One of the many oddities of sharing your life with a couple of autistic children is that they force you re-evaluate. One of my boys has always experienced an inability to make a decision or a choice. It doesn't matter what he's supposed to be choosing between, that is of no importance, it's just the choosing bit. A good example would be two things that are identical and two things that he likes, such as a commercially produced cookie. [translation = shop bought biscuit] What is the dilemma, what is the problem in choosing one over another? I have no idea. You would think the problem would be easier if one choice was less preferred, say a cookie and a broccoli floret, but it isn't any easier, he is still paralysed by indecision.
These days I am shameless. I quiz experts, harangue my pals, [translation = friends] strike up conversations with complete strangers. [translation = American] I trawl for answers. Everyone is helpful, but none of them, the answers, that is to say quite fit the niche. [translation = seem right]
Which would you prefer, go to the toy shop [translation = store] or a trip to the theme park? Especially difficult for me, since I am “allergic to shopping.” No, still impossible to choose. This shirt that you like, or this shirt that you refuse to wear? No, still can't choose. I can see that you doubt my veracity and even if you believe me, what difference does it make, why does it matter? [translation = why am I getting my knickers in a twist about it] Well, it wouldn't be so bad if there weren't so many choices quite so often, but if, every time you are faced with a choice your response is to collapse to the floor in a screaming meltdown, then perhaps you might be a little more sympathetic? Or maybe not. Ignore sympathy, consider the passage of seconds and minutes, contemplate efficiency or time management? Oh please! Stop whinging woman! [translation = moaning] But they are interfering with my proficiency statistics as I have to factor in anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour, for every question, to permit many meltdowns. It's just not good enough. I'm too busy for all this autism stuff, my organized life is transformed into chaos due to a dilemma over socks. I can't be doing with it! [translation = intolerant, anal parent] I wouldn’t mind quite so much if it were not for the fact that, apart from anything else, “shopping is my number one bug bear.”
He has been making progress though, in tiny, miniscule, almost imperceptible steps. The speech delay only complicates the issue. It is because of this that I watch him in the process of choosing, watching quietly and unobtrusively, because I don't want to jinx his chances;
“I need to sort dis out! [recognizes there is a problem] What I do? [seeks solution to problem] O.k. Right! I know. Eenie, Meanie, Minie moe, catch a tigger by it's toe, if he hollers let him go, eenie, meanie, minie moe. My muvver says…..wait a second!” As he says the words, his finger doesn't keep in time with the syllable count, but it doesn't matter because he doesn't like the outcome in any case. I have always found this peculiarly fascinating. I could intervene, help him hand over hand, because that definitely helps, the kinesthetic practice, [translation = body doing it means that's the body is learning it by going through the motions] but I don't. He counts but the finger doesn't keep up, although it keeps moving. One blink later the finger is ahead of the count, it randomly speeds up, then lags behind. No-one can count accurately like this, it is not helpful. [translation = a vindictive metranome] His speech is fluid. If his speech was incoherent his finger would be in time and he would have an accurate count. This is why he can't catch a ball, or more accurately, can't catch a ball and speak at the same time. It is such a bizarre thing to observe, so tiny yet completely disabling at the same time.
It occurs to me that the majority of the population, especially young people in the general population, clearly have as many difficulties choosing between competing options, just as he does. I watch him re-examine the choice board, as his index finger floats from the juice icon to the cookie icon, which are both in the category of 'treats' and therefore he can only have one of them. I think of the other childhood counting game that I used to utilize such as 'one potato, two potato,' there is the equivalent in every country. [translation = universal.] I try and remember the feeling whilst I was playing them? Depending upon whether I was one of the group being chosen from, or whether I was trying to make a choice myself, what were the thought processes? It was basically surrendering yourself to fate, giving responsibility to something else. It was only when you neared the close, and the light dawned about the outcome, that you could choose to accept the inevitable or cheat. If you choose to cheat this means you know that you do in fact, have a preference after all, it suddenly becomes clear, even if, just until that moment you weren't aware of it. Whilst his difficulties in choosing have always been catastrophic in the past, this might just have been an extreme form of what everyone else is experiencing too.