The Explosive Child

I read and scribble in the margin of the “The Explosive Child.” Ordinarily written dialogue is helpful, but I find it hard to believe that any parent would speak to their child in such a manner. They all seem to get far too cross too soon. Either the average parent has very high expectations of their children, or maybe I have very low expectations of mine? Since I am generally in the minority, I conclude that the latter must be correct.

I am very much aware of the dual plank that parents need to tread: expect the most from your child and they will try and live up to your expectations, versus do not set unrealistic goals for your children or set the bar to high so that they do not experience continued failure. This particular plank beats me from both ends all too frequently.

What are often dual standards quickly become quadruple standards if you have a typical child in the mix, even if I ignore other family dynamics.

One simple example is as follows:- a parent calls from the kitchen to their child 'turn off your game, wash your hands and come to the table for dinner.' It's an approximation not a quote. The child, for whatever reason[s], does not comply, an argument ensues and all is lost. It's a very ordinary every day example of a situation that many parents experience often, but not me.

First of all this is a three step sequence, the parent asks the child to do three different things in succession, and we're still working on two step sequences. The request is made verbally, their are no visual cues such as a schedule board, PECS or cards, to support the requests. Secondly, the parent speaks to the child from another room. Although I do this too, I know it doesn't work. Thirdly, anything to do with the termination of electronics time, has a whole set of extra rules that must be applied sympathetically by the parent, or rather by me. Fourthly, washing hands is a 13 step sequence in and of itself! Fifthly, as with many families, the offer of food is not a positive incentive but an aggressive aversive and must be handled with due sensitivity.

A sensible person will ask 'well why are you reading it then dimwit!' or 'have you changed their diagnosis without telling me?' Well I'm reading it because it was recommended by someone I trust, and although their labels remain the same, there is such a huge overlap with other labels that it never hurts to widen the net and pick up a few tips from elsewhere. Does this mean that the book is useless? On the contrary I know I still have a great deal to learn. I am sure that this recommendation to me will prove useful in many respects. However, it does make me realize how far we are off the beaten track.

Maybe we need to take up hiking?

Perish the thought!

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If I had a hammer

I skip out into the garage to find a nail. I have lots of nails. Some of them are hidden in the garage. Some are hidden at strategic points around the house, although nails suffer from the same problem as chocolate. Unlike the average squirrel, I frequently forget where I have hidden the nails or the chocolate. Spouse may be in England but his presence haunts me still. He is a man of very strong principles, especially when it comes to nails, hence my subterfuge.

When we lived in England he let me have my head when it came to nails, but in America things are very different. I am no longer permitted to stick nails in things 'willy nilly,' as he is apt to say. I accept that I was in part to blame for us losing our deposit on our rental house but I'm sure that the landlords miscounted. Even I know that 116 nail holes in a bathroom the size of a cupboard is a little excessive. As a snide aside, I should like to take this opportunity to point out to those said landlords, that anyone who fails to appreciate the joy of a three inch increase in height and volume of their one puny flower bed, with free organic matter, is no pal of mine! Cacti to them! But I digress.

Maybe I should explain further. In America, or rather in California, we are subject to earthquakes. This means that houses are generally not made of brick. Better to imagine the Japanese style of architecture, bamboo rods with rice paper, delicate and divine. Here however, instead of bamboo, they just use sticks. They hide the sticks under plaster, which they insist on calling 'dry wall' or 'sheet rock' for no particular reason that I can fathom. In order to hang anything on a wall, you first need to find the hidden sticks. In order to find the hidden sticks, you have to find the hidden tool in the garage which detects the whereabouts of the sticks. I kid you not!

Failure to attend to these important matters means that the hanging thing will fall down and smash, and you may well 'tear' your wall. What a country!

Spouse objects strongly to torn walls, it's just one of his little foibles. In order to limit the number of torn walls, he fills the garage with wood screws and other useless electrical things that hide my store of nails. He really is that petty minded.

