When first we practice to deceive

A thorough desensitization plan is an essential tool for many parents of autistic children. The key to success is both consistency and persistence with a healthy dollop of patience and encouragement. It’s a recipe for success around here and after many long years of practice we are now the very proud, temporary custodians of an ex-neophobe. This is not to say that my youngest son actually enjoys very much of the food in his new diet but he does eat it.

For many months now we have been fading the reward, the chocolate pudding, until it finally fizzled out about a month ago. However, chocolate pudding is a very good way of getting high calories of fat and protein, which when you’re very skinny may not be such a bad thing. As a consequence, I decide that the reintroduction of chocolate pudding might be one way of packing on the pounds, after he has eaten dinner and after he has already eaten some vile fruity dessert of my own concoction. My difficulty is a practical one, remembering to make it in advance. Chocolate custard is not a recipe that can be rushed. I reach the obvious conclusion, I ask the chap with the very big memory to remind me himself. What better motivation could there be to increase communication between me and my youngest?

I share my cunning plan with him, or at least the pertinent parts.
“So……when we get home, could you remind me to make your pudding? I always lose the post it notes?”
“Sure……you have gotten dah right guy for dah rememberings.”

As we drive home from school we chat in the car, or rather I ask questions, and everyone ignores me as the word bank is officially empty after a whole day of school. We run through our usual routine. First the 20 yard dash through the back door with a finely pinched nose to avoid being gassed by the perfume from the Jasmine, practice our favourite words of the week, namely ‘suffocate / double helix / partial / social worker. Then after a snack and some downtime it’s onto the nightmare of homework. Hours pass in this one hideous activity until we are all thoroughly drained. We pack up, prepare pack lunches and then on successful completion they are all free to indulge in thirty minutes electronics time. This in turn gives me 30 minutes to get supper on the table unhampered by demands as they tune out. As I prepare nutrititious cold salads in the 95 degree heat I contemplate how I can possibly bribe him to eat any of it? Chocolate pudding! I forgot again. I dart after my son engrossed in his game.
“Hey weren’t you going to remind me?”
“I asked you to remind me to make something for you.”
“Do you remember what it was?”
“What was it?”
“Make chocolate pudding.”
“Yes but you didn’t remind me!”
“I did.”
“You did! When did you?”
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t remember you reminding me?”
“I did.”
“Er……look it.”
“Look at what?”
“Dah post it note.”
“What post it note?”
“Dah one dat I am writing dah chocolate pudding.”
I dash back into the kitchen……..sure enough, there is a post it note stuck to the saucepan together with his own unique time stamp. Now that’s a heck of a lot of reciprocal exchange!

By the by, it may be that you noticed my new thoroughly delightful “favicon” [although that is probably the wrong word.] If so you may wish to consult “Furiousball” about your web needs for his reasonable prices, fully “qualified” and tech savvy approach is sure to leave all “customers” thoroughly satisfied………why does that sound vaguely rude? You can find his “resume” and “contact” details on this post “here.”

Cheers dears

Please add your name to the second “giveaway.”

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Wordy Wednesday – Warts and All


I listen in, shameless ear-wigging. It's a treat for me, to hear my son volunteer information, engage in what might be described as social communication. Social communication is generally the fluff of human exchange, unnecessary, but we all do it anyway. Many would say that our lives are richer as a result. This kind of fluff is generally not the kind of chat that autistic children or adults engage in. I now understand that it's purposeless.

For years and years we have endured silence or meltdowns or functional language. Functional language is used to communicate one's needs. When babies first start to communicate, often they use single word commands such as 'juice' or 'milk.' Parents encourage their children to tack on additional words, depending upon their own priorities such as 'please.' Gradually, small sentences emerge, three words, and later more. The average child can use single words in a social context, 'look! Star!' This is social communication. The child is seeking the joint attention of someone else, inviting the someone else to share, it is not functional. My autistic children never did this, not as toddlers nor when they were older. They do now, occasionally, but it's just one of the many things that I can't take for granted.

