No time like the present!

The sense of urgency when your child receives a diagnoses of autism can be overwhelming. It is as if everyone is yelling 'early intervention' at you. As a parent, you are of course willing to do anything and everything possible to help your child but the choice of options is phenomenal as well as expensive.

Lets move to the best school district tomorrow. No make that today, or yesterday come to think of it. Wait a minute the best therapist is in the opposite direction. Can we commute? How often can we commute? Can we afford it? Should we live on a train permanently and save money on rent? Nevermind, the best therapist in the area has a waiting list of over 8 months. Goodee we've avoided living on a train for the next 8 months.

It is at this early stage, that parents most resemble headless chickens. Every free moment is spent on research. Every other moment is spent worrying. It is a frantic time for everyone. Do something! Do something now! Anything! Fix it before it's all too late. Someone will be shutting that window of opportunity and you're going to squish your fingers. [ translation = or something much more dire]

As I look at my son on his eight birthday, I'm not so sure about that window of opportunity, but if there really is a window, it's wide open, and the view has a bit more perspective. Many happy returns of the day. Now pass me that chicken, I have the time to pluck it.

If you’d like a different take from a high brow perspective, you can nip along and visit “Kristina” – must be something in the ether.

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Damned lies and Statistics

In American, or more particularly in California, we are encouraged to nurture our inner child, to hold onto that innocence, especially if we wish to maintain our mental health. And who doesn't want to do that?

As adults, we try and remember that even the most wizened and cynical of us, can
learn from children. But does that still hold true if those children are autistic? Probably not. Not going to glean a lot of insight from those little chappies, and they are mainly chaps, depending upon which set of statistics you care to favour.

Personally, I like the one that suggests that as many as 1 in 166 children are diagnosed with autism. I love statistics because you can prove anything with them by careful manipulation. I thought that I was the only person locally, or even nationally with two autistic boys, but now that they're both at the same school, I find that other families with two. [Ref 1]

What does that mean? Well, it means that together, we three families, have six children, autistic ones, of a similar age, in one school. If there are thirty children in a class, that means that each class will have an autistic child. And why would that matter? It means that your child will be in close proximity with mine. In fact, because my boys are only 17 months apart, they could be in the same class together.

They separate twins, but the same doesn't apply to siblings, I've checked. That means that your child might sit next to mine, perhaps one either side. In fact those other autistic children, the two that are the right age, might end up in the same class too. My two and four more, because it's largely a matter of chance. Wouldn't that be super! Your child with four or six little autistic kids, all pals together in the same class. It would be even better if the class had only 20 children, although it would mess up my statistics a bit.

Your child would be a great role model for my children. Mine could copy yours, then they'd learn how to behave properly, just like yours do. Children learn more from their peers than their parents by the time they're in school, a sort of transfer of allegiance if you will. But that's fabulous for me, because you've taught your children a great set of moral values, things that mine might not understand, like non-discrimination and inclusion. You know, like the Barney song: ‘we include everyone!’ I bet your kids can sing every word perfectly. Doesn’t that warm your heart?

Don't worry, I lied when I said that our children would meet. My children are in the special ed class, separate, protected and nurtured, because it would be ghastly if they were all in together. They might be bullied. Wouldn’t that be dreadful? Mine of course, not yours.

Fancy a play date? Pick up the phone and give me a tinkle.

[Ref 1] and don’t forget ‘George and Sam,’ by Charlotte Moore, but they’re on a different continent so we won’t count them. Then there’s Luke Jackson and his siblings {Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome} but they’re on the same tiny little island, so we’ll ignore them too.

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Pass the buck

[translation = blame somebody else]

I hide the teapot in the cooker [translation = stove] as the cleaners are on their way on a Monday morning. Their scrupulousness is appreciated in all quarters of my household, with the exception of the teapot. The teapot is off limits, my personal dark little secret. I do not want it sparklingly clean and pristine. It makes better tea if it is stained the colour of mahogany, but this is not a message that is easy to translate in this country. [translation = my Spanish is limited to Dora’s exploits and my French is rusty] Therefore, taking the line of least resistance I have resorted to deception. Of course autistic children, we are told, generally are incapable of deception, they are too literal.