Sadly, it gets worse. Not only is my nail consumption rationed, he also bans random use of hammers. Personally I couldn't care which hammer I use, they're all the same to me, namely out of reach, practically on the ceiling. However, spouse insists that different hammers do different jobs, although it's all a bit vague. Do I insist that one wooden spoon should be favoured over another in the kitchen? Of course not. Everyone is welcome to use my spoons be that as oars, “dibbers,” drumsticks or cooking. Some people are just so picky.

As I tip toe against the wall arms extended overhead, a little voice accosts me, “what for are you be do?” I roll back onto my heels to address the small person and explain the obvious. I pause and look at him. He is so rarely static and vertical at the same time. He stands with his hands clasped neatly behind his back. It is a curious stance for a child, patient, attentive and absorbent. It exactly matches that of my father.

I resist the temptation of sarcasm and remind myself that ‘all opportunities are learning opportunities,’ which is not one of my own nauseating phrases, but someone else’s nauseating phrases.

I try to copy his speech pathologist to fire those synapses and connect those neural pathways. “What is this called dear?” Categories and word retrieval can be such hard work.
“Um it be nail.”
“Excellent! And what is this tool?”
“It be hammer.”
“Superb. What do you think I'm going to do with them?”
“I dun know.”
“Well I'm going to hang this up on the wall.”
“No? Why not?”
“Coz you are be use dah wrong hammer?”
“What's wrong with the hammer?”
“It is not be yours.”
“Your dad and me share dear.”
“No… are be use dah wimmins hammer.”
“What woman's hammer?”
“Dah special one dat Dad is being buying for you.”

I'd forgotten all about that one.

Clearly my own neural pathways could do with a tune up.

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Chicken Little

After careful consideration I decide that their behaviour has been exceptional and that a treat is in order. I research our options before I collect them from school. What new culinary experience might best fit the bill? Where is noisy enough?


I have another brilliant idea. Now would be the perfect time to try Kentucky Fried Chicken. Two of them eat chicken and I am fairly confident that chips will be available.

I make time to explain the plan. I ensure that I have everyone's attention prior. I plant the word 'fries' in the second statement to pre-empt a meltdown. I emphasis the reward nature of the experience, as a certain amount of doubt is immediately apparent. My daughter is delighted. The boys check her out to see whether or not they should be delighted too. I remind them of our nauseating catch phrase, 'new, different, exciting.' They reluctantly decide that weak positive enthusiasm, is possibly the best option.

We spend copious amounts of time with shoes and toilets because I am distracted by finding the nearest restaurant location with the aid of the computer. I give up and attend to feet and bodily functions because I have the luxury of a GPS system in the car.

My children sit in the car for seven minutes fighting their car seat belts whilst I fight with the logic of the GPS, always a mystery. After my 27th attempt at typing in 'Kentucky Fried Chicken' I am just about ready to cut my fingertips off with a pair of secateurs.
“What is wrong with this stupid thing!” I squeak at no-one in particular.
“I'm sure it's real near. I remember seeing it near somewhere.”
“Near yet ever so far at the same time!” I bleat. “I suppose we could just drive around and hope that we bump into it?”
“No bumping in car!”
“She din mean real bumping.”

I need a plan B and quite possibly a plan C. I long for spouse to return, the man with a compass in his head. “I thought you said we were going to the chicken place?”
“We are! Or rather we would be if I could find it.”
“Type it in again. Let me see.”
“There's no point. I've already tried every possible feasible combination of location, city, keyword, place name and street. It doesn't exist.”
“It does. I saw it say Main Street or something.”
“Main Street in Arizona, about 1679 miles away.”
“How long will it take us to get there?”
“But I'm hungry, I don't think I can wait that long. Try again, let me help.”
“O.k. just to show you, here K-E-N-T-U-C-“
“Wait what?”
“What are you typing?”
“Kentucky Fried Chicken.”
“Try KFC.”
“It'll never pick up on that, it needs everything spelled out for it.”
“Jus try it mom.”
“Ah…..1.6 miles, that's a bit more like it.”