Some children will never communicate verbally. Some children will, eventually. Many will achieve functional language because it has a purpose. Some, may surprise me by indulging in fluffy talk. Fluffy talk is hard to define but you know it when you see it or hear it.

The easiest kind of fluffy talk to recognize, is complements. I say something nice about you and you thank me or offer a complement in return, completely purposeless, for some people.

The best kind of fluffy talk sprouts into a conversation, an exchange of words, where each person takes a turn. Clever people call this reciprocal exchange. It's the exchange bit that's pivotal. If I make a statement or ask a question, and no-one responds then I might not bother to do it again. Some people, the really desperate kind of people, count the number of exchanges. They may start with just one exchange, a statement and a response. Sometimes the number of exchanges increases. It may even increase sufficiently for me to be able to categorize it as a conversation, a fluffy one with no purpose.

Six years ago I could not have imagined that there would ever be any fluffy talk around here.

“What you fink my worsted day is be?”
“Coz of therapy?”
“But I thought you hated double therapy on Wednesday afternoons?”
“Yeah, but I am hate other fings morer.”
“What's worse than double therapy?”
“Dah wart doctor!”

Nearly nine years for fluffy talk to emerge. I sincerely hope that other people have the chance to be lucky and fluffy too.

New Post up of “Alien.”

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My mother said….

“What it is?”
“What is what dear?” Are we still on this spot? I've given up trying to turn it the other way around, from 'what it is' to 'what is it,' but I still inwardly groan at the questions that emerge from nowhere, without clues. Questions out of the blue with no referencing? Why can't he add the bit that he wants to know about? Why does he leave that bit, the essential bit, out? I purse my lips and remind myself of the joy of having a far less speech delayed child than I once had.
“Dah 'disobey'?”
“Disobey? Well that's when you're asked to do something and then you don't do it.” I don't add 'just like you,' but I think it. [translation = if you think an evil thought, it's just as much of a sin as if you had done the deed]
“He is disobey.”
“Who is?” Reference back please, fill in the blanks. Why do I have to extract these from you?
“What did he do?” Come on now, you can do it!
“Oh you are dah stoopid!” he chortles agreeably.
“No more stupids.”
“Ah.” He pauses to collect his thoughts. [translation = regroup and find his place again, since I interrupted his train of thought with an unwelcome reminder.] His speech has improved beyond measure but I still keep hampering the poor child's progress with irrelevancies.
“I say……he is disobey……..dat is he DIDN't do what I said.”
“What did you ask him to do?” One complete sentence at the beginning could have eliminated all of this.
“I say he must OBEY my rules and HE disobey! Dat is dah opposite.” Spouse appears at the tale end of the conversation. [translation = and it is one, a conversation that is to say, where he offered information for mere social purposes] Spouse joins the conversation with his own contribution: “what?”
“He was just telling me that you disobeyed him, didn't obey his rules.”
“Yes, just like the ditty, 'my mother said, I never should, play with the…er……um people, in the wood. If I did, she would say, naughty girl to disobey.'”
“I've heard that before somewhere, but it was different somehow. Why is it different?”

I try to cut him off, to stop him thinking what the missing word is, the “politically incorrect” word that we don't use any more. If my son hears that word, he will want to know what it means. Once he has heard that word, he will repeat it. [translation = often] I know that it is a word that he will adore. He will adore the word because it has two 'y's in it.
“Er, now what was it? Say it again and it might jog my memory.” [translation = word retrieval]
“What it is?” splutters junior.
“What is what dear?”
“Dah word dat he forgotted?”
“He forgot it.”
“No I haven't, it's on the tip of my tongue…..er……umm….”
“He is dah stoopid too?”
“We don't say stupid any more. No, it's just that when you get………” I peter out as I try and avoid using the word 'older,' but he's ahead of me.
“You mean old and mould?” he squalks as he leaps from his chair in response to the trigger word that sets off alarm bells about death, dying and general morality.
“No, no, no, it's just that sometimes it's hard to remember a particular word. You have that sometimes and we do too.” I nudge spouse to encourage him to also offer words of balm, but his cranium is still full of whirring cogs. Why did I make a fuss about 'stoopid' and risk falling into the quagmire of OCD instead? [translation = the far lesser of two 'evils.'] I nestle him onto my lap for a squeeze, [translation = calming deep proprioceptive input] stroke his back and feed him single Goldfish crackers with the other hand. I hope this will be sufficient distraction.

