Motor Mouth – who knew a speech delay could be so noisy?

I most certainly am. Or usually I am, quite a chatterbox, but lately I've had my “jaws” strung together with elastic. 3 months now, and believe me, it's no laughing matter, even if I could open my mouth to do so. Dis abled? What a politically charged term. But I have the medical charts to prove it. Has my quality of life been impaired? You bettya! Liquid diet and no bits, is about as boring as you can possibly get.

My condition is a temporary one. Furthermore, I only have myself to blame, as the jaw surgery was a choice, self induced. Maybe I should have had brain surgery first to forestall such foolishness? For others, their circumstances did not involve an element of choice nor is it temporary. I could give you a list of my chums over the years who are categorized into this or that little box in a wide variety of manners, from Thalidomide [that dates us] to hearing impaired, but I'll stick to the spectrum that is closer to home.

Before surgery, when I chatted to my American pal, we would yabber away as I slipped into what I believe to be, a Mid Atlantic accent. We understood each other completely, apart from the odd word hither and thither. When my Irish chum joined us, after introductions, we chattered away, easing into different accents, faster and faster. We left my American pal on the side lines bewildered, as the accents thickened, to cut her off. Speech is one thing, but to make yourself understood is quite another.

For the moment my speech is virtually incomprehensible, without great efforts in the field of enunciation. Still, it gives the stiff upper lip a good work out and ensures that at least part of my stony facial expression has a little animation. My ego benefits tremendously, as there’s nothing like a dose of social embarrassment to whip your pretensions into place. Currently, when I attempt speech I generally only achieve ‘spit.’ This is made all the better if the person you spit on, is a perfect and innocent stranger. It is more or less guaranteed to make you a social outcast. But in the great scheme of things, it is a mere passing trifle, barely a wrinkle. [translation = doesn’t even reach one grey hair status]

The spectrum that I have some experience of, is autism. It's not direct personal experience, because last time I checked, I was considered perfectly 'normal.' [translation = by some] I only have vicarious experience of autism through my two sons. My second hand view is a warped one, with a limited perspective due to my own ignorance. [translation = old dogs, new tricks and lots of grey hairs]

Some autistic people also have language difficulties. Some do not speak in words. Others have a limited vocabulary, or have the words but an inability to find them or speak them. There are also a group with verbal skills that are so enhanced that they deceive the listener. The complexity and variety of this one element of what can be comorbid with autism, defies description. It is often the most key element that the world at large becomes aware of, because communication is considered a fundamental factor of human existence.

My sons’ autism is also the non-verbal kind, or at least it was when they were first diagnosed. Now don’t get me wrong, it is a truly wonderful development for any child, the development of language that is to say. If you happen to be non-verbal, some people might be forgiven for describing it as miraculous when those first words emerge. Speech, if it happens, comes naturally to many. For others, speech has been carefully developed, encouraged and teased from a child by a speech pathologist, an expert in the field and a dollop of chemistry between the two. Sometimes, this may take many years. Silence is broken by a syllable here and there. Sometimes it fades away and dwindles, for no apparent reason. At other times, it comes in little gushes. The ebb and flow of the verbal tide would best be described by just such an expert.

For right now, the speech that my boys have at their disposal is of an entirely different magnitude than I ever hoped or anticipated. What does it sound like? You probably don’t want to know? To begin with, it is very loud. They learn to modulate their volume but for now there is no ‘off’ switch. A significant percentage of their words are now formed into little sentences. They are repetitive in nature and usually come in sets of three. They usually rhyme or have a definite pattern or rhythm. The majority of verbalizations that fill the intervening periods are sounds,sucking and blowing noises, single syllables in an endless slew of ‘noise.’ But it’s all good practice, exercising the muscles, snapping the synapses. Their sister calls this kind of constant sound ‘motor mouth mode.’

Many people find it difficult to listen to them. Their audience tunes them out as the ‘noise’ is considered jibberish when they’re in ‘motor mouth mode.’ It is difficult to understand what they say. Usually it is only adult who have the patience to listen. There is a smidge of perseveration in there and a tad of OCD on occasions. I could go on but I’m sure that you get the general idea. If I mention that whilst one is in motor mouth mode, the other repeats every word sotto voce [translation = echolalia] you will understand the stereo system that we enjoy.