We park on the curb side of the lot to narrow the chance of anyone being mown down before we manage to enter the establishment. As it turns out, we are unable to enter the establishment in any case. My youngest son is prostrate on the concrete by the entrance, quite a feat for the tactile defensive amongst us. I try and drag him away from the doors to avoid pedestrian traffic trampeling. Strangely he is compliant. We wait for words to return, but my daughter is ahead of the hunt, “he ain't gonna go in there!”
“Why not?”
“Veggie tales.”
“There's a poster of Veggietales on the door.” The vomit sounds from my son confirm her accuracy.
“Vegetables are be poison!”
“Chips are made of potatoes, remember that potatoes are a vegetable?”
He sits bolt upright, reviews the poster whilst he sucks his fingers. He bobs to his toes and is in the double doors in a flash.

Inside I suppress a groan. Menu choices abound. Too much darned choice! There are enough different combinations to satisfy every family. The boys swing on the bars to help them assimilate the information. My daughter and I gaze at the board like goons.
“What do you think you would like dear?”
“I'm gonna have a burger an fries.”
“No, which chicken dish are you going to have?”
“I'm not gonna have chicken.”
“But that's why we came here!” I squeak in exasperation. My sons falls off the bars in a heap, an ooof and a “I be have dah burger also.”
“What about the chicken!”

I give up and place our order. I read the options again and peer into the back to see if I can spot a knife and fork, or something else that might work like a knife or a fork. After another 10 days of liquid diet following dental carnage, I am doubtful of my ability to eat anything quite as solid as chicken. I dither whether or not to ask. I decide to pretend that I am an American and do what Americans do, I just need to watch them to see what how they manage this culinary feat. All three of my children play 'rock, paper, scissors' loudly, in the centre of the room, elevated on tall stools for maximum broadcasting.

“Hey Mom, they called yur name.”
“Did they? Are you sure?”
“Yeah, they called Maddison right?” I remember that I'm on the wrong continent and stomp over to the counter to collect numerous Styrofoam packages without a recycle label.

The children concur that the plastic free toy is inferior to the MacDonald's equivalent. They agree that the burgers are not up to par with competitors. Chips are granted a paultry 7 out of ten, but consumption of calories continues in between the light banter. We are meltdown free and collectively as noisy as the other 26 people in the restaurant. Balance personified. I examine my food and wonder how best to tackle it? Biting is banned for 6 months. No tools are forthcoming. All around me people chew on drumsticks, gnaw on chicken wings, gulp down lumps of chicken breast and general show off.
“Why aren't you eatin Mom? Don't like the chicken after all?”
“I love the chicken, or rather I hope to love the chicken. I'm just not quite sure how to eat it.”
“Just pull a bit off, a bit sized piece.”
“You can do it. If you make it small enough you won't need to chew, just swallow.”
“Go on. Give it a go.”
“But it's all greasy, I'll get my hands all slimy.” The boys look at me, dead in the eye, open mouthed with food falling, “sa finger lickin good.”

I think the sky is falling in!

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Sheep May Safely Graze

Many parents are prone to moan about all the things that their autistic child will never do. I am exceptionally good at moaning myself, in fact, I have far more to moan about because we have double trouble around here.

Although autism is a spectrum disorder, often there are common themes. One common theme that we suffer around here, is an ability to enjoy nature’s wonders, or more specifically, natures wonder’s if they happen to be outside. For as long as I can remember both of them have been “allergic” to outside. I have used every tric……available therapy and strategy to desensitize them to this common garden phenomenon will little success. Short of staking them to the broad beans poles, I'm out of ideas, although duct tape might be a kinder option for the tactile defensive amongst us. I'm tempted to dip into a modern day Grimm's and lay a trail of M & M's up the garden path but we already have enough “ant” problems around here.

Although I find few activities as therapeutic, I am in the minority of one in this household. It peeves my environmental conscience that my spouse has insisted on installing a lawn, which Americans strangely call sod. The amount of water, energy, weeding and titivating that it requires to survive is out of all proportion to it's beneficial properties. Or so I thought.