I try to think of words that rhyme with it. I can't think of any, apart from tipsy, which wouldn't make sense and doesn't have two, very essential “'y's.”
“He did fogortted or he is not forgotted, which it is?”
“He forgot, he can't remember. Oh dear. Never mind. Better luck next time!” I chant in my sing song, ever so annoying tone. I glare at spouse commanding silence, but he is oblivious, lost in the labyrith of word recall. His eyes widen as he emerges from the maze, which puts an electrode to my own brain so that I can shout “PIXIES! Don't play with the pixies in the wood.”
Spouse frowns and raises his index finger prior to verbalizing his objection.
“PIXIES!” I shout, bringing my face and eyes far to close to his.
“Oh! Yes. I see. Pixies it is then. Wouldn't want to give you a word with two 'y's in it now would we?”
“Two 'y's! Two 'y's? TWO 'Y'S! What it is? What is da word being wiv two y's? I want it. I want dah word wiv dah two 'y's.”

Ah yes, finally, at six and a half, he manages that most supreme of skills, the pinnacle of reciprocal conversation, where his question actually references back to the thing that he wants to know about. Hallelujah!

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A convention of potential buyers with light refreshments

[From pre-blog days when I ‘tidied’ their language]

I find that I am roped in [translation = persuaded against my better judgment] to throw a bit of a do [translation = host a party] for my mate. [translation = Brit friend.] Mrs. C is branching out and launched herself into the perilous waters of selling jewelry. In a feeble attempt at support I attempt hosting. My version is that of a mere amateur. Others, such as my “pal” [translation = American friend] manage matters in a such a professional manner, that I am brought to my knees in awe. [translation = very impressed] When the woman describes herself as “Queen,” who am I to suggest otherwise? [translation = the “mayhem” tempers the monarchy]

