Danger lurks around every corner

I take my youngest autistic son to the supermarket with me. [translation = grocery store] To say that such an errand was akin to punishment, would be an understatement, but I am out of options today. Like most children, shopping is one of his least favourite activities, [translation = me too!] but malnutrition is but one missing meal away.

I have carefully chosen an alternative store. This alternative store, has one overwhelming advantage over it’s competitors, one that the store owners are probably blissfully unaware of. The shop has electric doors, which are the bane of many a parent’s life. [translation = they’re open, they’re closed, hop in, hop out, get in the way off all customers who arrive or leave, as they are invisible, chortle merrily throughout]

However, in this particular sanctuary, the electric doors have foolishly been located in close proximity to the produce section. [translation = fruit and veg] Few things are as obnoxious as fruit and veg, to my son. The stench of produce is more than sufficient to curtail his door activities, or at least that is what I am hoping.

The produce department has long been an area of fear and dread because periodically, water sprays down upon the lush vegetation, a mist of glistening droplets. Whilst for most people this adds to the enticement, for others it is a deterrent. [translation = sensory] Should you see a small child scream and run for cover amongst the boxes of green bananas under the tressel table, clearly he is a hooligan on a quest to trample fruit. Or even a larger child for that matter.

I have only three or four items on my shopping list. I encourage his help but he will have none of it, nor will he touch the list. He won’t touch the small piece of favourite yellow coloured paper, because it is paper. [translation = tactile defensiveness, but we’re working on it] Additionally, my list is hand written and fails to meet his standards of cursive letter formation. [translation = I imagine that he would find fault with the copperplate of monks too]

I nearly trip over a basket that some idiot has abandoned in the middle of the aisle. Why do people do that? The inconsiderate nature of the general public never ceases to amaze me! My son chortles, “Elliot is idiot, Elliot is idiot, Elliot is idiot.” His scripting is right on target, which is excessively irritating. [translation = many speech delayed children use clumps of words that they collect from here and there. More often than not, the spirit of the phrase is accurate, like a dart.]

To distract himself from the pain of shopping, he reads every label aloud, loudly. This innocent pastime engages him as he bolts around with his arms folded across his chest in a protective gesture. He startles and jumps at things that I am unable to identify. [translation = hyper-vigilance] In the dairy aisle he fondles eggs and cooes gently at them. Strangely, eggs, any eggs, are always soothing to both the boys. It is as they have magical powers, even though neither of the boys eat them. This is the calmest 7 seconds that we experience.

He queries labels and harangues me with questions with every step. For every step that I take, he takes ten, rushing around in the style of a skateboarder. I choose my last item. [translation = grab something that looks vaguely like what I want and hurl it in the basket] “We are done?” he sparks.
“We are.” He accelerates off in a tail spin to the bakery department to choose his treat. [translation = task completion and reward time, for holding it together for 12 minutes]

He skids to a premature halt aghast at the view. I look at the cakes and notice that each set has a hand written label. [translation = it would appear that the bakery does not employ monks] He covers his mouth with his hands and bounces on the spot. [translation = a dilemma of the tallest order, how to look at the cakes and yet screen out the offensive labels?] He agonizes for a few more moments before a bolt of spare bravery comes to his rescue. He takes one long single step, very slowly, to bring his body close to the glass. He stands rigid with his arms close to his sides and his eyes closed. He breathes slowly and deliberately. When he’s ready, his eyes snap open and absorb the cakes.

“What is it?”
“What is what dear?”
“Petit?” Oh dear, a new word, a foreign word. Do I want my son to learn foreign words at this juncture? Other than “Brioche?”
“It means ‘little’ dear.”
“Why it is four? Why it not three?” [translation = his current favourite number]
“It’s the name of a cake dear, “petit four,” means little cake. It’s French, a different language.” [translation = actually it means ‘little oven,’ but I didn’t know that at the time] He mouth starts to move, he puffs and blows like a steam engine pulling away from the station.

“Dat is dah most stoopidest…….”