This very morning, the boys caught me cuddling a cat, Rascal, one of the two. I was admonished for showing favouritism, stroking one but ignoring the other, Unis. I remedied the situation and spat in Unis’s direction, “guess what? I can fix that. Come on then, you big fur ball, come over here and have a cuddle!”

Innocent enough? The sort of thing anyone might say at 5:20 in the morning. The boys! They spent the next forty minutes repeating “Yur a big fur ball! Guess what? Yur a big fur ball! Guess What? Yur a big fur ball! Guess what?” interspersed with guffaws of laughter. [translation = that echoed]

It is not speech that’s the issue. It is the ability to communicate in whatever manner is available, that makes the difference. The heart of the matter, is the ability to tune in to whatever that manner might happen to be.

If you are in need of further comfort “this,” if you missed it may give us pause. What long way “we” have come. Best wishes and cheers!


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Book Choice – reciprocal exchange we love you


“Tell you what!”
“Wot?”
Horray! Months of speech therapy just to elicit this particular typical response.
“You pick the book and I'll read it to you for a change.”
“I am not being dah reader?”
“Just a thought.”
“Which book I am reading?”
“Doesn't matter. Anything you like.”
“You are not er….doing dah choosing?”
“Right.”
“Wot I choose?”
“You tell me?”
“ANyfink?”
“Anything.”
“Anyfink but dah diamond book?”
“Which 'diamond' book?”
“Dah one wiv all dah diamonds.”
“Which one is that?”
“Agh! I not say it.”
“Why won't you say it?”
“Coz den you will be remembering it and you will be making me be reading it again.”
“I don't make you read books!”
“Liar! Liar! Liar!”
I try and work out which nerve I've touched? But he relents and takes pity on me. “It's o.k. Your old lickle brain is not working good, but I have a brain of good remembering, because it is big.”
“You're right! Clever big brain. So what book do I make you read?”
“Agh! You are dah stoopid one! You are making me read dah books dat are coming home from school.”
“Oh. Yes, you're quite right, you do have to read those ones, but I don't remember one about diamonds?”
“I fink it shrink!”
“What is shrinking?”
“Your stoopid brain.”
Fell right into that one! He's probably right there too. In case you wonder why I don’t correct him, guide him to more appropriate responses, this is merely due to the fact that I am too happy wallowing in the ‘joy’ of experiencing ‘conversation.’ [translation = reciprocal exchange]
“O.k. I give up. Which one was the diamond one?”
“'I'll love you forever'! It had dah diamond periods! Remember!” he bellows, angry breath blasts my face.

Of course! How could I have forgotten? His book of the week from school, “I’ll love you forever,” had diamond shaped periods [translation = full stops] instead of the ordinary round black dots. How could I possibly expect the poor child to read such a nightmare of a book again. Publishers should take far more care with their punctuation, or more importantly, the shape of their punctuation, unless they wish to alienate a whole generation of potential readers.

And humble apologies to all those who favour different punctuation,spelling, font and colour schemes, all of which are beyond my technical control. [Translation = especially those annoying little cross bone tool icons in the side bar – enough to drive you…..

to an irritating place!]


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Pick your poison


“You drink potty water! You drink potty water! You drink potty water!” he giggles. I am uncertain what developmental stage this signifies? I do know that the difference between his chronological age and developmental age is narrowing. I should be celebrating this breakthrough, I think?

Everyone is at home as it is the weekend. The child lacking volume control skips and spins around the room working himself up into a frenzy. I down a bottle of ensure as I don't have the time to create a more interesting liquid. I dither, what should I be doing with whom? He is happy and vaguely foul mouthed. He does have some wiggles to wear off. Which is more important? I tune him out, whilst I listen to the exchange between the other two.

I have no idea how many hundreds of beastly little Pokemons there are in existence, but I know that there are far too many, a bit like dinosaurs, or Thomas and is ever burgeoning army of 'friends.' Pokemons are vile little creatures, most of them sexless. They start life as one thing, say'Pidgey,' and then 'evolve' into a Pidgeotto,' to finally reach the pinnacle of developmental prowess, in the form of 'Pidgeot.' It's enough to drive a mother well away from the nest towards the supermarket to buy more ear plugs.

