Get out of that one!

One of the many difficulties that one of my son's has problems with is the issue of choice. For some reason a choice between A and B is a stop sign for him. Although I have researched this hurdle in detail, I have yet to come up with a satisfactory explanation for the matter. [translation = or satisfactory solution] This is one of our many on going campaigns, helping him to choose. His inability to choose is crippling and the source of a significant percentage of his current meltdown quotient.

He appears and pirourettes before me, coming to a slightly unstable halt. He arranges himself at a jaunty angle. [translation = plus cheesy grin]
“Don't you look smart! Doesn't he look smart mum!” [translation = well attired not clever, nor sarcastic] I look at my son. I bask in the glory of being granted unfettered access. [translation = 5 years ago I was not permitted to look at him. If my eyes dwelled upon him, he would crumple into a heap, scream and curl into the tightest ball. Do you know how difficult it is to try and not look at someone? Surely you've tried, occasionally, not to meet someone in the eye? How difficult was that? Did you find that your eyes kept flitting back, just to check? How difficult would that be if that person was your child? What would you do if your gaze was a form of torture? What kind of monster must you be to invoke such a response? What are you doing wrong? How can you make it better? Why is this so completely incomprehensible? How can you try to understand? Are you blind to the theory of mind? Can you not get inside their head and understand? Who are you? What are you doing to this child?]

“Indeed he does. You are the smartest Birthday boy I've ever seen.” I'm not sure if I'm gloating or excessively happy? His sister smooths the fabric of her frock. [translation = sun dress with matching shorts] My son observes the scene, his father, his brother, his sister and me.
“You too?” he stutters.
“What about me dear?”
“You are gonna, gonna, gonna…..I mean, you're gonna ch ch ch……put on dah frock.”
“Yes, I'm going to change in a minute, put on my best T-shirt.”
He makes a little gasp, takes a step or two in several different directions from a static point, stands to attention, cocks his head on one side, gives his head a little shake before saying “you are gonna, gonna, gonna, put on a T, a T, a T…….a party frock for my party?”
“Oh no, just jeans and my best T-shirt.”
He clamps his lips tightly together, a cartoon of disappointment and disapproval. He is a rigid pole, vertical at a 15% angle. How does he do that without falling over?
I hover, “I don't have any party frocks anyway.”
He's on me like a whippet, “yes you do. I have seen dem. I see dem in your closet. Lots. Lots of frocks.”
“Yes, but I haven't worn those for years…….we lead a different…..well….. the thing is…”
“You go put on dah frock for my birthday party!”
It's more of a command rather than a request.
“Well, I…….you see……I'm not sure……maybe……”
“Party frock!” he nips.
“But I, ..well, but er..”
“No ifs, no buts, no coconuts!” he quotes with aplomb. Where did that come from?
“I don’t know if I can er…”
He steps towards me, takes my hand and looks up to my face, “it's o.k. I can come and help you do dah choosing.”

So if you see a crusty old woman at the equivalent of Macdonald's, wearing a tiara, don't be too quick to judge. [translation = “Rats to the theory” of mind.]
Please excuse crooked feet. They are perfectly co-ordinated with the other end. [translation = crooked teeth]

Post Script [translation = added later after a little early morning reading] We who have young [or teeny tiny] children look to people who have older children so that we can steal their crystal ball for our own benefit. If you’re experiencing a little hurtle and wonder if your kiddie winkie has that empathy then take heart and peek into the life of an “expert.”

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Green Grass

“Now if I were, rich and famous, then really my troubles would be over!”
“You think?”
“Yup, I'd never have to make a bed again!”
“Excuse me! I seem to remember sayin that yah don make beds. Anyways you have those duvet things, that's more of a shake and a shimmy, no hospital corners there.”
“Minor details.”
“Anyways, how a yer kids gonna learn to make a bed if there's someone else there to do it? You're still gonna have to teach em?”
“True. But at least there would be someone to clean up al the spills and mess!”
“I thought you wuz tryin to teach them how to do that too.”
“I am, but they're not very good at it yet.”
“Don you think it's gonna undermine their efforts if someone comes along and cleans up after they've tried their best?”
“Maybe. But it would still be nice to have someone pick up the children from school, a chauffeur! Someone else to man-handle them into the vehicle and get danger money!”
“How would you find out how their school day had been if you couldn't talk to the teachers
face to face, see the other kids, their friends, the other parents, how would you keep your finger on the pulse?”
“Do you have something against being rich and famous or something? Still it would be nice to have someone do the garden, that would save a lot of time.”
“I thought that was your therapy time! You'll be as mad as a brush without your down time.”
“Very well, just someone to do the shopping then!” A good one, for someone “allergic to shopping.”
“There are other ways of learnin the value of money but it sure is good exposure for them and they're gettin better at it all the time with all that practice.”
“Someone to wash up?”
“Ain't that dishwasher workin? The cleaners already come to give the whole place the once over weekly, how much more do you want?”
“So basically you're saying that I can't be rich and famous because there will be too many learning opportunities wiped out by having all these helpful people around?”
“Your choice hon. I'm sure you'd get someone to do it all, but if you did, think what you'd be missin!”

