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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Little boxes – translators required

One of the many unacknowledged joys of having an autistic child, is that family secrets remain secrets. As teachers gather in the coffee lounge for a break and giggle over a child’s comments about home life, there are no similar stories about the autistic child’s domestic life. If the beds remain unmade, someone slipped in the dog vomit or the postman left in the morning, the school’s personnel will never know.

This is not an issue of verbal skills. It might be an issue of social skills. [translation = the need to commune with fellow human beings] It could also be a matter of narrow fields of interest. [translation = something, anything other than Pokemon, does not register] Children are apt to give the game away unknowingly, due to their innocence and openness, but a special education teacher needs unique ‘extractor’ skills to uncover and expose such gems. But I digress.

I pop pills after visiting the dentist. Three months after jaw surgery I am still bound by braces and elastic bands. Junior hears the snap of the child proof top and pop’s himself into my line of vision. He pogos in place, on tippy toes on the hard wood floor. He retrieves words at the same time and formulates them into sentences. After about 40 seconds of pounding the same wood grains in a 6 inch spot, he is ready.
“You are dah dentist today?”
“I was. I went to the dentist and saw him for three and a half minutes after a wait of 65 minutes and a drive of 40 minutes, both there and back.”
“You are dah elastic now or not?”
“Less. Instead of 13, now I just have 5.”
“Five is dah good?”
“Five is great!”
“I can be seeing dem?” I oblige parting lips to my 6 year old visual learner.
“Ooo you are dah squares now too! I am liking dah squares dey are so cool!”
Of all the many things that my children might compliment me upon, the configuration of elastic bands in my mouth, would not be one of them. He continues, “you are dah pattern! Look! Square, triangle, square, triangle, square! You have dah coolest pattern mowf in dah whole universe. I can be saying it to all my friends!”
Would it be wrong to mention that he doesn’t have any, friends that is to say? Probably better to concentrate on the theory, the underlying theory of sharing and community. Practice will come later, in the fullness of time, no need to rush on that one, depending upon the message.

Every weekend, for as long as I can remember, we have visited a restaurant at the weekend to practice social skills and endure public humiliation. For three months this has been canceled, due to my inability to eat in public, as well as spouse’s horror of managing three children alone, without the moral support and my verbal prompts.


Spouse returns home during daylight hours.
“How did you get on?”
I part my lips, “oh no! Why have you still got the bands on?”
“Only five now.”
“How much longer?”
“Only…..well at least 3 weeks.”
“What about after that?”
“I think I’ll still be wearing them when we go to England, if that’s what you mean?”
“Lummy! That’s going to be tough to explain.”
“Tell me about it.”
He leans on the kitchen counter to consider how our relatives will view the view of my ravaged mouth.
“One strange thing!”
“I was just leaving and he said that I could take off the big one in the front if I was going out.”
“Going out?”
“Hmm yes.”
“Is that all? Does he think you’re some kind of hermit or something?” [translation = not the crab variety, the recluse type]
“What did he actually say, exactly?”
“I don’t really remember, I was in a hurry.”
“Er... he said I could take it off if………I was going out to see people.”
“See people? It’s not as if it affects your vision. What kind of sadist is this chap? Are you sure that’s all?”
“Er.... that it would be less noticeable.”
“Noticeable. He’s off his rocker. [translation = unbalanced] What about food? Did he say you could take them off to eat?”
“Eating wasn’t mentioned.”
“Why didn’t you ask?”
“I’d already been there nearly two hours, I just wanted to get away.”
“What happens if you take the big one off?”
“I don’t know I haven’t tried. I’m not out, I’m still in.”

Junior flashes past us on a mission. After a little prompting, [translation = say hello to Daddy] he acknowledges his presence.
“Hello Mummy is dah big square wiv dah big hole for dah food now we can go restaurant and she is beautiful pattern too all people will be looking.”
A greeting of welcome, voluntary factual information, a compliment and conclusion in one breath, smooshed into one sentence. We both look at him. He really is an American! It occurs to me that with his obsession with pattern recognition, this would be just the kind of thing he would repeat at school. [translation = probably many times] I shall be exposed as an idiot.

Could it be that visiting a restaurant has morphed into a preferred activity whilst we were not paying attention? Or is it merely that autistic children are so fixated on routine and ‘the same?’

Dentist Sadist ………it does have a certain ring to it, but there again, so does thicky, thicky, dumb, dumb.

I will not be a defeatist, I must become a pugilist, or maybe just a realist, certainly an escapist, so I need not remain a ventriloquist but not an apologist.

Past me the scissors.

P.S. For any foreigners who may still be confused. It would seem that my physical appearance, how I look, is of ultimate importance, hence I am permitted to remove the bands for this purpose, public appearances. Fortunately, for my pals, they couldn't care less how I look. They just look for any reason to make me ‘shut up already!’

Maybe a dentist’s frame of reference puts them in the visual learners box.


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