His sister holds the contraption, the Gameboy. She manipulates it such that each character makes it signature tune. Each Popkemon has their own annoying little ditty. They all sound more or less the same, that would be to say, very annoying, not to over stress the point. They are electronic sound bites, less than a second. She hides the screen from him, “guess it?” she commands.
“Slowking!”
“Right. You'll know this one too!” I listen.
“Marshstomp!” he snaps back.
“Hey! You won't know this one!” We listen.
“Moltres!”

They trot through the sounds and matching names for a good 17 minutes. Ordinarily, this would be an example of terminal boredom, perseveration and heaven knows what else.

But of course there is also a flip side, the good stuff, the reciprocal exchange and that truly astonishing auditory memory and processing, from a child that cannot remember the name of the colour 'green.' When he does remember and retrieves the word 'green,' he alters it to a more accurate shade, such as Chartreuse. The fact that he knows them all, can read and pronounce them, has learned their 'qualities and abilites,' with staggering exactitude, leaves me quite breathless.

I won't rush to stock up on ear plugs then.


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Burn Your bra

When I had been in the States a couple of years, I more or less had them tapped, Americans that is to say, and their funny little ways. They have lots of funny little ways, a source of great hilarity to foreigners such as myself. I noticed that quite often, they would have a box of matches in the loo. [translation = rest room] Being the knowledgable person that I am, I knew that this was sound evidence of closet smoking. Sneaky little Americans shut themselves in the loo, together with the obligatory extractor fan for a quick fag. [translation = nicotine hit] Possibly they were also members of the mile high club, but on land, despite puritan evidence to the contrary. I deduced, that Americans locked themselves in the loo to have sex and then a post coital. What other conclusion would any sane member of the human race conclude?

Oh yes, what I didn't know about Americans wasn't worth knowing.

It was therefore with some surprise, that I learned later, much later, that matches in the loo, served an entirely different purpose. The purpose? You really want to know? They all have them you know, matches in the loo, that is to say. What do they have them for? Alright, I'll tell you, put you out of your misery, you've forced it out of me. But you'll have to suspend reality for a moment, as you'll never believe me. You’ll never guess in a month of Sundays. They light a match to eliminate unpleasant odours that are commonplace in the room of rest. Isn't that the most hilarious thing you've ever heard? I nearly died of laughter when my pal [American] translated this for me. As the Muse handed me a tissue, [translation = Klennex] I couldn't help but point to the extractor fan, mainly because I was incapable of coherent speech at the time. That one feature, has yet to be satisfactorily explained. Maybe it's something to do with a belt and braces approach? [translation = overkill]

Meanwhile, early in the morning, the radio tells tales of the 1960's, whilst I make oatmeal and other loathsome concoctions for the nutritional benefit of my children.

“What was so special then, back in the old days,” she asks innocently.
“Apart from the fact that that was the unmemorable year of my birth, it was also a time of political enlightenment.”
“Enlightenment?”
“Um…..breaking out of the social norms of the time.”
“How did they break out?”
“Well women did wild things like burn their bras in public.” I wonder if anyone did it in private?
“Why did they do that?”
“It was symbolic, escaping from male oppression, and so on.”
“What is male oppression?”
“Er….well, things were different in those days, women weren't allowed to do lots of things that they shouldn't have been prevented from doing.”
“Such as?”
“More of less everything,” I say popping her cereal in front of her. I notice that one of my sons is frozen to the spot. “What is it dear?”
“You are dah burning?”
“Warm, busy, but not burning dear.”
“What it is dah 'bra?'”
“Underwear for women's chests dear.”
“I am having dah underwear for dah chest.”
“No. Remember, I said 'female,' you are male.”

Although his pyjama bottoms seem to be adrift somewhere, he lifts his top and peers beneath, searching. “I am not wearing dah bra?”
“Correct. Nor are you wearing the bottoms either!” I admonish.
“Why you are burning dah underwear?” I pause, wipe oatmeal from a reluctant mouth and seek guidance.
“What your mother means, is that burning your clothes or the flag or more or less anything else, is a way of telling everyone that you object, protest, break down rules that you don't like.”

