Learning Curve-Marketing Swizzle

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Universal Applicability

One of the most delightful aspects of growing up, for parents at least, is how kids apply what they learn to new situations, often in an incredibly apt and surprising manner.  All too frequently I assume the information hasn’t penetrated, or if it has, it’s never likely to see the light of day again.  But that just goes to show what a narrow-minded skeptic I truly am.

Hence I’m busy in the kitchen, preparing dinner, peeling potatoes, chopping carrots and frying onions, the basics for many a meal.  The aroma permeates the household, warm, piquant and inviting, when I hear a commonplace noise from my youngest.  He stumbles through the kitchen, a la ‘Lawrence of Arabia in the Desert’– clutching his throat with gagging noises.  But he pauses a moment, pinches his nostrils firmly closed, hits the extractor fan button and announces in a nasal tone, “You know Mom, I fink it’s time for a courtesy flush.”

Meanwhile, if you still have the chance to win a copy of DJ Kirkby’s Without Alice – just read the post and leave a comment.  I think I’ll keep this open until the 1st of December and then it will make a great Holiday gift for some lucky person.


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Wordy Wednesday – deep proprioceptive input

Ms. Wordy Wednesday is alarmed on arrival.
“Good grief Maddy! Is he o.k.? What did you do to the little chap? What is that huge thing on him? Or was it an accident? Is that a tooth brush in his mouth? Did he choke?”
“Um…where should I start? That big blue thing is a wedge, shaped like a slice of cake and we use it to do some amateur occupational therapy stuff.”
“Oh.”
“You're right, that is a tooth brush, he's cleaning his teeth, he didn't choke and it's not accidental that he's under the big blue wedge, he did it deliberately, himself.”
“Um…..somehow…..that explanation doesn't seem to help very much.”
“Sorry. Let's start at the beginning. That's my youngest one.”
“Ah, the one with all the extra raw exposed nerve endings.”
“Yes and the 'don't touch me above the shoulders' thing.”
“Ah! So cleaning teeth must be a big issue around your house?”
“Yes indeedy. A very loud, screaming issue.”
“Actually, now that I look more closely at his face…….he looks quite happy!”
“He is. He's found a coping mechanism.”
“A coping mechanism?”
“Something to help him cope with the agony of cleaning his teeth.”
“Yes, I know what a coping mechanism is, duh! I just can't quite work out what it might be?”
“Do you notice a huge, five foot by 10 foot, blue wedge?”
“Sarcasm doesn't become you! Yes I see it. How could I miss it, but how does it help?”
“Say you're experiencing something painful, like at the dentist.”
“O.k.”
“Do you grip the arms of the chair or dig your nails into your flesh to distract you?”
“Yes to the former no to the latter.”
“O.k. how about during child birth?”
“How do you mean?”
“Did you grit your teeth, grind your teeth, grip something with a stranglehold?”
“Epidural!”
“Ooo you're not helping today.”
“Sorry.”
“So when was the last time that you were in real pain?”
“Er…..when my son fell off his bike and we rushed him to the ER. I kept talking to him and reassuring him but my mind was racing. I think I must have said every prayer I know a thousand times.”
“Ah. Not quite what I meant but that still works. Your brain was in pain so you distracted it with something else, another activity by praying so you didn't have to think about the other stuff.”
“Yes, I suppose so. Doesn't everybody do that?”
“Yes I think they probably do, but sometimes they do it in other ways. For my son, deep pressure keeps him grounded, literally in this case. By having his whole body squished it helps calm him, so that he's better able to deal with the unpleasant sensation in his mouth.”
“Maybe.”
“You sound a bit doubtful?”
“Well it's not exactly portable is it? I mean how much does that……wedge weigh?”
“I don't know, but it's certainly heavy.”
“Not really a long term solution.”
“True, it's temporary, but it's his personal fix and now we know, we can make other adjustments.”
“Such as?”
“We have a couple of weighted vests that do the same job and a couple of other vests with Velcro that can be adjusted to give you that same feeling of snugness.”
“Snugness?”
“Yes, like you swaddle babies to calm them, or how your mum pulled the sheets tight when she tucked you in at night, or that heavy winter coat that always feels so reassuring.”
“So “proprioceptive input” is just a big word for squishing!”
“In this particular instance, but there’s a lot more too it than that.”
“Another time then?”
“Sure. Oh and don't let an occupational therapist hear you say that! She’d have my guts for garters!”
“?”


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Two and a half baths

Which half would you like?

It's one of those little American oddities, a few words that are completely incomprehensible.

You can read it on a page, you can say it out loud, the net effect is the same. What on earth are they on about now? But that was in the good old days when I was a fresh faced immigrant. Years have now passed and I am far wiser. Non-Americans will be pleased to learn that Americans do not have diddy little baths. This is America, the land of big, bigger and the bestest.

Many moons ago in England, I lived with my family in a tall Victorian terraced house. Tacked on the back of the house as an after thought no doubt, was the bathroom. The bathroom had a bathtub, a toilet and a hand basin, but not very much else. It did have a deadbolt and a lock with a rusty old key the size of my small hand, but you needed the strength of a rugby player to shut the door, let alone lock it. All five of us were good sharers and privacy was non existent.

If we were really desperate, there was always the option of the old lean to toilet in the back yard next to the air raid shelter.

This original toilet was there before the bathroom was tacked on.

It was a place only for the brave.

I am, and always have been, a cowardy custard.

Hence I have little sympathy with the current generation of children in my care when it comes to foibles.

