Indianna Jones – liberator from the white slave trade

We endure an existence of high anxiety, a peak in the bell curve as we await the trough that follows. It's always like that around here, crashing waves before a period of calm.

I'd like to blame those people, but it's not really their fault. How were they to know? It was a perfectly harmless sign stuck to the back of their car. They didn't know that he reads everything and particularly favours orange signs. It was innocent enough 'family sale here,' and an arrow pointing towards their home. It just came at a bad moment, an anxious moment when he's more vulnerable to triggers and spin off.

So far the social stories are a failure but it's a work in progress.

It's a little embarrassing right now, but my Rhino hide serves me well. It's only been the last few days.

I go to school to collect them.

My youngest son bursts from the classroom to prostrate himself at my feet, face covered with the palm of his hands to yell at 50 decibels “don't sell me Mom. Pleazzzz don't sell me.”

Yes, it's well and truly stuck, even though the original sign didn't specify which member of the family would be sold.

I prompt him of course, because it helps him remember. His face is in the dirt and his eyes are covered, but his ears are exposed, so I hum the first few notes like a secret code. I don't understand the magic, I only know it works. Maybe it's like the marching songs of soldiers entering battle, energizing? He explodes back onto his feet to a rousing chant, the theme tune from Indianna Jones, his personal salvation. A non lethal weapon from torment. He spins off in a revelry, arms wide, head back to salute his freedom in song. It's like the Hallelujah Chorus that lifts the spirit and crushes the psychological deamons.

Even little people get to be superheroes sometimes.


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Hip hop what?

I watch my youngest son swirl on the hard wood floors.

My daughter watches him too.

So much pent up energy.

His motor mouth spouts a monologue of unfamiliar words.

“You're going to wear yourself out with all that break dancing sonny Jim!” I say to his gyrating form.
“Break dancing?” she giggles, “what's break dancing Mom?”
“Er…..sort of…..throw yourself about a lot kind of dancing.”
“Never heard of it, anyways, he's rappin whilst he hip hops.”
“Indeed, is that what they call it these days?”

Verily, I must get a bit more with it.


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Prickly pairs

After a long career in the Navy, my parents decided to buy a house and remain in one place.

It was a three story terraced Victorian house and I loved it before the ink was dry on the contract. At the back of the house, leading to the tiny strip garden, was what my mother called 'the conservatory.'

The conservatory was a four foot square arrangement of glass and wooden shelves, an entrance way or exit, a distance of three paces. The previous owners has neglected to remove some of their plants from this area, predominantly “cacti.” They were a dull grey, with lots of prickles but otherwise quite unremarkable, apart from the single startling iridescent “bloom” stuck on the side like an afterthought. I stroked it to make sure that it wasn't plastic, as the 1970's were the heyday of fake flowers. Although my mother was keen to clear the place out, the cacti were reprieved.

Her delegation of duties had me hooked on responsibility.

I was immediately derelict in my duties as I trudged off to boarding school. I certainly would never have survived without water for three months, but cacti are so much more forgiving. They thrive on neglect. My arrival home was their rainy season when I would drown them with attention for a couple of weeks.

“Wear my gardening gloves,” my mother would advise, but I was of the filthy species of child. They were too big for pudgy little hands, far easier to dive in with naked digits. The huge prickles were easy to avoid. They broadcast their dangers. It was the little fuzzy ones that were my downfall. Their deceptive fur would burrow little barbs into the flesh to leave hairy fingertips. Easy to see but impossible to remove with stubby nails.

All these years later, it seems that both my girls have the same filthy gene, the 'climb a tree,' 'dig a hole,' 'am I really plastered in chocolate?' gene. My eldest son is graduating to the same genetic heights but climbing is still a struggle, as co-ordination of body parts is a challenge. We should all have been born with a coating of Teflon.

My youngest son on the other hand, lives life with as little use of his hands as is humanly possible. Tactile defensiveness, or how things feel, means that he will go to great lengths to avoid touching anything. He tucks his hands in pockets or armpits, clasps them behind his back out of danger or protects his fingertips in his mouth. They are all default positions for hypervigilant people.