We exchange adult glances. It was better than I could have managed, but still has a few fatal flaws. We both know that the trigger world 'rule' was in there somewhere. The clock strikes the hour of 7 a.m. Maybe now we will be more awake with more brain cells available to us. Maybe we can rewind and start again?

“We have dah matches?”
“No! We have no matches.”
“But I am needing dem!”
“You do not need matches my love, hear open wide, just another spoonful..”
“We have dah matches for dah burning food.”
“?”
“Oh, they're special matches, only for the barbeque.” [translation = Brits do not excel at the barbeque department, more of a wake or a cremation]
“But I am needing dem badly for my rules.”
“You may use matches when you are 18, er….21 the age of majority in California.”
“But I am only dah 6!”
“Indeed. Only 15 years to wait.”
“How many?”
“How many what dear?”
“How many are dah minutes in 15 years?”
“?”
Americans! What can you do with them?


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Adam and Eve – knowledge begets bounce


I put down my book by Ruth Rendell to think. [“Adam and Eve” and Pinch Me] I contemplate the many ways I have unwittingly tortured my children since babyhood.

All those supposedly innocent little ditties, nursery rhymes and games. We all know them, “round and round the garden,” “pinch punch, 1st of the month,” “the incy winsy” spider,'…….an endless list. Each and every one of them, has it's own unique twist of a flick knife, but I didn't know that at the time. Anyone with more than one brain cell would have cottoned on [translation = realized] that although I tried to engage my children, what I was really doing was beating them with a very large, noisy, prickly stick.

I decided that the 'oldies' might not be 'goldies.' I even went as far as to purchase a new book on 101 ways to entertain your baby, in the hope that I could improve my skill set and become a little more up to date. As with most things I tried in those days, it was another unmitigated failure. It seemed that there was nothing I could do to induce a smile. Their happiness quotient was independent of my input. Indeed it would be more accurate to say that most of their misery was caused directly by me, no matter how innocently. [translation = ignorantly] It seemed impossible to teach a “primigravidae” [translation = old first time mum] new tricks. [note 1 below]

But of course, that was a long time ago now. I re-evaluate the ditty – Adam and Eve and Pinch Me, went down to the river to bathe. Adam and Eve were drowned. Who do you think was saved? And the response is……altogether now….. 'pinch me!' Then you pinch them and everybody laughs, or most people do, especially little people.

As with most things, what was true a week or two ago, [translation = or month, or year] is not necessarily true now. I wonder if it's worth having another go? What is the likelihood of meltdowns? How many people will have meltdowns? Will they be really, really bad meltdowns, simultaneous ones? Maybe I'll be really lucky and they'll just ignore me, or not get it, or be indifferent? I strategize timing factors, variables such as their current mood, their absorption in their activities, as I don't want my 'intervention' to become an interruption or present itself as a transition. [translation = stop one thing and start another]

I dither a wee while until the moment presents itself. They are at the table for dinner. I have read several picture books to entertain them and distract them from the hideousness that is dinner. They are mellow. [ish] I tentatively suggest a change of tactic, a minor diversion from story telling, a little joke, a tiny one, just for their delectation. There is a fluttering of apprehension, dissent, minor protestations followed by resignations. I capture three pairs of eyes and sputter my way through the lines. I smile. I wait a response. I count. I include ‘ands.’ Brains in small craniums process words, retrieve others, connect the dots. I can hear them whir, the brains that is to say ….…….

“PERwinch me!” spews junior spraying us all with half masticated wieners as he guffaws.
“Ah!” bellows senior, throwing himself back on his chair to collide with the dresser, hurling sweetcorn kernels in a shower of amusement.
“Huh?!” frowns my daughter……

I pinch her, gently, just because I can.

[note 1] Although I already had a daughter, as far as the medical profession was concerned it was so long ago that my body believed it was the first time I was pregnant. Like a virgin all over again!]


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Dijon? Mais oui! [translation = therapy for free]

Now I am no gourmand, nor some sort of food snob, but when it comes to mustard, well…..…lets just say that I have certain standards that need to be maintained. It's not that I shun Coleman's [translation = lurid yellow English mustard that blows your socks off after just one whiff] it's just that there are other flavours and textures, such as the wholegrain mustards, that are all together superior.