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Plan A

Sometimes people get up in the morning and find that some part of their anatomy is failing to function as it should do. Sometimes the part in question may be the legs. For some unaccountable reason they're not working. This may be due to the party in question merely having got out of the wrong side of the bed.

This can be very tiresome for the parent and quite obviously for the child also. There are number of possible techniques available to the parent to overcome this difficulty. The first technique is to retreat to the bed room, lock the door and climb back into bed. This presupposes you are able to ignore the howling that comes under the crack of the door. If this is not a viable option for the parent, however tempting, then other strategies may come into play. The dish cloth bandages may assist depending upon which child is suffering from this syndrome.

As a general rule, junior members do not respond well to nappy pins, [translation = diaper pins] so be assured that this will probably worsen an already bad position. Alternatively you can use the psychological approach 'You can decide to have a grumpy day, and be sad all day, or you can decide to have a good day and be happy all day?

Your choice.” It is generally a good idea to start off with this in any case, in the hope that the meaning of the words may percolate through, given time.

At this juncture, it is in your own best interests to acknowledge that your plans for the next hour and fifteen minutes for the child before he goes to school, must be abandoned. You are now on plan B. If for some reason you have failed to formulate a plan B, then it would be a jolly good idea to come up with one quickly, since there is a high probability that failure so to do, will have you hurtling through the alphabet faster than you are able to keep up.

Sometimes it may be difficult to discern the exact nature of the problem. The legs may be 'wonky' or perhaps 'wobbly' but since these descriptions shed no light upon the source of the issue, the parent may still be struggling to offer assistance. Plans to work on the gross motor skills must be canceled. The possibility of using fine motor skills in a seated position to obviate the need for functioning legs, is optimistic. Generally speaking wobbly legs may be an indicator that the rest of the body is likely to rebel also, if challenged.

It is tempting to abandon B and opt for plan C, where the screaming child is placed in a locked sound proof box, preferably until the screaming stage of development has passed, regardless of the number of months that this might take.

I lift the non functioning legs together with their owner to the sofa. I reach for the first one on the stack of Thomas books and begin to read.

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To breed or not to breed?

When I first arrived in the States, my spouse was on an H1 visa. I was unemployed. Whilst we awaited the arrival of the Green Cards, I would troll along to the blood bank to donate a litre, [translation = not approximately a pint] every 57 days. One day they told me that I was no longer eligible to donate. My blood had been contaminated by eating food in the UK. I was a little miffed at the time, [translation = put out] mainly because I had another day in every 57 days with nothing constructive to do. I was also worried that the accident that I was undoubtedly about to have, would leave me wrung out, bloodless and probably dead, with no claim to a transfusion. [translation = credit denied.] Whilst America is generally a friendly place, that was my first experience of being marginalized.

These days we enjoy a different kind of exclusivity, the club for parents with autistic children. It makes decrepid old Brits struggle up unexpected learning curves and research niche areas. We are disadvantaged in many ways, as it’s all very well to live in the heart of Silicon Valley but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re qualified to participate in technological advances. [e.g. blogging]

However, research and practice helps you bump into unexpected facts, such as
the research by Professor Mary Croughan on Autism in California. She found a link between infertility, being old and producing an autistic child. It should be a warning to us all, well, anyone planning a family in any case. It would have been handy if that research had been available earlier, eight years earlier, then we might have made different choices, though I doubt it.

You may feel that it’s not that common to have an autistic child? But that depends upon how you define common? 1 in every 150 children doesn't seem that common, but if you have two of them, autistic children that is, then that's a switch of fortune, a double win. As it is, although we have four children, the two boys are autistic, but that's probably related to the fact that it's a condition that affects boys in far greater numbers, perhaps a 3:1 ratio, but lets not get bogged down in statistics.

Professor Croughan's research suggests that infertility is a linking factor and that may well be so, but not for us. We arrived in this land with one perfectly ordinary female child but after a couple of years of drinking the water and breathing the air, we ended up with three more children. Careless on our part I'm sure. Were we poisoned, contaminated, had our gene pool corrupted? Perhaps. Was it mercury was it the MMR vaccinations? Perhaps it was the dodgey British gene pool? We probably won't know that for sure for a couple of decades. I'm not that bothered myself. For me and mine it's a 'done deal' as we Americans say, but for everyone else, everyone else who may be contemplating a family, it is a cautionary tale to add to the list of factors that potential parents need to consider seriously, before embarking on the real family planning.

Infertility is a blight on people's lives, whole families are affected by the lack of productivity in that department, by a particular generation. A number of people of theoretically breeding age are discovering that Plan A of career, success, financial security and then a family, is not panning out. [translation = working] Someone has put a spanner in the works of the great plan and options are narrowing as time runs out.