My “non verbal” speech delayed five year old reads from the computer screen at 5:45 in the morning. I am approximately awake and decide to check whether anyone has responded. It is my experience thus far, that RSVP roughly translates to ‘rarely send verification positive.’ [translation = silence regardless of whether you’re coming or not]
“What it is a 'e-vite'?” A good question, but this is my first try at the non paper version.
“It's an invitation to a party that comes on the computer instead of the postman.” [translation = mail carrier]
“A party!” he says with incredulous glee, 'whoop de do, I am so happy. The party it is for me?”
“No it's just for girls.”
“Girls?” he is instantly deflated but doesn't understand why he sister isn't invited either.
“But she is a girl too, why she is not go?”
“It's for grown up girls, er I mean it's for women.”
“It is for wommins? Not girls?”
“That's right.”
“You are a wommins? You are going to the party?”
“Yes,” last time I checked, “the party is going to be here, at our house.”
“Ooh, we have balloons?”
“No, no balloons, it's not that kind of a party.”
“Oh. We have cake?”
“No, I expect everyone will be on a diet at this time of year. Anyway, I'm making the party food.”
“What food you are making?” I am safe here, as the majority of food, party fare or otherwise is loathsome to my little “neophobic” one.
“Anchovy sandwiches,” I beam with confidence. I can hardly wait to see my guests delighted little American faces.
“Anchovy? What is it?”
“Its…..oh right, um it’s a little salty fish.”
I should have found a better alternative description. ‘Salty,’ ‘little’ and ‘fish’ will add up to ‘Goldfish’ for him, his all time favourite food.
“Ooo lovely. I am liking little salty fish very much.”
“These aren’t Goldfish, they’re…..” [what can I say to deter him?] “wet.”
“Wet? I am thinking that I am not liking that new food. I am thinking that maybe I am hating those things. I am thinking those things are boring for me maybe? They are 'boring' they are 'hating' which they is?”
“In your case, probably both.”
“It is a birthday?”
“No, not a birthday, just a party to buy jewelry, or look at some at least.”
“You buy jewelry. I buy jewelry too?”
“That's an idea, but I don't think you have any money do you?”
“I am needing the monies for the buying?”
“Yes, I'm afraid so.”
“Oh darned it! Why I have no monies?”
“Because you don't go out to work. You don't have a job to earn money.”
“I am liking jewelry too. You are buying jewelry for us? You have your monies for us?”
“Probably not, but nice job to think of your brother and sister too. No, it's not really suitable for boys.”
“Because it's for big people, not little people.”
“Only big people can be wearing jewelry?”
“Sort of. Some of those necklaces are very long, you might trip over them and fall down.”
“I can have a short one?”
“They're all long I'm afraid, no little kid jewelry.” He hangs his head in thought and disappointment. He glances back to the screen.
“The party is after breakfast?”
“After breakfast?”
“It is saying 7:30?”
“Oh right! No that's 7:30 p.m., not a.m.. P.m. is evening, a.m. is morning. This party is in the evening.
“a.m., p.m., what is these letters? What are they meaning?”
“Oh! Hmm. Let me see, I'm not sure. I think it's ante meridiem and post meridiem. Ante is before and post is after. Meridiem means noon. Is that right?”
“I don know. I am asking you the question. It is my question. It is you answer. You are doing the answering.”
“Yes, sorry, I was a little confused for a moment there.”
“You are confusing? I am confusing too? Both of us, we are the confusing.”
“Oh dear, yes, it's just that I failed Latin amongst other things.”
“Latin. What it is Latin?”
“Oh gosh. Well Latin is a different language, like Italian or Spanish. It's just that it's an old language that we don't use any more.”
“It is old and mold? Why you are saying Latin then? Old peoples are saying Latins? Old wommins are saying Latins?”
I try and recover ground before we disappear down a cul-de-sac.
“You know, it's not really a party at all, not the sort of party you go to, it's more of a meeting, or a convention.”
“'Meeting?' What it is 'meeting'?”
“It's where people get together. They meet each other in one place.”
“So 'meeting' is different from 'party'?”
“Where am I?”
“You? Oh. You lot will be in Nonna's room watching a film. A movie.”
“We have movie night? It not Saturday? Why it is movie night again?”
“Because that way you children can have fun, whilst we grown-ups have fun at the same time.”
“We have pop corn? We not have anchovy?”
“I can wear jewelry for movie night?”
“Umm. Yes, I'll lend you some jewelry to wear. You can borrow some, it will be free.”
“No monies, it is free?”
“So we have movie convention with pop corn and jewelry, you have meeting and monies and anchovies?”
“That's right.”
“I like popcorn jewelry movie convention best.” Now there’s a guy that knows a neat deal when he sees one! [translation = chap]

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An E Type?

They come in many different models, and it is only now in middle age, that I begin to think that all this psychobabble rubbish, may have something to it. I feel that perhaps I have been unnecessarily narrow minded in this respect, that I should have given the psychobabble option a little more house room. If I had paid more heed to my American pal, the Muse, and her inane ramblings on this topic, then I might be in a better position to understand the nature of the species. For instance, I was under the impression that spouse was a C type, but he may in fact be an entirely different model. They come in many more different forms than I had initially appreciated. There may actually be some A types, but if there are, I have yet to meet one, or if I have met one, they were probably gay. I doubt if it's possible to be an A type and be heterosexual, it's one of those mutually exclusive groups.

