No-one is immune. Or more especially, people who believe that they are normal, may find that they drift up a blind alley unwittingly. Not me of course. I don’t hold with such wayward manners. British people don’t because of the ‘will of iron.’
Thus today, I was busy making cakes, corraling children with a bit of tidying thrown in before senior daughter returns, when I came across an old gift I was given. It is a little tube holding a very thin roll-on of essential oils. The label reads 'anti-stress.' The fine print, even with dodgy bifocals, tells me that it contains ‘lavandin.’ I wonder if that's a misprint? ‘Sweet orange, red tangerine and ylang-ylang’ essentials oils, whatever they might be when they’re at home? I roll it up and down the inside of my forearms and sniff it. Quite pleasant! I wait for my stress to dissipate. I take in a deep breath. Demands for ‘goldfish / find lost lego piece /when will my birthday cake be finished?’ also waft over me.
The smell is changing because of the warmth of my skin. I'm hot, I'm stressed, I'm pooped. It isn't even eight o'clock in the morning and I'm already exhausted. The 40 minute marathon to get them up and running, has been abandoned during the holidays, but we try to stay vaguely on track. We pretend that there is still a routine but no-one believes me. I'm like a wrung out dish towel. I'm ready to go back to bed. Perish the thought!
Because spouse was here this morning too, we divided our time between the children.. I spent half of those 40 minutes with senior son and his socks. He put each sock on and off 21 times. Each time he put one on I congratulated him, my performance was a tour de force. Each time I praised him he immediately ripped one off and threw it across the room. I would say 'oh well, try, try, try again,” with my best sunny face expression glued to the front of my head.
Some autistic children are not motivated to act for praise or to please someone else. The 'theory of mind,' or the ability to step into someone else's shoes just doesn't feature for many. This is a change of catastrophic impact on his young life.
He wants to fit in but it's tough. I remain calm. I make sure that my body is positioned in an open stance, close enough but not too close. I keep my hands soft and my face soft, so he can see that I am not affected by his behaviour. I'm here to support him, but I am not going to physically help him. “Too bad,” I say in sympathy with his frustration. I think I sound convincing. I hope I sound convincing. Then the upbeat 'You can do it, I know you can.” I flip flop between cheerleader and sympathy mode. I need a coach, so that I can be his coach.
Each minute passes slowly. I think Zen thoughts. I sniff. The sock pings past my nose again. I feign disappointment, I sympathise, and encourage. Each minute idles by. I'm ignoring everyone else leaving spouse to cope. One on one time, they tell me. Quality not quantity.
I let my shoulders sink and my brow unfurrow. I sniff orangey smells that waft around us.
“Why for you are sniff?”
“You are dah sniff!”
“Yes, you are needing dah tissue?”
“No thanks, I’m just smelling my arms. Here have a nif, they smell of oranges.”
“But I am hating oranges!”
“I know but these are nice ones, you’ll like it, really!” He sniffs, doubtfully. He sinks back into a seated position. Our eyes make true contact. He leans forward and sniffs again only to sink back. He sighs without words, picks up a sock, then the other. Finished! A pair!
“Well done!”[translation = great job] I hug him, deep proprioceptive input. His fingers gouge into my shoulder blades. I hear him sniff.