Attention seeking behavior

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How to stop autistic children from scripting

Scripting in autism can be defined variously but generally refers to the ability to repeat phrases or single words many times over.  The words and phrases are often copied but can also be self generated.  Scripting is generally considered to be an impairment that requires intervention and is usually paired with the word ‘fading.’  Scripting and echolalia often come hand in hand which is why so many of the phrases are easily recognizable as they’re delivered with accurate mimicry.  A three year old who scripts Boris Karloff may be the source of amusement, but with an older child, public opinion is less forgiving.

Scripting serves many different functions for a child; it can be calming and self-organizing, a bit like white noise.  Frequently the child is not aware that he or she is scripting, which makes it far more difficult to stop or reduce the behavior.

Scripting is generally deemed to be socially unacceptable, which is why it receives so much attention, disproportionately so in my opinion.  If someone hums a tune, or whistles quietly in public, no-one is likely to turn a hair, but most of us will notice someone who appears to talk to themselves – a big red flag.  If that person repeats the same word or phrase, you can more or less guarantee that everyone’s attention is arrested.  I would hope that it is this aspect that concerns most people, how to let the autistic person continue with their daily doings, without being gawped at?  I suspect that in another decade, given the arrival of the blue tooth, such behavior will become less and less noticeable.

The negative elements of scripting are well documented elsewhere, as are the many techniques to help fade this behavior, so would prefer to posit an alternative perspective.  Although scripting can be irritating for the audience, or parent in my particular case, it does have a number of positive elements that don’t receive much attention.

If a child is non-verbal or has a significant speech delay, repeating the same word of phrase is basically practice.  It may sound like a scratch on a record, but all those repeats add up.  It may not be that practice makes perfect, but it certainly helps articulation.  They also function as a prompt; if you can recall the starting phrase like: ‘once upon a time,’  ‘this guy walked into the room,’ ‘there was an Irishman, an Englishman and a Welshman,’ – then the rest of the story can flow.

The scripts around here are many and various, they change over time and often become longer and more complicated.

[please note that ‘bing, bing, bing,’ refers to BBC America where swear words and other rude references are bleaped]

***

Following the triennial I.E.P. certain pertinent facts grab my attention. Forget the academics, it’s those all elusive social skills that need nailing.  Mastery is the difference between potential budding relationships and isolation – if not mastery, at least a move in the right direction. We collude and conspire for some considerable period thereafter, before the latest campaign evolves.  Although he often thinks kindly thoughts, he rarely if ever voices them, aloud.  He’s a taciturn kind of a guy.  At other times, he volunteers information that some people would prefer not to hear, because he’s a truthful kind of a guy.  Generally he’s on the periphery rather than in the center of the fray.

We adopt a two-pronged approach after lengthy discussions on tactics – rewards for speaking up in a positive manner and even greater rewards for refraining from saying negative things out loud.  We practice modeling at home, all those everyday situations, examples, clues about what is expected and when.

On day one we experience three incidents where thought is put into action.  He avoids telling another child how feeble and inferior her artistic creation turned out.  He catches a boy as he trips to prevent the fall.  He offers voluntary praise to a youngster for his sterling academic efforts.

It’s a veritable triumph.  This kind of thing usually takes weeks, months, forever, a lifetime before we ever see anything. Three deeds equate to 3 M&M’s, as positive bribery is reinforcing initially.

The following day we repeat the exercise, this time at the dinner table where we are all gathered to hear of his exploits.  He makes a start, after a little coaxing.

“Well I can fink of one thing that I am doing.”

“Wonderful!  Tell us more!”

“There was this guy.”

“What was his name?” interjects his father.

“Dunno but he was a medium sized kind of a kid.”

He never knows anyone’s name, grade or class, “he had this rock.”

“A rock!  Oh no.  What did he do?”

“He was, he was, he was gonna hit this small sized kid on the bing!”

“On the bing?  It’s o.k., you can say the rude word.”

“On the butt!”

“And what did you do?”

“I told him,  ‘listen up buddy, don’t you hit him on the bing, bing, bing or I’ll go and tell the yard duty lady.’”  He uses his most jocular tone, a good tactic when dealing with unknown rock thugs.  So much of it is scripts, but it gives him flow and rhythm and confidence.