I hear a clatter on the door and peek through the window to see my daughter chucking Poke Balls at the windows. She screams at her brothers from the garden, “hey guys, come on out here and play Pokemon in the long grass!” I march to the door to give her a piece of my mind regarding such vandalism but the boys slip out before me and hover on the step. “Look I got the grass types! Treeko, Tortera, Turtwig and Tropius!” The boys squeak with delight and thunder over towards their sister. I snatch the camera and sneak out on tippy toes.

They stand on the grass. My youngest stuffs both his hands in his mouth and breaths noisily. His brother takes a nose dive onto the grass, fingers searching out Pokemon figures, expertly hidden by his sister. I have no stop watch but the moments tick by. I slip into a garden chair under the pergola, in the shade, chameleon that I am. Thank goodness for sludge coloured clothing. I watch two lie on their tummies flattening knee high grass with another one close by, debating, weighing up the odds. “I got Chicorita too!” she adds, with a huge grin on her face. He squeaks and dives, sold to the littlest Pokemon fan in San Jose. I try not to giggle or gasp, as maturation is a beautiful thing. They roll around on the grass just like they roll around on the gravel in the front.

Hunger gets them in the end and they skitter back inside, but only after a considerable and unprecedented period of time. I skuttle in after them, way behind schedule with supper plans delayed. Everyone suffers from instant malnutrition as a crash around the kitchen trying to catch up. I can hardly wait to tell their dad, he'll never believe it! I'm sure that's why I take so many photographs, hard evidence for doubting Thomas types. I make pukey white pasta because it's quick, because it's a treat, a favourite, a celebration.

I sit at the table with my brood and beam at my dream team. My son whips off his T-shirt but I don't mind, everything is right with the world. My younger son rubs himself on the arm of the carver chair, the cage to keep him in place, but I don't care as everything is right with the world. The big one digs his caged fingernails into his neck! When the shrieking starts, I quickly realize that everything is not right with the world, what rash thoughts.
“I am be itch!”
“Me too aghhhhhhhh!

Two new experiences in one day!



So is that reverse genetic engineering?

Mud pies to you my friend.

Over the weekend I posted a couple of pieces to “Trusera,” “Woof Louder Pavlov,” and “The Green Eyed Monster” just in case you missed them.

Cheers dears

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The Green eyed monster

I have been resentful of Americans for far longer than is strictly necessary. Foreigners often have a long list of complaints about their fellows but mine were quite narrowly tailored. I was jealous that everyone had family and friends for support, encouragement and far more importantly, baby sitting duties. I was so caught up in my own particular mire that I completely failed to notice some fundamentally simple principles.

To read more click “here.”

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Woof louder Pavlov!


Our household was a relatively quiet one when I was a child. My father would bark at us occasionally, more of a call to order, but on the whole, raised voices were frowned upon. Shouting was considered to be the manifestation of someone's inability to express themselves in a more erudite manner.

To read more click “Here.”

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5 Things Meme

“Joey’s Mom” over at “Joey and Mom” tagged me for this 5 things meme, so I shall endeavour to give it my best shot!

5 things found in your bag:

I am a bag! Do we mean a handbag? I’ll assume we do. Let me have a quick poke around. Ah. Ipod [with flat battery. ] Telephone [with flat battery] Purse with credit card and receipts but no actual money. [Just like the Queen!] Key fob heavy enough to tie round my ankles and drown in the nearest lake. Folded book with lots of scribbles. [The Explosive Child – I’ll let you know if it’s any good.] Retainer case [wish it wasn’t pink!] Toothbrush and paste. Notebook and pen just in case. Dictaphone. [with flat battery] Emergency supplies for the children =
Stop watch.
Nail clipper.
Safety pin.
Retractable tape measure.
Ever so slightly furry M & Ms

Oh it’s supposed to be five?

5 favorite things in your room:

1. Bed
2. Chair
3. Big cupboard
4. Wicker chair
5. Coffin

Ooo I missed the ‘favourite’ bit.