There would, it appears, be other gloops, that call themselves mustard. In America these substances are known as mustard, but are in fact, merely neon yellow slime, masquerading as mustard. It only took me a few short weeks in the States to discover this deception foisted upon my fellows. Once I gained this knowledge was careful to ensure that the dreaded concoction should never pass over the threshold of this house.

But of course that was a few years ago now.

Out of nowhere, my son declares that he is a lover of mustard, to delight my fluttering heart. At last! Is there the remote possibility that we are edging closer to what might be described as ‘normal,’ or what might pass for normals if you don’t pay too much attention?

Spouse interjects himself. He explains that my eldest son recently had cause to come in close bodily contact with the substance, he witnessed the exposure first hand. Furthermore he adds, that some buddy at school, a peer, a preferred peer, also favours mustard. I harbour evil thoughts, but suppress them. I duly write 'yellow stuff' on the food shopping list.

In the supermarket, I find the aisle that sells slime in it's many and various American manifestations. I am not defeated, merely sanguine. I study the offerings with the dedication of a scholar, to find just the right one. The right one is difficult to determine. I decide to narrow my choice down to two options. My criteria? Flavour, brand, price, size, recyclable container or otherwise? Nope.

I buy both. One to challenge his fine motor 'twisting' skills, one to encourage his 'flip up the top' skills and both fulfill the goal of 'both hands work together to squeeze' skills.

Oh yes, this mustard business is hot stuff.

Now don’t tell my Mother as she’ll have my guts for garters! [translation = be seriously displeased]


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Early days 6

I beetle about late at night and then check the computer for some ‘down’ time. I come across a “posting”
that transports me back in time, back to the good old days when I had them all securely strapped into the double push chair. [translation = buggy]

Yes, the day that I could no long pry their huge bodies into that contraption was the last day that I ever visited the post office with them. The whole exercise was just much to dangerous. [translation = to my own sanity]

There’s something about queuing [translation = lining?] that drives them all too distraction. I would go armed with no end of entertainments, snacks and other bribes to attempt ‘containment’ during the oh so long minutes within the confines of that den of torture.

Why bother? I hear you cry. Well we foreigners are discriminated against. We are not permitted to merely hurl a parcel into the bin. Oh no, perish the thought! Instead we are forced to complete pointless paperwork, declaring on pain of death [translation = deportation] that we’re not sending anything nasty through the mail.

It was while pondering those heady days of confinement, that I find there is a big ruckus back home about “disabled parking permits.” A couple of years ago I would have sold my soul for a such a permit. I went as far as printing off an application even though I could hear the expert advise me ‘if we give one to you, then we’ll have to give one to everyone who is autistic.’ I completed the first box, name and address and then abandoned the project.

How I longed for one of those tickets! To extract both my boys from the car into the ‘space’ of the parking lot, [translation = car park,] trying to get both of them, and my other daughter, safely onto the side walk, [translation = path] was a Herculean task that I dreaded. One would run off if I failed to have him physically within my grasp, the other would collapse in a heap around my ankles, hobbled. It is a miracle we are still alive to tell the tale.

How much difference would a permit make? Now, or back then? Lets go to ‘back then.’ On a good day, there are only a few car trips. Bear in mind that in America, nowhere is ‘walking distance,’ assuming that anyone around here ‘walked’ in the tradition meaning of that verb. Alternatively, take a bad day. A bad day, by definition, has many transitions, car transitions, which are the worst kind; to and from school, to first, out of the car, back in again and then second therapy, and then home. If I could have parked the car in the disabled spot, which is usually the closest to the entrance of where you want to go, this would have minimized the physical distance that I would have had to carry them, say 10 to 25 feet. Anywhere else, where often you have to cross a traffic steam as well, increases the distance and the time. It’s a mathematical question, so I’ll skip it. Instead I’ll count the grey hairs, worry lines and shoe leather.

I should take this opportunity to apologise to all the casual passer-byers, who over the years, have had to witness the sight of a crazed mother octopus careening around a public place with weak sheep dog skills.

As a matter of public safety policy, I should have to wear a bag around my neck, with a little neon sign saying ‘please help yourself to a pair of complimentary ear plugs.’ I doubt if anyone is brave enough to get that close!

Please give us the parking permits!