“And what did he say?”

“He jus said ‘duh’ and he hit hisself on the forehead.”  He demonstrates the gesture, just in case any of us were in any doubt.

To everyone’s surprise, he recounts ten additional incidents of his intervening heroism, tales of daring do, most involving rocks, with one exception, one involving ropes.

“So this medium sized guy in a grey sweater, he has these lil kids tied up to a pole at recess.”

His credibility begins to wane,

“What did he tie them up with?”

“Rope.”

“Rope?  Where would you get rope at school?”  His sister leaps to his defense, “jump ropes mom, he’s telling the truth, you can tie people to trees with the jump ropes.”  I do not find this fact particularly helpful, but the detail of the ‘grey sweater’ gives weight to the guise of truth.

“And what did you do?”

“I said to this guy…. ‘hey buddy, listen up……untie those kids or I’m gonna have to report yah to the Principal.’”

“You seem to have turned into a superhero overnight dear.”

“Yeah.”

“And did you tell the Principal?”

“No, I ain’t no tattle tail.”

“!”

“And there’s another one.”

“Another one?”

“Yeah, this big guy was peeking at the girls’ restroom.”

“Peeking?”

He demonstrates the act of peeking, such that we can be in no doubt as to his meaning.

“Really.  And what did you do?”

“I said to him I said, ‘listen up buddy, don’t you go being all bing, bing, bing.’”

“Did you use a rude word?”

“No I jus wanted him to know about the rudeness.”

“!”

“And there’s another one.”

“Another one?”

“Yeah, this guy called me a ‘bing, bing, bing.’”

“What word did he use?”

“Dickhead.”

“!”

“Yeah.”

“And what did you do?”

“I said ‘yeah, that’s right, I’m a bing, bing, bing.’”

“You used the rude word?”

“No, I used the ‘bing, bing, bing.’”

“!”

I begin to feel dizzy with the speed of his delivery – conversations of this type are more rare than hen’s teeth.  So animated, so jovial, centre stage and frolicking in the limelight – cheeky little monkey.  This is positively unprecedented.

“And dis is the last one.”

“Last one?”

“Yeah, it was recess and this medium sized kid had a rock and he was gonna throw it at the Principal.”

“The Principal?”  The skeptics amongst us exchange glances – either he’s forgotten the boy that cried wolf or he’s had a personality transplant without our knowledge – which is more unlikely?

“Yeah.”

“And what did you do?”

“I stood in front of him with my body and went ‘hey dude, get a load of this!’ and then I made my funny face.”

“And what did he do?”

“He walked away.”

“Did anybody else see this?”

“Sure there was loads of kids – it was recess.”

“Savior of the Principal!  Did the Principal see you do this?”

“Yes.”

“Did she say anything to you……for saving her?”

“Yes.  She gave me two gold cards to go into the raffle for the ‘Student in the Spotlight’ this month.”

“Do you have the gold cards?”

“No she put em in the raffle.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“What a truly spectacular day you’ve had.  That’s earned you 12 M & M’s.”

“Tomorrow I’m gonna get a whole packet I fink.”

“We shall all enjoy watching you earn them, since you’ll be home, because it will be Saturday.”

“It’s Saturday tomorrow?  No School?”

“That’s right, you’ll have to be a superhero at home.  Won’t that be fun.”

“You ….you…..you…. got any spare rocks around this joint?”

This may come across as a fairly standard family conversation, nothing out of the ordinary, how would I know, I have no point of comparison?  But around here, it’s heart stomping.

Why would I share this, now that they’re so much older?  Isn’t it too private?  Perhaps, maybe it is.  All I know is the numbers of google searches that bring people to my site.  The search is a variation on a theme – ‘how to stop autistic kids from scripting’ – it might be an idea to re-think that one – it’s not all negative, it can be a springboard.