Oh dear. A level 8 meltdown ensues to the horror of all the surrounding shoppers. At six and a half, he is too large to be rolling around on the tiled floor screaming. There are too many feet and too many table legs for this to be safe. I have no option but to scoop him up and retire to edge of the wall.

Seven minutes later he has still not regained the power of speech, but he is able to lift an arm to point. I follow where his index finger indicates. The sign on the cakes reads ‘Large Petit Four.’ For him, to have ‘little’ and ‘large’ in the same description, on the same label, is too much of a contradiction for him to be able to fathom or tolerate.

I decide to give it best. [translation = admit defeat] I leave my basket of four items un-purchased. I carry my son, limp, exhausted and ever so slightly damp. [translation = ignore the rule about ‘no carrying under any circumstances’ = another campaign failure] Surely there must be something edible in the freezer at home that I can unearth? I sneak one of the cookie samples for him as compensation. [translation = and pray to the basket collector to forgive me my idiocy]

Recently, someone, probably ‘anonymous,’ implied that I might indeed be losing my grip on my rather tenuous sanity. Should you care to share your own opinions on this vexing matter, please comment upon whether I really do have a “screw loose.”

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I stand at the computer with my stack of books searching for a book on 'transitions' for 'autistic children.' There isn't one. Why isn't there one? Why is there no book to tell me what I am doing wrong? What I should be doing and how? [translation = help!]

I've left the boys with spouse. I gave up bringing them here six months ago, there's only so much humiliation and stress I can endure in one day. Junior daughter lies on one of the sofas reading. Ten minutes drive there, 20 minutes hunting for books, ten minutes drive back; I promised. [translation = I’m trying]

Near me, a woman checks out a huge pile of books, fingers fumble a bit with bags, baggage and paperwork. Five feet from her, is a boy, maybe 12 years old, sludge green parka, mop of shaggy hair, pale complexion. He flaps his hands, jumps on the spot and talks to himself too loudly. I glance at him. I glance at her. She talks to him in a firm authoritative tone, as she concentrates on the task at hand.

I take in the aerial view of the library from the ceiling in a blur: they are two fixed points, static although one jumps, but there is a flow of traffic around them, people flowing past on route to their book quests. Each head flicks across to them both magnetized by the sound and the riffle of static, pauses, registers and then continues on their previous path, with haste. [translation = not long enough to be contaminated]

I return to the computer and the blurred screen. I want to speak to her, to tell how wonderfully she is coping, how great she is, how I admire her. [translation = 'I think I love you.'?] But I don't, because they're all the wrong words. [translation = jolly good show is unlikely to translate]

I think of all the things I want to ask her, because she must know; 'how do you get him to stay with you?' 'how do you stop him from running off,” 'how do you keep his voice at that level rather than shrieking?'

I beam positive energy towards her. I beam harder and focus on the screen. If I beam hard enough, I might be able to cancel out all the stares of condemnation and embarrassment. I beam more 'zen' thoughts at her, but I don't think she needs them?

Still, it can't hurt to have an extra boost to the energy reserves. [translation = a few spare as back-up] Calm, in control, knowing. It happens all the time you know? You're trolling around [translation = in existenc, hopefully vertical] wondering how you're going to make it through the rest of the day, when for some unaccountable reason, you suddenly get a little lift.

That little lift is when someone beams you positive energy. You have just been zapped. Even if you don't need it at that precise moment, your body is more intelligent than you give it credit for. It will store it away in a special reserve for emergencies. It has been scientifically proven [Ref 1] that the transfer of energy is beneficial to both parties. [Ref 2] Studies have shown, [Ref 3] longitudinally that the ratio of zapping to energy, increases in the second party exponentially, and proven to reduce anxiety as measured against a control group receiving placebo zaps to a significance where P< 0.05.[Ref 4] She tucks her books in a bag, lays a hand on the shoulder of her son, the same height as her, maybe a fraction taller, and says 'time to go now.' She leaves accompanied by her scarecrow who leaps, her spine erect, her footsteps steady. Can I do that in six years time too?

[Ref 1] Somewhere.
[Ref 2] Somewhere soon.
[Ref 3] Watch this space.
[Ref 4] ditto

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