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Teddy Bears’ picnic – boycotted

One of my sons suffers from “Ursaphobia”, an irrational fear of bears, or more specifically, teddy bears. To be really picky, I should point out that it’s only their “faces” that he objects to so vehemently, the claws and other accoutrement don’t seem to both him one jot.

His little brother, although he was also non-verbal in a technical sense, but different sense, fixates upon words and phrases, which he repeats for as long as he is permitted to.

On the whole, I do not describe the interaction between the boys, because as with most siblings, their own personal foibles are not known. I can describe one set or a different set, but to do both at the same time is often simply too confusing. The truth of the matter is that during the average day they 'set each other off.'

All children have soft spots, weaknesses and strength, but with mine the sheer depth and pinnacles in infinite combination can be catastrophic. They ignite like tinder and the sparks spread like wild fire. These situations challenge my parenting skills and expose my true colours, namely yellow [cowardly] or green [naïve / slightly nauseated] I need to make instant decisions based upon faulty and partial information. If I'm lucky, I can untangle the mess and calm everyone down. If I mis-read the situation we, quickly turn to lava.

Towit-

“If you go out in the woods today If you go out in the woods today
You’re sure of a big surprise,” he sings utilizing his robotic voice, whilst his brother adopts a turtle position but covers his ears. Junior heard the song and has adopted it as his signature piece. It is an unfortunate alliance since his brother loathes teddy bears.
“If you go out in the woods today
You’d better go in disguise,” he continues, slipping into Pokemon voice. His brother rolls over on his back, still clutching his ears, his face screwed up like a crumpled paper bag.

“For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic,” he concludes with a flourish in full cherubic mode. He is word perfect with the crisp diction of the echolalic. His brother keels over on his side in a foetal position, moaning quietly whilst he hunts for some words in response. Little voices shout in my head ‘do something! do something! do something!’ but my brain is frozen into inaction, whilst my body crouches ready to launch, a rugby style tackle. [translation = not a notion]

I hover close by since it is highly likely that his words will not come. It is much more likely, statistically speaking, that any moment now, he will erupt in a full blown meltdown that may or may not, result in him being able to pounce on his little brother and crush the life breath out of him. [translation = terminate his singing career prematurely]

“Picnic time for teddy bears,
The little teddy bears are having a lovely time today.
Watch them, catch them unawares,
And see them picnic on their holiday,” he croons, his pronunciation meticulous, with an English accent to challenge the Queen herself. I hear growling noises bubbling up in his brother as he flops from one side to the other, the slow slapping sound of a landed salmon, apart from the cracking of knee caps.
“ See them gaily dance about.
They love to play and shout.
And never have any cares,” he adds whilst skipping on tippy toes, each hand clutching a Pokemon that dance in time. The pressure builds steadily in his brother. Please don't let him kill him this time?
“At six o’clock their mommies and daddies
Will take them home to bed
Because they’re tired little teddy bears,” …………..the bubbles effervesce but it's the key word that lifts him to his feet, ten feet tall on tippy toes, rigid in every fibre except his mouth, “I am tired of dat song!” he says loudly, directly to his brother's face.

We shall enjoy an awards ceremony for all parties later, as it seems that it’s true that ‘One man's meat, it another man's peanut butter!’ [translation = poison]

Humble apologies to everyone who now has to suffer this tune rolling around your cranium for the next 24 hours.


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Stone soup

I go to school to collect them. I have stopped sniveling with “self pity” and am fully prepared to deal with the onslaught of recriminations that I am about to batter me.

“Hi!” I blurt to the first one. He looks at me, head on one side.
“Hey! You are still talkin dah funny. Open!” he commands. I obey. “You are not been fixed? No fries? No “fries” at dah restaurant?” His last few syllables head for the skies as he throws himself backwards in a rage against the unfairness of it all. This is timed perfectly to collide with the arrival of his brother. Although I have said nothing to this one, his brother's reaction is the only information he needs. The braces and elastics are still in place, which to them means, that we will not be going to a restaurant to celebrate my release from my “mouth corset.”

My daughter arrives to survey the scene. She glances at me, my tight lips and raised eye brows. “Oh no! It's not fair! You promised, you promised, you promised!” Everyone is wailing much too loudly for me to be able to make myself heard, let alone understood. I go into mime mode which affords me a little credence. Marcel Marco has nothing on me. I cheat and pull out a large piece of paper, and unroll it slowly. The “icons” and words map the solution.