So….was it true or was it false?  I don’t know and I actually don’t care.  Six years ago I would never have dreamed of such a conversation.  What if he is prone to a little exaggeration?  It’s all in the mind afterall.  What really is the difference between a rock, a pebble and a wee nubby chip of gravel anyway!  It’s all about scale or do I mean perspective?

p.s. I came across this site called “love to know” – autism.  They have an empathy quiz.  It’s about half way down on the “left margin.” I’m not suggesting you take it yourself because as a seasoned Cosmopolitan quiz taker myself [several life times ago,] I think we all know how to fudge the answers to get the right result.  That said, it may just be that there’s someone new in your life who is really trying to make an effort to get to know your children and family, so this would be a gentle introduction in 10 quick questions without the intimidation.  For me, as a parent of autistic children, I feel I have a duty to tread gently when it comes to the mainstream.  It’s easy to forget how different our world is from other people’s.  We’re unlikely to win over public opinion with a battering ram – our greatest asset is our children themselves, who they are, as individuals.


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Meet Dave – a Movie Review

“Single Sentence Movie Review.”

“Eddie Murphy, the icon for social skills training, what not to do, how and why, with too many giggles to count.”

I mean to write a movie review for the film with Rowan Atkinson, as Mr. Bean, a while back, because that’s when it first happened. In fact I would go so far as to suggest that Mr. Bean has a blanket effect, regardless of the movie title, regardless of the number of words, the nature of the plot, the complexity of the language. His body language, gestures and facial expressions ping directly into the psyche.

Whilst my daughter squirms in excruciating embarrassment, the kind where you have to squint your eyes and peer out from behind a pillow, the boys, my boys, are rolling on the floor squealing with delight, spurting tears of unadulterated laughter. They’re so loud and raucous that the script is buried.

Hence last night, those same noises shook my home as they watched “Meet Dave.”

Don’t quote me here, but there is some combination of ‘boy,’ ‘social skills’ and developmental age that induces mass funny. I can’t tell you what that developmental age is, but it’s certainly worth experimentation.

First warning – some Tom and Jerry style violence that may cause consternation in some.
Second warning – the concept of a body being invading by small beings may provoke endless existential questions.
Third warning – guaranteed to invoke scripting.
One final word of advice. Do you remember visiting the zoo and trolling over to the monkey house? On one occasion there was a disturbance, feeding time perhaps, and the monkeys went wild leaping, gamboling and calling in a frenzied party animal style? Well that’s what it was like in our house, the best aerobic workout you could ask for which ensures a solid night’s sleep. Remove all breakables from the room in advance.


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Finely tuned communication

Broadly speaking I am outnumbered. All too frequently I make the mistake of dealing with three conversations simultaneously and lose the thread completely. Generally speaking, I find it more efficient to complete one conversation first and back track later to pick up other threads. I like to think of it as my anti-unraveling campaign.

The latest crop of ditties that the boys have acquired is rather disconcerting. What is even more disconcerting is the hilarity that accompanies each one. I find it increasingly difficult to concentrate on anything at all in the whirlpool of laughter. The fact that it is also reciprocal and infectious makes it hard to keep a straight face for more serious conversations.

