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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Jaw Surgery – appearances can be deceptive

"Meanwhile, "I repair myself to the school for pick up time.

Outside on the playground, mothers collect and chat. I update my pals as to my current abilities of speech when an unfamiliar face appears. My pals explain my condition, thus saving me a few syllables. I note the blink of a furrow across her brow. Disapproval. There are a thousand unspoken criticisms adrift, all directly linked to a question of priorities – children are a parent’s first responsibility, everything is secondary, but how much more so for the parent of a special needs child? She phrases her question with care, subtly, with diplomacy. It translates to, ‘what’s an old baggage like you having plastic surgery for, you vain old bat, must have more money than sense?’

I blink and think. Her eyes check out my lanky form, not the slim of elegant physique, but the skinny that turns scrawny with age. I have a light bulb moment. I gird my enunciation to offer, “actually, the procedure is covered by my medical insurance, it’s not cosmetic.”
“Not cosmetic?”
“I don’t understand. If it’s not cosmetic why didn’t you have it done when you were a kid?”
“I don’t really know? I did wear braces, but no-one suggested surgery until I came over here.”
“Well, we do have the best in the world. So how is it different now?”
“They join, I can [or could or will be able to ] eat.”
“What did you do before?”
“Eat with a knife and fork, swallow a lot of chunks, have a great deal of indigestion.”
“Has it always been like that?”
“Er, as long as I can remember.”
“No wonder you’re so……..er slim,” she adds, softened. Which confirms that we should "never judge a book by it's cover," even if it is a bit tatty and decrepid like mine.

My chum leans over to offer, “don’t worry, a few weeks without all that string and she’ll be as fat as everyone else.”

What a jolly thought.

Oral Defensiveness – once bitten, twice shy

This is one feature of my youngest son. On the whole, he refuses all ‘new’ foods. A few of years back, my older son, who is also autistic, had a play date with his chum, a typically developing twin. This fully verbal child had energy, enough to spark my child into action. There were few words between them as they spent the majority of their time wrestling. [translation = roughhousing.] These two five year olds ‘played,’ until snack time, when all four came to the table. At this time junior only "ate three things," but we seem to have been working on this forever.

Very occasionally, approximately once or twice a year, he would snatch food from someone else’s plate, stuff it in his mouth and then promptly spit it out again, with accompanying screams.

The friend immediately noticed that junior had a bowl of Goldfish, but not the fruit and chocolate chip cookie that everyone else had.
“How come he doesn’t get any?” he asked immediately.
“He dun like it,” offered his brother, as both boys have speech delays. His friend was not convinced, so I backed him up, “that’s right, he doesn’t like cookies, but he really hates chocolate chip ones.” His eyes narrowed in the knowledge that he had caught an adult in a lie.

The snack continued. The friend decided that there was a conspiracy afoot and so asked him directly, “do you want one?” Junior rarely responded to questions verbally or otherwise. On this occasion, his response was to shade his eyes like a visor and lower his head, so that the vision of the cookies would be obliterated. The friend asked again, louder this time. My son squashed his nose onto the table cloth so as to close his nostrils from the stench of the cookies. The friend glanced in my direction, a quick check to see if the coast was clear. I decided to let nature take it’s course.

“Here, just give it a try. Everyone likes cookies. These are the best. You’ll like them.” Junior squirmed in his chair, became more compact, smaller. “Come on. You’ll love em,” he persisted. Junior curled himself into a nut, the smallest hamster in the world, invisible. “Hey! What’s wrong with you? Eat it!” he commanded waving a cookie at junior’s posterior. He tried a new tactic. “I know, if you eat this cookie then I’ll give you a………” He faultered, perplexed. “Eat this cookie and then you can go and play.” It was a nice try, but was the wrong lure, indeed I was a little short on lures myself. I waited, fascinated. “Eat it now or you’ll go straight to bed without any……” I suppressed all nerve endings to ensure that my face remained neutral. Those tired old phrases each came out, one after another, all of them. They’re the words that parents have been saying since children were invented.

Junior unfurled just enough to allow his tentacle of a arm to reach up to the table for another handful of goldfish. The friend wrenched the bowl away, lay on the table and dangled his own arm like a fishing line, in front of junior’s nose. The cookie waved back and forth, “come on, you can do it, I know you can, just a little bit…..” junior snapped at the cookie and bit off a chunk. It was so fast that the fisherman flinched, sprang back and retracted his arm at the same second that junior exploded like a jumping jack, caterwauling at 50 decibels, hands frantically scraping cookie crumbs out his mouth before running to the faucet to wash the inside of his mouth. The friend watched mesmerized, as junior drowned and gurgled under the flow of water, ripped off all his clothes and hurtled away to hide.

The friend was a statue, eyes like saucers, his body rigid, at attention. He relaxed, lost his stupefied look to add, “he really doesn’t like cookies does he?”

I assumed it was rhetorical.

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