Favourite bits in Bedroom:-
1. Patchwork quilt I made as a teenager, ugly as sin but a testament to perseverance
2. Small Flower pot with biro inserted with fake purple flower attached – art work from smallish person
3. Pillow that is shaped like a inverted V, ancient and unavailable in the States. [It props me up when I read and is never used for nefarious purposes.]
4. Fluff Muffs commonly referred to as slippers
5. Sketch given to us by Nonna

5 things you have always wanted to do:

1. Learn to play the saxophone
2. Go abseiling again
3. Visit the Hanging Gardens of Babylon
4. Er

5. Um

5 things you are currently into:


5 people you'd like to tag:

“Michelle” from “House of Lime”
“Mrs. G” from “Derfward Manor”
“Vi” from “Village Secrets”
“Angela” from “Memoirs of a Chaotic Mommy”
“Bonbon Mamma” from “Is this what you do all day.”

I feel a little mean not tagging any chaps, but I’m not at all sure that I know any chaps who have a bag. If you are a chap and you do happen to have a bag, feel free to jump on in [don’t forget to let me know! – you will of course thus confirm your European status.]

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A very common species

[from a few weeks ago]

My children, like many others, have a tendency to repeat what they overhear, but a little more so. As a general rule, I try not use bad language and adopt the alternative mush currently available. My main objection to swearing is that it usually stems from an inability to express oneself more accurately, such as when I drop a hammer on my toe.


As Spring accosts us I have no option but to dig out lighter weight clothing and footwear. I conclude that last year's flip flops are still a health hazard. Last year they were indeed a bargain but that's part of the joy of living in America where they have special shops called 'dollar stores.' In case you are unfamiliar with this kind of a merchant, let me tell you that everything within their doors costs 50 pence, at current international exchange rates. So saying, this particular bargain with it's ever so shiny soles, has proved to be my downfall. Almost once a day I am very close to being horizontal, not deliberately but entirely accidentally. Flip flop slip shod, is not the way to make progress fast. I cannot be doing with such gross inefficiency, vertical at all times is the only way forward.

I debate whether I should donate them to a charity store since they are still in mint condition, but I worry about the poor unfortunate who might be duped into a purchase and then suffer additional misfortune as they're carted off to the Emergency Room. I cannot bring myself to put them in the rubbish either.

By the end of the day I have had far too many close shaves without the benefit of a razor. When I hear the garage door rattle into action everyone roars outside as I skip out to greet my spouse and trip head over heels into a heap. He slams the car door shut and rushes over to assist, “blimey arse over tit or what? Are you o.k.?” I sit up, not dazed or grazed but ever so slightly winded.
“What it is be?”
“What is what?”
“Oh….er….um……it's a………bird….see! Quick! Look over there! Gosh, what a shame, you just missed it.”

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Translators are few and far between


Some parents have a difficult time with their autistic children, especially if those children have difficulties with speech.

The main difficulty that these parents have, if they're like me, is when they are out and about without their speech delayed children,…….. speaking.

I think it must be something to do with expectations. I expect to encounter difficulties with my children. I do not expect to encounter difficulties with grown up people who are neither autistic nor speech delayed.

Somehow or other, I expect that we will be able to understand each other.


I tackle the prescription refills first and take advantage of the automated prescription refill telephone system. I have a difficult time because the machine does not recognize an English accent. I have a difficult time because the machine's ability to understand an English accent is further complicated by the Pokemon shrieks in the background. I expect the follow up telephone call from the pharmacy when they try to unscramble the message:-

“Sorry but we can't refill your prescription.”
“Oh dear. What should I do then?”
“Phone your primary care physician.”
“But I already have. I phoned them before I phoned you.”
“Well I can't refill a C1 drug.”
“It's a controlled drug.”
“I know, that's why I have a prescription, otherwise I'd just nip over to Target and pick some up off the shelf.”
“Yeah but this is a C1 controlled drug, you just can't have a refill.”
“So how does one obtain a controlled C1 drug?”
“With a prescription.”