We have been in this particular groove since the beginning. I might call it desensitization but it still looks like torture from his perspective. Time and maturation have helped but it's a predictable path. In earlier times we worked to persuade him to write in shaving foam with his finger, buried plastic dinosaurs in sand, sunk Thomas in a washing up bowl full of suds, hid Pokemon in playdough and used any number of other devious means to tempt those fingertips into our tactile world. We should not discount the psychological cost of such treatment. How does the average three year old feel when you pour cement over their precious security blanket? For me, to witness his terror was offset by his determination and instinct to rescue despite the personal pain.  It’s a question of balance and I think I was off kilter.

These days he's more malleable and sometimes he surprises us with his bravery. He's also learned to adopt his own safety strategies to help him cope with the onslaught. We own more woolen, cotton and disposable gloves than any other family in a five mile radius of our home. He's more willing to use tools, even though they're difficult to manipulate because it means that he is saved from the agony of touching something worse.

They're nothing if not inventive, children that is to say.

“I am need!” he squeals at no-one in particular.
“What do you need dear?”
“More.”
“More what?”
“More armour.”
“Armour?”
“Yes I have be one but I be need more nine.”
“Nine what?”
“Nine armours.”

It’s always best to expect the “unexpected.”


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Ahem, run that past me again?

It may sound unkind but I would have to say that my mother was a health hazard. That aside, she had many worthy talents including considerable skills as a dressmaker. Inevitably, we, her children, would fall victim to the strange ritual of trying on the half made garment full of pins and tacks and bits of greaseproof paper. I would stand on the carpet with my mother crouched at my feet as I followed her instructions to turn slowly in circles, to see if the hem was level. Her actual words were incomprehensible, muffled by a mouthful of pins, pointy side inwards. This is how I learned my 'rotation whilst static' skills, assisted by advanced toe creeping, but it was a perilous existence.

We would sit of a family evening, glued to the telly, whilst my mother busied herself with some project. At some unpredictable moment she would leap from her chair and announce “oh no! I've lost my needle / pin / scissors / other lethal weapon.” I was never quite sure how to react to these proclamations. They were often accompanied by an additional command such as “don't move! or stay right where you are! or aren't you going to help! or it could be anywhere!' I suspected that she kept a catapault in her pocket for maximum carnage.

Quite often I find that it is little pokes from the past that help me remember how different a child's perspective can be from an adult’s.

These days, I am very much aware that dangerous 'triggers' lurk around every corner for the unwary but I never know what form the latest edition will take.

My son and daughter enjoy the latest craze, Webkinz, just like their forebears of Gonks, Trolls and my pukey little ponies. It’s a phase and a culmination of painfully acquired skills:- do your chores, earn your pocket money, save it for three weeks and a Webkinz can be yours for the squandering.

My youngest son is less keen, interested, willing to be wooed but cautious.

“I am be figured,” he bellows at my elbow.
“Really, um…..why…….what have you figured dear?”
“I am be figured it out! Dat is a figure of speech.”
“Indeed it is.”
“Do you like figures of speech?”
“No but I be figured it out anyways.”
“What have you figured out.”
“Dat dey are not cacti.”
“What isn't a cactus?”
“Cacti! Cacti! Cacti! It be double, it be Latins.”
“Ah……so who are not cacti?” I am already out of my depth and mired several yards into the bog.
“Porcupines.”
“Yes, porcupines are animals not plants.”
“Dey are spikey. Hedgehogs is spikey too.”
“Yes they are. They're both spikey and they're both animals.”
“Mammals!”
“Oh dear, yes they are.” I'm stuck, up to my neck in it and sinking fast.
“But dey are not cacti.”
“So true, so true.”
“So I am bin touch dem. I am be brave.”
“What are you going to touch?”
“Dah Webkinz which are not real spikes.”


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What a Purl!

I would hate to criticize my mother in law in a public forum but sometimes you just have to tell it how it is.

I have traced it back to her!

I don't know why I didn't connect the dots before. You see, she is solely responsible for the twiddle gene. Her son has it and so do all his children. I on the other hand, not being related by blood, am free of the twiddle gene. I often think that if had the twiddle gene too, then it wouldn't be quite so annoying. As it is, I don't, so it is, annoying that is to say.

They all do it, the foot tapping, hair twiddling, flicky fingers, nibbling and the like. These are the kinds of people who make teachers yell, 'sit on your hands!' More unfortunate types are twacked with a ruler.

Then there are the ear lobe pullers, the people who suck air through their teeth and the women and girls who do that thing with long hair that has no name but ought to have one.