“Come along now, it's time to put away your clothes.”
“Time? What time it is being?”
“Ah, time to put away clothes.”
“Subway! Eat fresh! Subway! Eat fresh! Subway! Eat fresh!” he cooes.
“You want us to put away the laundry? Why?” queries my independent pre-teen. It would appear that is someone else who is in need of a few life skills.
“Cheese is an adventure! Woe,” he announces in a breathy tone, oblivious to his sister’s strident tone.
“Well they're your clothes.”
“How much wood can a wood chuck chuck!” he giggles.
“But that's your job.” Her body language tells me all I need to know, but her brothers continue to circulate their own circuitry.
“Now I weemember. If you shout fings, you remember them still. I LIKE PIE!” he bellows, little liar that he is as he rolls back in fits of laughter.
“What's my job?”
“Innernet! Innernet! Innernet!” the robot voice still plagues us.
“Put away the laundry and other mom stuff,” the eyes roll but she spares me the ‘duh!’
“Gone fishin! Gone fishin! Gone fishin!”
“Au contraire. My job is to teach you how to put your own clothes away so that you can be independent and grown up.”
“Bet on it. Bet on it. Bet on it.” The robot sounds optimistic.
“Fine! But I don't want to be grown up and inde……….”
“Are we nearly there yet! Are we nearly there yet! Are we nearly there yet!”
“Sorry dear? What was that again? I don't think you quite finished what you wanted to say.”
“Gedda new look fur yur bedrorom!”
“Fine! I'll do it but I don't know how?”
“Eggy eggy eggy!” even though Easter is long gone.
“We'll learn how to do it together.”
“Hold dah ice! Hold dah ice! Hold dah ice!”
“Fine but whataya gonna do all day if you don't do the laundry any more? Sit on yur butt and chat to yur friends?”
Mercifully she didn't say ‘fanny’!
“Butt jokes! Get yur butt jokes here!” the list of banned words grows daily.
“What an excellent idea! I will sit on my bottom all day and learn how to use my cell phone.” 7 years after the event.
“Yur welcum! Yur welcum! Yur welcum!”
What!” Her face is a caricature of incredulity.
“No ifs no buts no co co nuts!”
“Um……well…..I suppose I'll do everything I usually do except put away the laundry.”
“Pretty pretty shiny shiny.”
“Fine! But you don't put the laundry away now anyways. There's always at least three hampers of laundry at the top of the stairs.”
“Good fur you! Good fur you! Good fur you!”
“True but what about the other four hampers? And it's never the same laundry, it's a constant turnover around here.”
“Count dem? How many pairs of hands do you think I have? Two! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!”
“I don't believe you! You're a li………not telling the truth.”
“Gonna stab yah in the head wiv a fork!”
“I know! How about I teach you how to sort them, wash the dirty clothes, then dry them, then fold them and then you'll see how many full hampers there really are on the average day?”
“Here's to gluttony!”
Fine! I said I'd do it alrighty.” She flounces from the room, a gesture that she’s worked to perfection over the last few weeks.
“Bring on dah rainbow……and dah weather forecast is……fine!”


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Classic extra

If you had to sum up your child in a few sentences, how would you do it?  Why would you want to anyway?

I want to.  I need to clarify but not diminish.

If you met my son you’d know that there was something different about him, even before he spoke, if he spoke at all.  Maybe you’d think he was a  bit of a klutz.  He certainly looks lethargic.  He doesn’t have much to say for himself, but he’s well liked.  He is a kind and sensitive child, tentative and definitely an indoor type.  He sleeps like an angel nearly every night.  His primary interest at the moment happens to be Pokemon.  Should I mention that we love him dearly as all parents do?

We take the first tentative step after 8 years and visit the psychiatrist for another evaluation of my highly atypical autistic son.  The prescription is exorbitant.

Within 45 minutes, the son we are familiar with, is invaded by an interloper.  We panic, dither and fret.  Who is this child?  Where is our son?  We have no idea who this boy is?

There is nothing to be done.  We have to wait for it to wear off.  We know that no permanent damage will be done and it will be out of his system within 24 hours.  We have another quick panic or two before we give up and decide to get to know the visitor a little better, before he disappears again.

We sit in the garden at the table.  The other two children have finished their breakfast and disappeared inside to watch telly, while we watch our other son.  We ignore the other two.  They may have to watch telly all day, whilst we concentrate on this one.  We watch the stranger who picks at his croissant as he has no appetite at all.  I find a bottle of chocolate Ensure to tempt him, but his interest in stealing those bottles and drinking the contents, has also been stolen.

My semi silent son has been replaced with someone who talks incessantly.  His voice is so quiet we can hardly hear him, but he is so animated that we strain to catch every delightful syllable.  Instead of 95% Pokemon treatises, he taunts us with social chit chat.  The old pal that he met up with at Summer school, what he likes, what he doesn’t.  Every so often, he will pause, shake his head to mutter, “this is just a crazy day,”  or  “what a crazy day,” or  “this is such a crazy day.”  Each time it’s more or less the same words, but each time there is a different emphasis, it is not scripting nor echolalia.  We chat to our chatty son, baffled.

He is unable to swim because of the stitches in his finger.  Two children swim whilst he sits at my side.  He knows that swimming daily is a healthy form of exercise.  He jumps up to announce, “if I can’t swim I’ll do my jogging instead,” and trots of to run three circuits around the pool without falling over or bumping into anything.  I have never known him run anywhere voluntarily and certainly not without prompting and encouragement.