“How very uncivilized!”
“6:30 is such an ungodly hour of the day!”
“Well the boys are usually up at 5 or thereabouts, so I don't think we'll have any difficulty.”
“How far away will you have to drive her?”
“Only up to Palo Alto. At that time of the day they'll be hardly any traffic. It'll only take 20 minutes.”
“I seriously don't understand why she has to be there so early in the morning! At the weekend! It's unthinkable.”
“People get up much earlier in the morning out here.”
“Well for one thing it's daylight, whereas it's still dark as night in England.”
“You never used to be up so early in the morning.”
“I get up when it's light.”
“Exactly! You've grown very peculiar in America.”


At 7:35 on a Sunday morning, I order breakfast for myself and the children.
“Would you like coffee with that?”
“No thank you.”
“No thanks.”
“What is a Mimosa?”
“Champagne and orange juice.”
“Er… thank you.”
“You sure? They're on special!”
“Really, no thank you.”
“O.k. jus thought it might help.”

Help with what I wonder? The Highway Patrol or Child Protective Services?


He head buts my calf, “Mom?”
“Yes dear.”
“Why for I am be? Meeoooow!”
“You're being a cat.”
“No. Only part of me is being dah cat.”
“Which parts of you are a cat?”
“Dah noisy part and dah cuddly part.”

It’s as if they all speak for foreign language, except for the imaginative little liar!

Or should that be the thief with the camera!






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Crash, bang, wallop

wal·lop (wlp) Informal
v. wal·loped, wal·lop·ing, wal·lops

1. To beat soundly; thrash.
2. To strike with a hard blow.
3. To defeat thoroughly.

To be a parent is to be ever vigilant, or rather, there is some combination of parental supervision and child development that will ensure that the fledgling eventually reaches adulthood. The trick, is to know what that combination might be?

Many parents curl themselves into a question mark, hook their fingers through their babies' and guide their first tentative steps. Some parents remain in this unnatural position for more years than is commonplace. These parents deserve a special label, neurotic or over protective come to mind.

Every so often, these parents need a reality check.

When my first daughter was born I admit that I was over protective but she was my first baby. When my second daughter was born many years later, it was like a first baby all over again, even though she was second. By the time the boys arrived in rapid succession, I was already stuck in a groove, not to say rut.

As it turned out, it was just as well.

Whilst my daughter was swinging from the rafters and climbing up the outside of the staircase, the boys were in an entirely different place. I was wary, because I had been warned that 'girls are different from boys.' The trouble was that my boys were also so very different from each other. Girls and monkey bars, girls in trees, girls caked in mud, this I could handle. Boys and super clean, boys and no appetite, boys and sound super sensitivity……..well it made no sense at all.

I figured out my own logical conclusions, if the girls were loud, energetic and brave, then it was just as likely that the boys would be quiet, lethargic and…….cautious.

I knew that they couldn't be autistic because everyone knows that they are 'cold.' Mine were affectionate, very affectionate, more affectionate than most. I would stand in the park with a little Koala bear on each hip. I’d watch the other children in the Mum's Club gambol about. Mine clung to me as if their lives depended upon it. I didn't know anything about the calming benefits of deep proprioceptive input in times of stress. I squished my boys and shifted my weight from one foot to the other.

So what if they didn't talk much, boys often talk later than girls don't they? If they could correct my pronunciation of Parasaurolophus, surely everything must be fine?

So much to learn.

I slumber in the wee small hours of the morning, extra vigilant, as I am alone in the double bed. When I hear the crash next door I charge along the corridor cursing the floor plan and the distance to their door. Where are the spare bath towels for blood staunching? What is his current weight in pounds for drug administration? Where are the car keys? Can I take them all to the Emergency room in pyjamas? As I bang it open my son squeaks in surprise, a prodigy of possibilities. I see an overturned scratching post, the twitching tail of the cat, cowering under the bed and a boy with eyes like saucers.

Today I am also over “here” at “Trusera” with “One thing – the unbiased truth.”

Or something lighter over at “Alien.”

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