A mere fly on the wall

Warning – ear wigging is dangerous [probably offensive] One year ago……

A few years ago, I began to understand the camaraderie of parents, especially mothers with children on the spectrum. Initially I had thought I was the only person on the planet………then I learned that there were so many other people in a similar floatation device.

I sit in the waiting room at occupational therapy. Two mothers are in mid discussion. The terminology they use, indicates that they are up with the hunt. [translation = done their research] I try not to listen as they chat with each other, but there is only 3 feet of carpet tiles between us.
“So what's his Rx, if you don't mind me asking?” [translation = diagnoses]
“Not at all. He has sensory integration disorder and dysgraphia…..of course!”
“Oh course!” they giggle. “No autism then!”
Why does that sound rhetorical?
“OH NO! OF COURSE NOT!” she gasps, her hands to her mouth in that shy, private manner some people have.

They chuckle. A magic moment for two, the bond of friendship is forged.

I feel obliged to say something but I am at a loss to know exactly what, especially as I should not have been listening? It’s one thing to be an advocate for your children, it’s quite another to poke your nose into other people’s private business. I opt for the line of least resistance. I shrink in my chair. A small person. An invisible person. I can almost feel the yellow neon stripe down my spine. Luckily I have my back to the wall. It is at such times that I wish to crawl under a very small rock and die quietly.

I am invisible for approximately 44 seconds before my boys explode out of their therapy session wailing. I sit in a chair with a 5 year old on bouncing on my knees. The six year old is by my side mid rain dance. They are VERY happy. They share their happiness in their own unique ways. Words are a little, few and far between. [translation = none on this particular occasion] My older boy concentrates on my upper arm, a tight grip with his slender fingers, his forehead burrows into my flesh, woodpecker style. [translation = very happy]

My youngest son contorts himself, as I discuss their sessions with their OT's. [translation = occupational therapists] His skull is on my lap, his vertebrae curve up my body, his rear end hovers under my chin, his legs bicycle before us. I peek over his bottom to see a couple of open mouths on the opposite love seat, mothers with a different perspective.

I turn my gaze to the therapists, “good session then?” I ask rhetorically.

A magic moment for five – two skilled therapists, one mother and two boys. One year of progress.

I think I should be obliged to carry a small rock in my handbag, so it is freely available for me to boink myself on the head every so often. [translation = and two little ones to serve as ear plugs to make ear wigging aversive]

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Come in number 2, your time is up – More Painful than pulling teeth

Well most of them are, aren't they? All those discrete tasks and skills that you need to teach your autistic child, depending upon how low your 'patience battery' runs. Mine is always on 'recharge now to avoid losing all data.' To be fair, we are on far more advanced skills than we once were, but seeing the dots and connecting them, would appear to be two separate tasks. 'Your mission, should you care to take it….' is to connect the dots.

Let's face it, teaching “social skills” to autistic children is not easy. I'm not talking about P's and Q's, nor which knife to use in which order. If only it were that simple. I'd happily teach a course in the art of using finger bowls or sugar tongs, over my present workload. No, we're talking about the often intangible reciprocal exchanges that are effortless if you are neurotypical but hard to grasp if you have a different skill set.

Now that my children are aware that they have siblings and additionally, sometimes wish to spend time in each other's company, we find that all too frequently, the other sibling is not in visual contact. Fortunately, we have overcome the 'missing from visual contact' equates to 'invisible, magical, or death.' So you can see how far we have come.

So how do you go about finding your missing sibling? That's right, we look for them. We have also mastered this huge step. We do not have to endure a meltdown because we do not have 'finding' skills. Yes, we have found our 'finding skills.' I no longer have to remind them to use their eyes to look! What a triumph. Now I am witness to various children wandering around the house, using their eyes, looking for a lost sibling. It is too fabulous to describe. However, it's time consuming.

If for any reason, [many] the searcher fails to find the searchee, that is when the meltdown occurs, much further along the time line. Hooray!

Thus we need to finely hone our searching skills. What else might assist, failing a GPS tracker attached to the forehead? That's right. Go to the top of the class! We can use our words! How could we have forgotten that one? Which words could we use? Yes! The name of the person that we are looking for, which helps distinguish between different family members and may pre-empt a stampede of responses. It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.

What else? We could say that ever useful phrase, 'where are you?' Everyone knows that one surely? Can we put these two together? Can we verbalize them?……….
Yes we can! Horray.

So the final piece, is to assist the searchee – when you hear someone say 'where are you?' then it's your turn to say 'here I am!' You need to respond, you need to use your words………… we're working on it.

Actually, we probably need to add another last final step. We need to be able to slip effortlessly from searcher to searchee role, and then back again as necessary. Anything else? There's always something else that I've forgotten until I trip over it.

Maybe sometime soon, I will become a deaf mother, as everyone runs around the house screaming each other's names. I hope.

I think it's only fair to warn everyone in advance, that if we don't experience 'growth' in this area soon, I will have no other option that to attach retractable washing lines to each one of them, or failing that, elastic.

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Conversation piece

I clean the toilet. At the age of 46 I can admit that two years ago I was uncertain how many sides a dodecahedron had? I can also admit, that it was my four year old that caused me to wonder. A speech delay combined with autism makes for any number of misunderstandings and confusions. How can a child point out incorrect pronunciation of a Pokemon character, too subtle to be understood by elderly years, and yet simultaneously, that same child is unable to remember the word ‘cup?’

I use bleach and ignore the screaming environment. As usual I am a vision of loveliness, jeans, T-shirt and yellow Marigolds. A small and persistent person, is close by, watching my progress after his latest ‘oopsie, too late, oh well, never mind, better luck next time.’

I resolve to be more careful about what new mantra I install in them next time. I scrub, flush, rinse and cleanse. His nasal tones reach my ears. Although he is always nasal, this time he is more nasal than usual, because his nostrils are pinched closed to protect them from the bleach fumes. “What is your favourite shape Mummy?”
“Er, I think probably a circle.” It is unusual for him to be close by whilst I am performing this kind of task, he is almost ‘chummy.’ [translation = unusually friendly]
“Wot abow trapezoids, don you like dem too?” He doesn’t usually engage me in ‘casual conversation.’
“I do like them, I just prefer circles.”
“You don like parallelograms too?” O.k. maybe not ‘casual conversation’ per se, as this is one of his preferred topics, but he still has to tolerate the fumes to remain here and chat to me.
“I do, it's just that I like circles best.” I think we might be having a reciprocal conversation?
“Oh. What is your favourite tertiary colour?” How many exchanges is that? Why is he still here? Why hasn’t he given up yet and left me stranded in mid- ‘conversation’ like he usually does? Just as I begin to think that we might really be having a conversation is usually the same moment that he disappears, whilst I’m in mid-sentence.

“What's yours?”
“Brown, because it is the colour of chocolate and that is my favourite food too.”
“Well, that’s lovely. Thank you for telling me that. You’re getting to be such a great helper. I love how you use your words these days.” I turn to face his blue eyes, eyes where the pupils are focused on mine. I move to one side so he can flush, perform his ‘helper’ duty.
“Daz o.k. I love how you ……you……you are dah great cleanerer!” His hands move from his nose to cover his ears in anticipation, of the Niagara flush.

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