Medicine that won’t go down

It’s a common phenomenon for many of us with children on the spectrum – those pesky fine and gross motor skills, with a dash of scattered sequencing and a dollop of mis-matched motivation – a recipe for disaster if ever I heard one.

They come to the fore every mealtime to taunt and tangle with us. Although we persevere with cutlery my children insist that everything is finger food. Let’s be honest here, how many other parents, cooks and nutritionists also have to factor in ‘splash, spill and ping,’ distance into their calculations? But they keep getting bigger, so something must be reaching their intestines, one way or another. Just lately, it’s ‘another,’ because although they don’t conform to the conventional, they’re nothing if not inventive.

So if you find your dry Cheerios just refuse to co-operate with a fiddly spoon – this might prove to be a good alternative.

Sorry it’s been so quite around here lately but it’s a bit fraught with “Nonna.”


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Check mate – Fire breathing dragons?

I lean over him to help with the tricky zipper on his back pack, “so are you ready to play Draughts now that you’ve finished your homework and packed lunch?”
“Ugh!”
“What’s up?”
He shoves past me to dive to the sink, faucet on full flow, “jus a second coz I need water before I die from the smell.” He glugs several gallons before he’s ready to come up for air.
“What smell?” I ask as he wipes his mouth on his sleeve.
“Ugh! I can’t breathe!”
“Are you alright!”
“I fink I’m gonna faint.”
“Faint? Do you know what that word means?”
“Yes, it’s like dying but only temporary.”
“!”
“Aghhh!”
“Give me a minute, I need to close the seal on the snack bag before we start, don’t want it to go soft.”
“It is being your snack?”
“Yes.”
“What is it being? It’s being worse dan peanut butter poison.”
“The smell? Oh it’s Bombay mix, an Indian snack, I’ve not been able to eat it for…….years! I don’t think you’ll like it though as it’s pretty hot and spicy. ”
“You’re gonna be eatin with it ….again?”
“Yes, it’s my favorite treat now that my teeth are finally fixed.”
“O.k. but don draught on me.”
“Do you mean breathe?”
“Dat’s dah English?”
“Er…yes I suppose so.”
“Don’t Draught on me when we play Checkers.”
“!”


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An Experiment

It is a well documented phenomenon:-

a youthful individual has a mishap on the play-ground and the autistic child nearby laughs.

Remember that one?

We could of course go into lengthy explanations as to why this should be so, sometimes, with some children – how some emotions, or rather the expression of those emotions, can flip over to their exact opposite – a trip switch.

Frequently, these explanations don’t ring true.

This is usually for one of two reasons.

The first reason is when the speaker uses too much jargon, so the listener falls asleep from boredom, not that they were very interested in the first place.

The second, because the explanation is too simplistic, just not good enough to be convincing.

Anyone you know still need convincing?

Here’s my version of convincing.

A small autistic child is depressed – bear with me here, I know few people believe depression is possible in a child – a credibility gap – but it really is true.

So, where were we?

Ah yes, a small sad person comes to you; they’ve been encouraged to express their emotions, not bottle them all up. The small sad person has acquired words, lots of them. The delivery is often a bit dicky but it’s still a vast improvement. The listener must be patient as the child gains confidence, builds up to the moment. They cannot be hurried. Use prompts judiciously. There may be several false starts and sputters. There can be many ways of expressing hurt feelings, feelings of self-loathing and poor self esteem – many parents are familiar with these too. ‘Negative talk’ is another common phenomenon in autism. Because they are children, the terminology may differ from adult versions on the same subject. The listener must adjust to age appropriateness, calibrate carefully, tune in to any special areas of need. It’s a serious business for us, as we wallow in his ‘cat phase,’ of development, no jokes allows. We must step into their shoes, see the world from their perspective, their sensitivities. Under no circumstances should the child’s concerns be trivialized, dismissed or belittled, no matter what. Sincerity and an open mind are essential elements of being a coach to the sufferer in their time of need, so that when that sweet innocent appears before me, lifts his fragile chin and turns his pale liquid eyes towards mine, fear, pain and suffering etched into the tiny creases at the corners, beneath a curtain of silky dye cut hair and parts those soft cherubic lips to announce:-

“I’m …..I’m …bad….real bad…..really, really bad…I’m as bad…..as bad ……as bad as a pile of dog poo!”

Don’t you dare laugh.


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Contractions can be tricky

I nip upstairs to check progress, or lack there of.  He stands in the middle of the bedroom, without stitches, surrounded by every shirt he owns, piled up on the carpet in heaps the size of  earthworks, as well as his brother’s, a solid mass, indistinguishable, an impenetrable mountain range.  But that’s only in my mind, an exaggeration, really there’s only half a dozen.  It’s a metaphorical mountain and a distraction to the main event.  The main event is to have my son dressed and sequenced through his daily routine in time for the school bus.  However, this goal may be hijacked by other competing campaigns: self-care, personal responsibility, natural consequences for actions.  I dither.  I estimate that on a good day, without any other distractions or pressures, it would be possible to put one, maybe two shirts back on their hangers and into the closet, but that has to be balanced against the amount of time expended on a task that’s unlikely to be completed, could well result in major upsets and quite possibly destroy any possible of the first goal – ready of the bus.  Speech and communication has always been the priority, reduce frustration, enhance understanding, but they’re bigger now, in a different place, way further along the road, and someone keeps moving the goalposts. In the midst of my indecision, he speaks.

‘It ate my shirt.’

‘I beg your pardon?’

He holds a tan colored top in one hand, blinking at the design on the front.

‘It ate my shirt.’

‘What are you saying.’

He flaps it towards me, but I’m a bit slow on the uptake distracted by his feet trampling the other clean shirts strewn across the room.

‘It ate my shirt.’

‘Who……or what ate your shirt?’

It’s almost a dance now as he travels around the perimeter waving the shirt.

‘It ate my shirt.’

‘That’s what I thought you said.  Doesn’t look like it to me.  You’re saying that this shirt, ate your other shirt, or shirts, or what?’

He stops for a moment, still, static and startled, as something clicks into place.  He looks at the shirt and then at me.

‘Oh no, I meant…….it’s her shirt…..it ain’t my shirt.’

‘Fabulous.  That’s much better.’

So  stunned by the percolation of the missing ‘n,’ I leave stuffy shirts for another day.  [diction]

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