Things could be a whole lot worse, as her research identifies a higher risk of a choice of five conditions, four that are not autism; mental retardation, cerebral palsy, seizures and cancer, although autism comes up as the overall winner since the risk was four times higher amongst the population studied.

This is linked with a debate about whether or not Britain should 'consider paying women thousands of pounds to donate their eggs.' It's curious that US clinics sometimes pay a small fortune for such procedures whereas British women only gain 250 pounds sterling, and it's capped. [translation = no pun intended] Now if I were looking for a career change, that might be a nice little earner. Fortunately for you that's not likely to happen any time soon, as I think the screening process would eliminate my gene pool as a potential candidate. In any event, I’m more than a little busy with my current generation.

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You Choose [translation = decisions, decisions, the whole time decisions]

One of the many oddities of sharing your life with a couple of autistic children is that they force you re-evaluate. One of my boys has always experienced an inability to make a decision or a choice. It doesn't matter what he's supposed to be choosing between, that is of no importance, it's just the choosing bit. A good example would be two things that are identical and two things that he likes, such as a commercially produced cookie. [translation = shop bought biscuit] What is the dilemma, what is the problem in choosing one over another? I have no idea. You would think the problem would be easier if one choice was less preferred, say a cookie and a broccoli floret, but it isn't any easier, he is still paralysed by indecision.
These days I am shameless. I quiz experts, harangue my pals, [translation = friends] strike up conversations with complete strangers. [translation = American] I trawl for answers. Everyone is helpful, but none of them, the answers, that is to say quite fit the niche. [translation = seem right]

Which would you prefer, go to the toy shop [translation = store] or a trip to the theme park? Especially difficult for me, since I am “allergic to shopping.” No, still impossible to choose. This shirt that you like, or this shirt that you refuse to wear? No, still can't choose. I can see that you doubt my veracity and even if you believe me, what difference does it make, why does it matter? [translation = why am I getting my knickers in a twist about it] Well, it wouldn't be so bad if there weren't so many choices quite so often, but if, every time you are faced with a choice your response is to collapse to the floor in a screaming meltdown, then perhaps you might be a little more sympathetic? Or maybe not. Ignore sympathy, consider the passage of seconds and minutes, contemplate efficiency or time management? Oh please! Stop whinging woman! [translation = moaning] But they are interfering with my proficiency statistics as I have to factor in anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour, for every question, to permit many meltdowns. It's just not good enough. I'm too busy for all this autism stuff, my organized life is transformed into chaos due to a dilemma over socks. I can't be doing with it! [translation = intolerant, anal parent] I wouldn’t mind quite so much if it were not for the fact that, apart from anything else, “shopping is my number one bug bear.”

He has been making progress though, in tiny, miniscule, almost imperceptible steps. The speech delay only complicates the issue. It is because of this that I watch him in the process of choosing, watching quietly and unobtrusively, because I don't want to jinx his chances;
“I need to sort dis out! [recognizes there is a problem] What I do? [seeks solution to problem] O.k. Right! I know. Eenie, Meanie, Minie moe, catch a tigger by it's toe, if he hollers let him go, eenie, meanie, minie moe. My muvver says…..wait a second!” As he says the words, his finger doesn't keep in time with the syllable count, but it doesn't matter because he doesn't like the outcome in any case. I have always found this peculiarly fascinating. I could intervene, help him hand over hand, because that definitely helps, the kinesthetic practice, [translation = body doing it means that's the body is learning it by going through the motions] but I don't. He counts but the finger doesn't keep up, although it keeps moving. One blink later the finger is ahead of the count, it randomly speeds up, then lags behind. No-one can count accurately like this, it is not helpful. [translation = a vindictive metranome] His speech is fluid. If his speech was incoherent his finger would be in time and he would have an accurate count. This is why he can't catch a ball, or more accurately, can't catch a ball and speak at the same time. It is such a bizarre thing to observe, so tiny yet completely disabling at the same time.

It occurs to me that the majority of the population, especially young people in the general population, clearly have as many difficulties choosing between competing options, just as he does. I watch him re-examine the choice board, as his index finger floats from the juice icon to the cookie icon, which are both in the category of 'treats' and therefore he can only have one of them. I think of the other childhood counting game that I used to utilize such as 'one potato, two potato,' there is the equivalent in every country. [translation = universal.] I try and remember the feeling whilst I was playing them? Depending upon whether I was one of the group being chosen from, or whether I was trying to make a choice myself, what were the thought processes? It was basically surrendering yourself to fate, giving responsibility to something else. It was only when you neared the close, and the light dawned about the outcome, that you could choose to accept the inevitable or cheat. If you choose to cheat this means you know that you do in fact, have a preference after all, it suddenly becomes clear, even if, just until that moment you weren't aware of it. Whilst his difficulties in choosing have always been catastrophic in the past, this might just have been an extreme form of what everyone else is experiencing too.

I watch him cheat. Horray!

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