So here I am with possibly a C type, or maybe a D type. This wouldn't be that important if it wasn't for the fact that I also have a couple of sons in tow, especially as they are both autistic, and it would be very useful, not to say expedient, to pin them down into a specific category early on in their lives, so that I am better able to ease them towards an A type.

I think of it as my bounden duty to carry out this quest to the best of my ability, my cross to bear, as it were.

But I'm not going to get very far if I can't even identify what I already have. Let me give you a simple example, test the waters and see if I'm on the right track? A woman and her significant other, are in the same room, when she accidentally drops a book on her foot. Books are generally an unrecognized danger in the average family home, and have a higher propensity to act independently that most people appreciate. The book makes contact with the foot causing pain, which induces the woman to exclaim, “oh!” A clear E type.

Assuming that the spouse is otherwise engaged, say with something fascinating on the television screen, the woman automatically expands the initial instinctive exclamation, such that the 'oh,' is followed by 'good grief! That book has come into contact with my foot and I am experiencing pain!” because that is how British people still speak. This expansion zips you straight into the A type. The male of the species, is of course unlikely to respond, mostly because he hasn't heard
anything at all, as his attention is rapt in the programme. So far so good?

O.k. second example. This time male occupies a different room, out of visual contact, when a loud exclamation, “*&!@#!” is emitted. The average woman, upon hearing this, might say “are you o.k.?” reconfirming A type status. The woman studying human psychology on the other hand, waits. Seconds later, the male appears. He is limping but no words emanate from his being. Now that I am at the advanced stage of study, I appreciate that there might be many other variables contributing to his inability to communicate. For instance, had he dropped a hammer on his foot ,this might compromise his masculinity, his status, such that he would be admitting failure, causing shame. We all want to avoid that!

Alternatively, a small person, who shall remain nameless, accidentally injured him, which means that we cut out the shame / embarrassment factor. Why then, does he not feel the need to volunteer information about the episode? If there is no further response, you're stuck with an E type.

Possibly, I am someone that he wouldn't choose to share with, knowing that he would not receive a sympathetic hearing, that I might scoff or belittle him in some manner, add to his humiliation quotient perhaps? Perish the thought! Would the outcome be any different if there were a different individual present to communicate with, be that an adult or child, friend or acquaintance, human or feline? A response to any of the above would zap you into C type status, or possibly B type, if your response was expansive, appropriate, invited additional questions or in any other manner was indicative of reciprocal exchange. It is all very mysterious.

As a broad rule of thumb any 'oh' that spouse utters, is rarely followed by any further explanation, with the exception of something related to work or computers. This only applies, if when he turns around to see me waiting there, I make it visually obvious that I am waiting. This means that my body and demeanour oozes 'waiting.' It helps if I have an excited and expectant face, as if I am really interested in what he might be willing to share.

Beware. If you find yourself oozing to extract a response, then you are dealing with a C type. If you are ooze free, then you may find yourself in the fortunate position of sharing your life with a B type. When the words finally splutter out in a faulting manner, it is also very important to reinforce this positive step in the right direction. Make sure that you laugh, if appropriate, heartily too, enjoy the joke, whatever it was. [?]

You could practice right now, screw up your eyes, open your mouth 'ha, ha, ha, oh yes, very funny indeed!' I hope your body is chuckling too, although I've found that a general shoulder shake is sufficient to get the message across to B and C types. To ensure that this exchange will be repeated, it must be immediately and positively reinforced. These first tentative steps at reciprocal communication, are the gateway to all kinds of future communications of great value. If you are truly fortunate, it may be possible, given the passage of time, to generalize this skill to other similar situations, such as the physical damage caused by low flying books. Know that your efforts will not go unrewarded and that after many years of careful schooling, you might be well on the way from changing your C type to maybe a B type. If you're lucky, consistent and persistent. This kind of task is not for the faint hearted, you are the mistress of your own destiny.

