Autism comes in many forms. We experience two forms. This is one tiny fragment, of one relatively small, autistic child. His teacher reports of multiple meltdowns during the day. The source of his frustration? The inability to execute the perfect 'q.' I am in part to blame for this error, as he has been taught to write a 'q' with a sharp tail rather than a soft, loose monkey tail. [translation = continental error or calligraphic error?] Horror and consternation have ensued due to this mis-direction on my part. Once home we start his last outstanding piece of home work, to write out his full name, which fortunately is 'Q' free.
“Why der no Q? It sounds like dah Q?” It does. [translation = mac Q wen phonetically] Two hours later after negotiating with the screamer, I would willingly swap [translation = trade] the 'q' sound in our family name for the real thing. The paper is worn thin from his furious rubbings with the eraser. [translation = rubber, sorry about that but it's true.] He has growled at the paper, spat on it, screwed it up in a ball, torn it to fragments and generally violently abused it. None of the letters that he has formed have reached the required standard, which means that they are punished by obliteration. I wait for a call from the Child Protective services as everyone else in a 50 mile radius, is also aurally abused, as he howls in protest.
I suspect that he must have a permanent bruise on the back of his skull from hurling himself backwards in the chair, same spot every time, about 15 times in as many minutes.
Now this is a leap of faith I know, but believe me when I tell you that I haven't inflicted 20 ‘time outs’ on him, honestly I haven't. [translation = curious American term referring to the practice of isolating child for as many minutes as they have years] Instead I have taken a flailing 5 year old to his room to lie on his bed, where he can calm down and consider the lump on the back of his head, compare the pain he experienced, by comparison to the agony of a wiggly down-stroke on one letter. Thus far, the message has not penetrated, he has not connected the dots, or if you prefer, has failed to accept 'less than perfect.' For him 'less than perfect' equates to failure. Since failure is unacceptable, we have reached an impasse.
I have genuinely praised his efforts, real sincerity. It is a lovely capital Q. [translation = upper case] Rarely have I seen finer. The lower case 'q' is also delightful. I am not concerned with it's tail, it is more than good enough for someone of his fragile years, but will he accept that? I think of the library book that I have read to him daily so that now it is overdue and we'll have a whopping great fine. [ref 1]
I push my sketch to one side on the table but it catches his eye.
“What it is?”
“Oh it's just a rough design for the bowl I'm making.”
“I can see it?”
“Oh course.” [translation = sure]
“Dat is dah most beautiful one I am ever seeing! You are de artist!”
“No, it's just a rough sketch, so I know where to put what.” I watch his eyes as his index finger traces the lines on the paper, eyes like saucers, as any youngster is, when faced with evidence of older children's work. I grab it from under his arm, scream at it, rip it from the book, screw it up in a ball and hurl it across the room, “I hate it, it's stupid, it's no good!” He looks at me open mouthed.
Well it was just too good an opportunity to miss really, and cheap at the price. Thank you SJPL.org.
[Ref 1] Ish by Peter H Reynolds – for all the little perfectionists out there.