Who can ignore the chin rubbers and beard strokers? I'm very agin the jostling change in your pocket types. I cannot stand the rhythmical drumming of fingertips on the table top boffins, the fluff pluckers and the throat clearers. The rockers are pretty annoying too, swaying forwards onto tippy toes and then rolling back onto heels guys, gearing up for speech. I'm convinced that Restless Leg Syndrome should fit in there somewhere.

Due to my never ending thirst for knowledge, I have conducted scientifically controlled experiment to determine the cause of these behaviours. 9 times out of ten, when you ask someone 'why are you doing that incredibly annoying thing?' the most common response is 'what? or I'm not doing anything!' Bizarre as it may seem, they are oblivious to their behaviour and more importantly, it's effect on their audience.

They're all variations on a theme, be they displacement activities, coping mechanisms or an aid to concentration. No matter how you choose to label them, they all fall into the chasmic category of annoying. If you are unfortunate enough to belong to a family of twiddlers, what might you do to relieve the stress of such an existence, lighten the burden? This is a question I have often asked myself. No amount of kooshes and fiddlesticks will placate them.

I asked myself this question again, as I waited seven minutes outside the school for the boys. My daughter sat in the back seat with her mild fever and a twiddling fingers. The offensive digits played with the electronic window button, up and down, and up and down…..for 420 excruciating seconds. I tried to distract her with conversation but she never missed a beat. I tried and work out what it was that was so annoying? Was it the noise? Not an offensive noise really and quite quiet. Repetitive but rhythmical. Would it have be more annoying if she'd did missed a beat. Why?

I should have acted sooner, probably about twenty years ago.

Back then, we'd sit on the sofa together, the Chesterfield. We'd talk about the future, or rather, I'd talk and he'd twiddle. As the months rolled on, the sofa grew bald, buttonless and saggy. Sadly, the male of the species was fatally flawed. If only I paid more attention. If only I'd known that we would produce a whole twoop of twiddlers to taunt me. As I said my wedding vows I sealed my own fate. As we packed to move out to the States, the sofa was just so much collateral damage. Oh woe is me, cursed by this twiddle riddle, pure innocent that I am.

Now where did I leave my knitting?

Clickety click!


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Out of time

I suspect that I am stuck in a time warp circa 1970. I think hard, as I need to assess if I need to recalibrate. Under what possible circumstances would my parents have taken me to the European equivalent of Build a Bear with 50 bucks in my hot little hand? They would have had to have won the Lotto! Someone must have had a near death experience! Maybe my birthday and I had behaved like an angel for 365 days! They all seem equally unlikely.

I move forward a couple of decades and re-examine the circumstances under which I would have taken my first child to such an establishment? Single parents are often short of cash. It would definitely have been a special treat or over compensation for guilt, another fringe benefit of single parenthood. I ignore the issues of the exchange rate and twenty years of inflation.

The thinking has failed to provide me with a solution.

I look at my daughter, the epitome of pleading. She was invited to a play date, which has now morphed into a visit to Build a Bear. A parental contribution was necessary last time for such an expensive treat. No-one should be expected to fork out the cash for two children for such a jaunt. I am reluctant to repeat the exercise within the same month.

“It's very simple dear, we can't afford it.”
“But we're rich!”
“Yes we are. We have a house, food on the table, we can pay the bills, but $50 is too much for an afternoons entertainment.” I try not to make comparisons. It seems little enough by comparison to 50 minutes of speech therapy. I don’t belong to the ‘treat all your children the same’ club any more, not for a long time.
“$50? But I need money for the movies and snacks too.
“Movies? I thought you were going to Build A Bear?”
“And a movie.”
“All in one afternoon………it was supposed to be just a play date.”
“You said I could go! I can use my allowance if you like.”
“That doesn't even come close dear.”
“Use your credit card.”
“Credit cards……” I decide not to disappear down a blind alley. “Your dad's been in England for two weeks. Two weeks of not working. Two weeks without pay. So not only is there no money coming in, he also had to pay for an expensive flight, hire a car and live there for two weeks.”
“What about the money in the bank?” I had forgotten how simple life is when you are young.

I grow weary of being out smarted and out manoeuvred by ten year olds. I want her to experience a little bit of what other people consider 'normal' but I'm unwilling to shoulder the practical fall out. How can I equate 45 minutes of occupational therapy for two with an afternoon of frolick for one at a fraction of the cost? What is really necessary and what is extravagance?