Meanwhile, I watch his [my] son's progress, from my vantage point in the kitchen. Since he's autistic and has a speech delay, he's probably a Z type, right at the bottom of the heap, the extreme form of the male of the species. I hear a heavy thud as he changes his gait from 'walking down the stairs' mode [translation = vertical descent] to 'walking on flat' mode. [translation = forward horizontal movement] He bumps into the trampolene but recovers, veers into the sideboard but bounces off with merely a glancing blow. He continues in a forward motion but is progressing at an unfortunate tangent, which brings him into contact with the door jam, as usual. The clunk of his forehead covers the quieter impact of his foot and knee. He teeters over backwards onto his bottom, hard. He shakes his head, just like in a cartoon before standing and continuing his journey to the kitchen, or wherever it is that he was going, that he's probably forgotten about by now. Through the virtual mist, my body materializes within his field of vision and he startles. I don't know if he was seeking me out, or any other human being for that matter. It may be mere happenstance, but now that I've appeared, he's willing to communicate with me.
“Hey Mom!”
“Hello dear.”
“You know what?” This is looking hopeful, “what?”
“I um, er, I……” Oh dear, off to such a promising start but he's stumbled at the first fence. This might take a while.
“Well, I was coming down stairs, down, down, er,… I was walking….er,….. and then this wall hit me and I am hurted, hurt, yes hurt, but not too bad, it was an accident, I think? I am o.k. now, it din hurt that much really.” He positions himself in a half crouch beneath me, as I lean over him in a question mark to get a better look at his forehead damage. I lift the hank of hair but his hand reaches up to my forearm, locking my eyes into his, “don worry mom, I o.k., I fine, really!” He pauses momentarily, to check that I comprehend [?] before stumbling off on his own personal business.

Blimey! Where did that all come from? Thousands of dollars spent on therapy and now look, my son has metamorphosed into an A type. In years to come, I'm sure his partner, whoever he or she, may turn out to be, will consider it a sound investment.

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Foul language begets reciprocal exchange

[translation = swearing promotes connectivity in a common goal] Yes, my boys are autistic and the speech delays are a little taxing, [translation = tough on aged brain cells] but as they grow and change they make me catch my breath. [translation = steam up the bifocals.]

I take my chest infection downstairs in the small wee hours of the morning so that at least one of us can attempt to sleep so as to have the chance to cope better later in the day. I sleep fitfully until soft footfalls wake me in the darkness. The light flicks on to a chorus of gasped surprises. Somebody snaps it back off again and approaches in the gloom. I am uncertain if I’ve failed to fall asleep or whether I am just waking up? A conversation ensues that I am not party too. [translation = I play dead]

“I fink she is asleep.”
“No! Don poke her eyes!”
“Oops sorry. Sorry mum.”
“She cant hear you. She is asleep dumbass.”
“Don call me dumbass. Dumbass is a bad word, we don use bad words in dis famly.”
“Oops sorry!”
“It is morning?”
“Why it dark den?”
“I don know.”
“Why is mummy in the sleeping then, if it is da morning?”
“Because she is ill, dumbass.”
“Don call me dumbass or I will tell mummy on you.”
“Don tell mummy, she is asleep, she cant hear you anyways dumbass.”

Silence falls but I feel the sofa ease as two small figures snuggle up.
“What was dat?”
“I don know. It's a pokey thing.”
“Oh no, you have squished the glasses. Are they broked?”
“No, I don fink so. It was a accident.”
“You dumbass, now mummy will be not be able to see anyfink.”
“Oops sorry.”
“Shall we have a sleep over?” [translation = voluntary initiation of positive social interaction?]
“Das a great idea.” [translation = acknowledgment of common goal, complimentary, appropriate and perhaps acceptance that he actually has a brother!]
“We can have a sleep over if it is morning? Is it morning?”
“I don know. It's dark. I think maybe it is nighttime afterall.”
“Yes, you're right. It is nighttime and we can be having a sleepover.” [translation = a desirable social event – perhaps?]
“Shall we have a sleep over wiv mummy too?”
“We shall ask her?”
“No dumbass, she's asleep. Oops sorry.”

