurgley noises because we don’t need any words. They burst apart at the same immeasurable second as an invisible message passes between them. They hare off on tippy toes, blundering hither and thither with whoops of glee, so miserable are we. I glance down at my arm.


How am I gong to explain that love bite?

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