At ten years old, I might have gone tadpoling, fished for pollywogs with an old jam jar. I'd have had some squashed sandwiches wrapped in tin foil. It would have been fun.

When my oldest daughter was ten, we would have done the same thing, but with a bigger picnic. It would have been fun.

I lift a coffee mug to my lips but resist, as a thimbleful more will make me tremble. I glance over the neatly stacked piles of Pokemon trading cards on the windowsill, at the roiling clouds through the window. I am ill equipped to tutor smallish children but I'm way out of my depth with the next developmental stage of growth. I watch the first spike of lightening whip out from the clouds and count, waiting for the clap of thunder in my brain.


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Fading

This is the last topic of three:-
1. “Sequencing”
2. “Association”
3. “Fading”

To read more click “here.”


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Associations

We all make associations all the time, where we connect one event or set of circumstances with another. I associate the arrival of Summer with sun burn, turning puce and spending many a happy hour peeling off strips of dead snake skin from my arms. I associate the holidays with Christmas pudding, hidden silver shillings to break teeth and a visit to the dentist. Some of the connections we make are faulty but they're hard to shift once they've been experiencing. We learn through our unique experiences.

Teaching autistic children can be difficult because their motivations differ so greatly from the average child. It is because of this that frequently we need to use motivators that many other parents disapprove of quite strongly. Most people are on board with giving a child a piece of candy for successfully conquering potty training at a young age, commonly under 5 years old. These same people are less convinced by giving an older child an M&M for putting on one sock, ineptly. I suspect that it's the back story that's missing.

To read more click “here.”


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Sequencing, association and fading – how's your learning curve?

These are the last three subjects that I'll be tackling on Trusera. Initially I just wanted to discuss fading, which is a huge hurdle for our family, but then I found that would be too difficult without touching on the other two first.

Sequencing is simple for most of us. Others find 'doing things in the right order,' a Herculean challenge.

Lets take an every day example, such as hand washing. I quickly discover that when I break the task down into it's separate parts, there are 13 single steps to hand washing and they need to be done in the right order to achieve an approximation of cleanliness. If I take my chocolatey hands to the bathroom and dry them on the towel first, I will fail to achieve the desired result. Additionally, if I start all over again from scratch and eventually get to step 13 to dry my now clean hands, I find that the towel is all covered in chocolate. This is not a good result.

 

To read more click “here.”


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Alex Barton

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
– Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

When I was a young person I was small, round and freckly. Any one of these attributes alone, would have been unremarkable, but together they combined to put me in a particular class of people, undesirable people, or maybe it was the spectacles? My fairly ordinary appearance shaped how I experienced life, a crash course in social skills before the term had even been coined.

I was fortunate. My father was in the Navy which meant that we never had to endure any one school for very long, as there was always another posting hanging in the wings to bring relief. The crunch came with boarding school where my education was stabilized from 11 until I was 18. Like many marginalized children, not in the 'in crowd,' I made it to adulthood relatively unscathed. That was all back in the bad old days when people were more narrow minded, ancient history. These days people are more enlightened, open minded and accepting of differences great and small. We enjoy an ‘inclusive’ mentality and marginalize the judgmental tendencies.

Other people are far less fortunate than me. Their experiences defy comprehension.

Today I learned of a young man who was ostracized publicly, his name is “Alex Barton.” This little chap is definitely small but he is neither round nor freckled. He looks perfect. He is perfect. He is the perfect fit for his loving family. Sadly, he is not a perfect fit for some of his peers, primarily his teacher who orchestrated his ousting and planted stigma in the young minds of many. I learn that other “autistic people” have had similar experiences. Many others are flabbergasted at such behaviour.

Strangely, or rather coincidentally, a pal sent me this quote yesterday:-

“Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” Mathew 25:33-40.

Another chum sent me this e-mail. She is no longer small and round, and I grew up to be much bigger than I ever imagined.

Tequila and Salt

This should probably be taped to your bathroom mirror where one could read it every day.

You may not realize it, but it’s 100% true.