When it comes to foibles, which it usually does, their father has one, a foible that is to say. Every morning he shaves in the bathroom next to the kitchen. The bathroom has no bath and is the same size as a crampt cupboard. Standing room only. As he froths and shaves, rivulets of water run down his hands and forearms to collect on his elbows and then drip onto the linoleum floor. Two little puddles of dribbles, every day. This is no great hardship. What is great hardship, for me at least, are the blood curdling screams from my son, every day, when he decides to use the bathroom and finds his path blocked by his dribbling father.

The bulk that blocks his way isn't the hardship. The hardships are the two puddles. It would be easy to step over the two puddles located closest to the sink, especially if you only have child sized 13 feet and are on your tippy toes, or easy for some people. Other people pogo on the spot and scream, loudly, every day.

Many people, would learn that if you encounter the same problem every day, it might be a good idea to find an alternative solution, preferably a quieter one. Other people need help finding solutions. It is hard to find a solution when you can't hear. Generally speaking, it is hard to hear if you are screaming your lungs out.

All too often, I find myself just looking at him. I have to remind myself that he has an 'on' switch and an 'off' switch but no dimmer function, a period when he could think and work out an alternative. It's an all or nothing approach to life. The absurd can sometimes seem ironic. It is quite sobering for me to realize that this is not a child having a hissy fit or a meltdown, but someone struggling with a gargantuan obstacle, a puddle that might just as well be Niagara Falls. It's tempting to giggle, a nasty habit that I seem to have acquired over the years.

Instead, I wait a moment to see if the frenzy is spiraling up or down. If it's on the up and time is precious, I have no option but to scoop him up and cart him off to the loathed toilet down the hall. If it's on the down, then we have the opportunity to repeat the sequence, to find an acceptable alternative, every day.

Maybe one day, he'll step over this hurdle all by himself. Just as with so many of the other foibles. It won't disappear but he will find other ways of coping all by himself. Maybe soon.


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Communication skills

It is just as I hear the garage door close with spouse's departure that I realize that I am in a pickle. My son, even in the morning is technically non verbal. After jaw surgery, I am effectively non verbal also. The cleaners are coming. Senior son is home with me as his asthma is too severe to go to school. I debate how to explain this to the cleaners, that there will be two bodies skulling around the place getting in their way? I have no-one to interpret for me. I consider waving my wipe board at them, but my Spanish speaking is of 'Dora the Explorer' standard and I certainly couldn't write anything in Spanish. I mutter mentally, moaning and complaining, what am I going to do? I have 45 minutes to come up with a plan.

I don't know how much spouse explained about my condition to them during the previous fortnight? [translation = two weeks of recouperation] I run a finger tip check over my mouth and count the pins and needles per square centimeter; no chance. We snuggle on the sofa whilst my sluggish brain begins to plot. I start scheduling with my son. I write a list of our days 'events' to pre-empt repeated questions along the lines of 'what we do next?' at 35 second intervals throughout the day. I am lazy and befuddled. I write rather than be imaginative and use icons.

At three he could read. Somewhere between that time and now, when he is seven and a half, he has mislaid that skill. Therefore, this is not my hyperlexic one, this is my 'I never read anything under any circumstances unless you put hot coals to the soles of my feet' one. I tap the board to save speaking and catch his attention. He reads aloud. He reads aloud perfectly. His eyes flick between my eyes and the board. I write another sentence and we repeat the exercise inbetween his coughs and my dribbles. We appear to be in agreement. I know this, not because he verbally agrees, but because we both put our hands in a thumbs up gesture and make eye contact. He reads additional sentences and we make the same gestures; four points of acquiescence.

I cannot fathom if this really is a complex social situation or whether I am making mountains out of molehills?

When the door bell rings he scampers out to the hall where Maria and her team appear with copious cleaning equipment. I am a few steps behind. As I approach, I hear my son talk to her on his own volition: “I am ill, so I am home. Mum is ill. Er, mum is more iller dan me. We are bowf home together but we will be good.” Maria blinks. She has known my son since he was 18 months old. I doubt if she has ever been honoured with as many words in as many years. My puff ball face smiles at her. She shakes her head slowly and runs a hand over his silky hair.


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7 Tips – Coping mechanisms for parents of children who have just been diagnosed with autism

1. Make sure that you are alone. Scream as loudly as your lungs permit, for as long as you are able. Cry until you are incoherent. Ensure that you have an adequate supply of tissues. [translation = several catering sized boxes of Kleenex]

2. Take a damp cloth and wipe your face until your breathing returns to approximately normal. [translation = your regular breathing rate]

3. Visit or phone a true pal [translation = friend] and/ or relative [translation = family member] and talk. Advise them that you are likely to blub [translation = weep] and that they do not need to respond merely listen.

4. Start reading the paperwork that the professional who diagnosed your child gave you. N.B. If the pile of paper is too heavy to carry skip to the 'recommendations' page. N.B,B. make sure that you have a medical dictionary with a large font size at your elbow for reference.

5. If you find that your brain has shriveled to the size of a pea and that you are incapable of taking in technical information, push the paper work to one side and go and do your favourite thing instead. If you discover that your favourite thing is not working, do not worry, normal service will be resumed in the future.

6. I tell you truly that things will improve and that you CAN do this.

7. Seek out aforementioned child/[ren], the same child/[ren] who now owns a new label. Hug and kiss that same child/[ren] with or without labels.

If you like what you read, send it to someone in ‘need.’

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