He sniffs and sniffs and sniffs and sniffs. It is all to no avail as his nose trickles. I watch him, my face set. He is seven years old. I don't know which is worse, a nose that runs continuously with it's accompanying sniff with no further ameliorative action, or the occasional ameliorative action, which consists of wiping the offending appendage off on his sleeve, from elbow to cuff, or worse still, on whatever else is near to hand, be that carpet, the sofa or my thigh.
I am well aware that my face reads disdain and disapproval but I am unable to prevent those muscles settling into that well worn groove, as I steel myself for the inevitable, dithering between intervention to prevent the crime or watching the fulfillment of the offence, dishcloth at the ready. Last time he had a cold, a few months back, we wrote out a sequence of steps to deal with runny noses. Since he is a visual learner, we used the equivalent [translation = dumbed down, of “Carol Gray’s Social stories”] Most children need a little guidance in this department, but autistic child need very specific help.
If this was a preferred activity such as playing with a computer game, not much help or assistance would be required, but basic hygeine, bodily functions and self care don’t really make it to their radar screen. It is important to avoid the ‘but why?’ scenario when dealing with these basic functions, because any rational explanation you can come up with, is also ineffective. e.g. ‘because you need to be clean’ -‘but why?’ “Isn’t it uncomfortable having your face all messy like that?”
“Messy? No, it not messy, it fine!’ Take it from me, you’re just not going to be able to come up with a satisfactory reason as to why they should comply, at least not for my lot. We won’t even touch on the ‘do it for me, do it to make me happy/ proud/ pleased’ as that line of reasoning is doomed before the words have even been formed.
Now he's so much bigger, I swear that if it wasn't for the asthma, I'd stuff a couple of tissues [translation = Kleenex] up his nostrils, like people with frequent nosebleeds do.
Sniff, sniff, sniff. I wait and seethe, but he is blissfully unaware of my presence. He looks up from his work as his back arches and shoulders rise to his ears in one supreme effort at stemming the flow, but failing. He slips of his chair muttering, 'is not workin.” He blunders off in the direction of the bathroom. He re-emerges with a fistful of tissues [translation = Kleenex] and honks in a fairly efficient fashion, “das better,” he murmours moving back towards the table, letting the soiled wads fall to the ground. Only one stomp towards the table and he back tracks an additional stomp, “oopsie, I forgot that one.” He scoops the paper from the ground on his third attempt, bimbles back to the bathroom, clanks open the pedal bin and approximates a lob, whereby most of it ends up in situ. He saunters back past me, giving me a casual glance, “your face is broken.”