1. There are at least two people in this world that you would die for.
2. At least 15 people in this world love you in some way.
3. The only reason anyone would ever hate you is because they want to be just like you.
4. A smile from you can bring happiness to anyone, even if they don’t like you.
5. Every night, SOMEONE thinks about you before they go to sleep.
6. You mean the world to someone.
7. You are special and unique.
8. Someone that you don’t even know exists loves you.
9. When you make the biggest mistake ever, something good comes from it.
10. When you think the world has turned its back on you take another look.
11. Always remember the compliments you received. Forget about the rude remarks.

So………..

If you are a loving friend, send this to everyone, including the one that sent it to you.
If you get it back, then they really do love you. If life hands you Lemons, skip the lemonade,
ask for Tequila and Salt and call me over!

Best wishes from me and mine to all the Bartons.

“Left Brain Right Brain”

and

“Action for Autism.”
Many thanks to “Bev” for pointing us all in the right direction and to “Niks Mom” as we all gather together.
Alex might benefit from going to “Adam’s” school, where inclusion is a positive goal that many more of our children should enjoy.

“Drive mom Crazy” also gives as an adults perspective.
“Abfh” posts on this today too, as well as providing a very handy telephone number “here” in case you’re not the writing type.

Here are some more jolly good links that we may be able to pass around the blogosphere as an updated list from “Last Crazy Horn,” and numbered for ease of use [what would we do without efficient chums?]:-

  1. Whitterer on autism
  2. Leftbrainrightbrain
  3. Action for autism
  4. Asperger Square 8
  5. Maternal Instincts…Flying By the Seat of My Pants
  6. The Joy of autism
  7. Drive mom crazy
  8. Whose Planet Is It Anyways?
  9. Odd One Out
  10. Cogitamus
  11. Odd Time Signatures
  12. Stop. Think. Autism
  13. Along the spectrum
  14. Andrea’s Buzzing About
  15. Foggyrock
  16. The Diaper Heads
  17. Memoirs of a chaotic mommy
  18. Life with Joey
  19. The Rettdevil Rants
  20. ASAN
  21. Livs Journey
  22. Big white hat
  23. Ballastexistenz
  24. Aspie-editorial
  25. Being ammey
  26. The Anthill
  27. Thinking in Metaphors
  28. Lone Wolfs Den
  29. Jonathan Turley
  30. Lyndon
  31. Retired Waif
  32. Lorem Ipsum
  33. Digital Journal
  34. Disability Studies, Temple U.
  35. Mommy life
  36. Panic’s Deep Thoughts
  37. Are You Going To Be This Way The Rest Of The Time I Know You?
  38. Charming Bitch
  39. The Adventures of Leelo and his Potty-mouthed Mom
  40. DC Metro Moms
  41. Enter the Jabberwock
  42. Incertus
  43. Eric Berlin
  44. Awalkabout
  45. The Gimp Parade
  46. Man, or Maniac?
  47. Autism Vox
  48. Apple Tree
  49. Club166
  50. A Room of Mama’s Own
  51. The Strangest Alchemy
  52. Suspect Device: The Blog
  53. Huzzah!
  54. Beartwinsmom
  55. Pipecleaner Dreams
  56. The Squiggly Line of Thought
  57. Highboldtage
  58. Dvorak Uncensored
  59. Social Skills and Asperger’s Syndrome
  60. The Quaker Agitator
  61. Bohemian Booklover
  62. The Church of the Apocalyptic Kiwi
  63. How This Old Brit Sees It
  64. Stirring the Pot
  65. Disaboom
  66. Midlife and Treachery
  67. Celebritique
  68. Sanabitur anima mea
  69. To Be Great Is To Be Misunderstood
  70. I Can Only Imagine
  71. Up On Eagle’s Wings
  72. A Life Less Ordinary?
  73. Kaleidoglide
  74. Cripchick
  75. Daily Kos (full of a lot of information)
  76. Marla Baltes
  77. Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop
  78. Perseveration.org
  79. Fatherhood Examiner
  80. EditorMom
  81. It’s Atypical Neurolognorosis I Tell Ya
  82. Wheelie Catholic
  83. Free Falling
  84. The Lawdog
  85. Sheila Schoonmaker

Or you could pop along to my jolly good pal “Last Crazy Horn” as see her sterling work in situ at “Odd One Out.”

P.s. We’ve been battling asthma over here with the boys, so I’ve not been as vigilant as I should have been. If we’ve missed you out drop me an e-mail / leave a comment / post a link.
“Here” is a link explaining why some people choose to “homeschool” from “Mrs.C.”

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