I feel like Cinderella's Godfairy – ye shall go to the restaurant, where I shall slurp soup and be happy to have fulfilled my troth.


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Suffer little children

I snatch it away from her without ceremony, her latest prize from school. A neon yellow squishy ball. For some unaccountable reason, war has broken out between them for ownership, resulting in a mass outbreak of jelly legs. No-one appears capable of walking. [translation = positioning oneself in a vertical position to place one foot in front of the other in a regular sequencing pattern.] My children flap about the ground [translation = dirt] like so many landed salmon, but much noisier. I stuff it up my jumper, [translation = sweater / shirt] the squishy ball that is to say, so that I have both hands empty and available. I guide small people in the general direction of the car. I stand tall and attempting marching with my one new perfect breast in the centre of my chest, matched either side by my own pimples.

I hold two hands firmly as we attempt the sidewalk, but junior is distracted by the cars parked alongside, or more accurately their tyres and wheels, his latest 'interest.' I try to explain about how people do not like it if their cars are touched by strangers, but I have yet to hit the right note in my attempts.

Progress is slow. Many parents and children swirl around us, the obstruction. I notice the odd raised eye brow, but assume that everyone is jealous of my new and improved feminine physique.

I also notice that quite a few children say goodbye to him, not strangers, familiar enough little faces, but none that I can put a name to. Several children make friendly remarks to him, all of which he ignores. [translation = due to a shortage of “interpersonal skills,” amongst other things] Older brothers and sisters of these same children, also make comments. I hear a mother or two ask “is he your new friend?” or the equivalent thereof.

I dig in his back pack. The daily report is there. I read it whilst he talks to a pirelli, a tyre that is to say. My other son take a rest and lolls against me, with the weariness of a long distance runner. I am a lamp post. My daughter stands nearby, a hip thrust out with the petulant attitude of the near tween, as we move, imperceptibly, slowly, from one wheel to the next.

The cars are stacked up and the drivers face towards us. Each occupant knows that their car is next for scrutiny. “Look at him, he is dah dirty one,” he guffaws as the owner leans over and lifts her sun glasses for a better view.

From the note, I gather that junior attended the mainstream first grade class for seven minutes, where he aced the spelling test. More importantly, although his letters were not formed to his satisfaction, that even though his “robot writing” had the odd curve, he managed to contain his fury and limited himself to motor mouth self talking, much to the confusion of his temporary new class mates. He managed to remain on his chair.

I hunker down to sit on the curb, [translation = the gutter, with one foot on the storm drain,] whilst he examines a hub cap, a shiny one, where he examines his reflection and pulls faces of delight. I fold my arms over my breast, then unfold them, then refold them under it. The “tip of his index finger” bravely skims the surface of the hub cap.

The special ed teachers and mainstream teachers, have a close working relationship and years of experience. They colaberate to find a 'best fit.' I suspect that the mainstream children are given the equivalent of a pep talk. I believe, that in some senses, it is merely a nudge in the right direction. This is due in part to children’s natural affinity for one another's best interests. It is also because the school has an ethos of inclusion that permeates “all personnel” and pupils. It is reinforced with a rigorous 'anti bullying' policy, the like of which I have not witnessed elsewhere. The trick here is to utilize the pupils to police their fellows. They see what adults may miss, the subtleties that are lost on addled brains. The youngsters weed out the tormentors, teasers and nere do wells, because they know what they're looking for and can see through the veil that is raised to deceive world weary, jaded and forgetful adult.

“How was Mrs. B's spelling class?”
“Boring, boring, boring.”
“Who did you sit next to?”
“I dun know. I dun know. I dun know.”
“Were there any girls in the class.”
“Dunno. Dunno. Dunno. ”

Clearly, a perfectly ordinary exchange that all parents experience on occasion. Maybe I am able to jam my foot in the door of the 'all parents club’ afterall, I wonder to myself? Junior tugs at my trousers, to point, sputtering with excitement, “did you be knowing dat wheels,er….. hub caps, dey are having dah best robot writing on dem!”

Well, a big toe perhaps?

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