On return from school with the offspring, I release the teapot from it’s hidey hole and pop the kettle on the hob. [translation = tea kettle on the flames] A shadow addresses me,
“What you do?”
“Me? Oh nothing.”
“No. You do sompfink. What you do?” Is this the same child that would not utter a syllable for four, sometime five hours?
“Just getting the teapot ready for a cup of tea.”
“What that fing is called again?”
“This thing? Or that thing?”
“Bowf fings?” I have early intervention mechanism to thank for this tirade.
“This is the oven and this is the teapot.”
“Oh right, yes.” It’s not that his vocabulary is limited, it is merely that the words are mis-filed, so he’s unable to retrieve them at will. It’s like having a dictionary, which is no use to you if you can’t spell a little bit in the first place.
“Why you cook da teapot?”
“I didn’t,” I answer truthfully. He puts a tentative finger on the oven door in confirmation. [translation = no-one believes me]
“It is cold. You not cook it den?”
“That’s right.”
“Why oven den?” Why this sudden interest in teapots and cookers? Who am I to be cross examined by a seven year old about my relationship with a teapot? What business is it of his anyway? [translation = patience on low ebb]
“No reason,” I add nonchalantly.
“”No reason.’? What reason? I mean, er, why you put da teapot in the oven if you not cook it?” Really! What is wrong with the child, can’t he just let it be?
“Well, if you must know, I put it in the oven to hide it. The oven is a very good place for hiding things.”
“Good for hiding. Good for cooking. Good for two things. Dat’s good.” At last he seems satisfied although I suspect the whole exercise was merely a ruse to delay starting jobs. [translation = chores and homework]

We go through our school routine of snacks, making packed lunches and getting clothes ready for the following day. It’s so difficult to decide in which precise order to do these things in, as if you don’t have sufficient motivation in front of you, then there is no human way of dragging them forward to the goal of task completion. [translation = getting things done.]

As I settle them down to homework at the table, with the promise of stories and supper to follow, a general protest ensues. There appear to be far too many arguments against completing homework in this next 30 minute section of the day; additional nutrition required for optimal brain function, a little light television in advance, to relax the mind and let the body wind down, social interaction needed with the felines of the household to ensure bonding and minimizing dysfunctional behaviour.

I look at them all and their feeble excuses in exasperation, when senior son adds his two pennarth [transation = 2 cents] “I cant do mine cos I lef it at school today.” It’s late, we’re behind schedule [translation = our timetable] and my energy reserves are low. I decide that we can play catch up tomorrow instead, where the therapy commitments are lighter, where there are a greater number of minutes available to prompt them through it all. I make my decree and they all scamper or lumber, off to pursue other, infinitely more preferable activities.
I return to the kitchen to start preparing supper for the masses. I jiggle the steeping tea pot. Should be ready by now? I switch on the cooker and yell to warn the children of the impending noisy explosion that indicates that the pilot light is functioning. I hope that the cleaners won’t comment on the absence of the teapot after 5 years, as I wouldn’t like to hurt their feelings. Hopefully they’ll just assume that I’ve switched to coffee, converted to the American mode. Perhaps they’ll think that I’ve adopted the filthy American habit with tea instead, where you only use a tea-bag in a cup, poke it with a teaspoon and fish it out with a special pair of tweezers?

The boom of the oven that follows as it ignites, still startles me, but this is nothing to the shriek of agony that comes seconds later. Senior son erupts into the kitchen and stares in horror at the oven, eyes on stalks, palms covering his mouth, “Oh no! What you do? You are in such big trouble. I tell Mrs. Loper it was you! You are da naughty one! You cooked my homework.”

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