We enjoy a ‘sleep over’ together for the next forty five minutes until 6:50.

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Contextual referencing

“What it is?”
“What is what dear?”
“Er,…it is saying 'nun a dee abuv?”
“Say it again?”
“Nun a dee abuv.”

They both have a tendency to do this, blurt out a question that is connected to something that happened yesterday, last week or last year. They don't reference their questions, that is to say, put them in contex, so it can be the devil's own job, trying to detect where, when or what the question stemmed from? [translation = very difficult]

Why don't I just ask for the context? You’re right I could, perhaps I should, but at this stage of their verbal development we want to encourage them to talk, reinforce their efforts in a positive manner. [translation = frightfully American] If you respond to each question with a barrage of additional questions, you'll just put them off, they'll stop trying and we'll go back to our world of silence. [translation = the old parenting style]

I stand in the middle of the kitchen with my x-ray eyes, willing inspiration to zap me. I lean on the kitchen counter to take a deep breath, so that he'll think it is a natural pause in our [potential] conversation. My finger tips touch the edge of the fifty page questionnaire. [translation = exaggeration, but still yards to long {sub translation = yards}]

I glance at the open pages:
‘no. 56. Does the child
a] always resist physical contact
b] never resist physical contact
c] not applicable
d] none of the above.’

Shouldn't have left it out! Should have tidied it away. How could I have forgotten that he can read anything if he is so disposed. [translation = hyperlexic] He lifts a delicate finger tip to his lip, tentative, cautious.

“ 'd' is not da good one?”
“'d' is a great one. I love 'd'. You are absolutely right!”

His medicine ball head clunks into my hip bone. How can you contain a 'spectrum' disorder in a questionnaire that doesn't wrap round the world 3 times?

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Silence in Court

I hold up both hands in a visible ‘STOP’ sign, which means 'pray silence as the middle sized chappie is about to make an announcement.’ Now that he is beginning to speak, becoming less ‘non-verbal’ he needs a break. [translation = chance to be heard] It's hard to keep the other two small people silent for an indefinite period of time, whilst the middle sized one literally, gathers his thoughts in preparation for speech.

I need to get a handle on this now, whilst he's still only six and a half in the hope that in the future when he becomes a morose teenager, I will still be able to extract information from him.

Junior sons jumps and jiggles in his chair on his hunkers, like a horse in a stall before the race. Junior daughter slumps back in her chair eyes on the ceiling, tedious, bored.

Senior son starts; “well…..do you know what?” Great start, very casual, very contemporary, not too strained, carry on. His eyes rest fleetingly on each of us, he isn't just addressing me, he is addressing a whole audience, nearly all of his family, he is being inclusive.

“Genie has two children,” he announces with hardly a stammer, the correct tense and a countenance that isn't distorted. He is initiating conversation, imparting a piece of information to me that is of a social nature, nothing to do with Pokemon, school or someone else's exciting misbehaviour. There is no perceptible gain to him in telling me this, it is 'merely' social exchange.

His enunciation is poor which means that you can't be sure if he said 'Gene' or 'Genie.' I decide to be difficult, even though I know exactly who he means. [translation = push the enveloppe]

“Is that Genie from therapy or Gene from over the road?” I pause, count to twenty, maintain eye contact and wait. The other two are bubbling with irritation but I manage a palm up hand in front of each of them.

“Well,' he begins tentatively and uses a 'filler phrase' whilst his brain does catch up “I think maybe………it is Genie.” [translation = many people use ‘fillers,’ Americans often say ‘you know,’ British people often say ‘actually.’]

More interestingly, I know the motivational source. [translation = to what he is referring, the incident that he wants to share] Yesterday, during therapy, he was motivated to check the current marital status of his therapists, whether they were still married, perhaps a divorce might be pending, whether they had managed to off load their current burden of offspring. [Translation = perfectly natural for a young man with social aspirations.

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