He is interrupted from his exercise by a bee.  He returns to my side to sit.  He sits for 45 minutes, outside the house, by my side without pummeling me for his deep proprioceptive input.  Instead I watch his feet work.  His legs circle at the knee.  They slip the flip flops on, and then off again.  He does this continuously for 45 minutes.  In-between whiles his toes clench and unclench, each digit in turn like an arpeggio on the piano keys.   Most days I cannot get him to put on a pair of shoes at all.  Putting on a pair of sandals usually takes between 5 and 15 minutes for two shoes.  I am uncertain whether to laugh or cry.

His body riles, a pit of  snakes that roil and writhe.  He is in a state of perpetual motion, unprecedented.  His huge eyes are wide open in an expression of interest and surprise.  He grinds his teeth as his face registers change like the riffle of  a well shuffled deck of cards.  His mouth tic is the worst it has ever been and the dribble is unmistakable.  Inside the house he walks with stiff legs, around and around and around, a bear without a cage.  His shoulders are high, so that he has no neck, head set at angle whilst his face is that of an expert gurner.  Both arms are crooked and locked, one bent at the elbow to display a branch of twig fingers.   He continues to chat.  I am terrified and ecstatic.

He runs about the house with a purpose.  He has several different purposes throughout the day.  One purpose doesn’t encroach upon another.  He manages each one separately without distractions, interference or interruptions.  I have no idea what is happening in his head, I can only see what is happening to his body and guess.

When bed time arrives at 8, he is still wired.  We allow his siblings to slumber.  Downstairs during the night time, is a distressing time.  He does not understand why he cannot sleep.  We discuss the matter with him because we can, discuss, that is to say.  We read books and cuddle the boy who is no longer an interloper but a fine new friend.

Eventually, just after two in the morning, he falls asleep.

Cheer up, it’s a small price to pay, in “theory.”


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Pain Threshold

Once long ago, lost in the mists of time, I visited the dentist in England.

Was it ever thus?

I went along for a particularly nasty procedure, which involved serious anesthesia. The kindly dentist assured me that he would gradually increase the dosage and within 5 – 10 minutes I would feel nothing. Once I felt nothing, he would proceed. I had nothing to worry about, not at all.

After half an hour and an ever increasing dose of pain medication, I was still lively and alert. He upped the dosage again and again and again. After an hour and a half I was dosed. I have a vague recollection that sounded like “enough to put out a cart horse!” and then nothing. To this date, I do not know if I need more anesthetic than Mrs. Average or whether I just need longer for it to take effect?

I have reason to recall this incident as I sit by the bedside of my son in the Emergency Room. Do not fear, it is only a squished finger, but you can’t be too careful. The bones are perfect. The gaping wound is a lucky escape. A finger in the hinge of a door, is likely to come off the worse in battle. During the last hour and a half, we have experienced lots of ‘owie, it hurts bad,’ but no tears. Broadly speaking his pain threshold is unusually low. He tumbles and bumbles about his life full of scratches and bruises, with seemingly no ill effects.

At the triage station we experience a meltdown. “Is he in a great deal of pain?” asks the nurse. I attempt a smile as I calm my son in a heap on the floor. I promise him faithfully that although he has missed ‘electronics time’ that whenever we manage to return home, he will be allowed to have his 30 minutes reward.
“But it will be night!” he squeaks, incredulous.
“I know, but that doesn’t matter. You can play electronics in the middle of the night, just this once.”
“But dah rule!” he gasps, mystified.
“We’ll skip the rule for tonight, just for tonight. Any time that you go to the ER will be an ‘electronics at night’ night.” He bristles with delight, let’s his head drop to my sternum and mutters, “Fank you mom, you are dah bestest, ever!” His face is alive with glee and excitement. Does he even have a blood drenched finger? He chortles and wriggles with joyful anticipation.

A Tuesday night is a relatively quiet night so we are truly fortunate to glide through the bureaucratic system. He does not seem particularly perturbed by the vast quantities of blood.

I am in my best all star cheerleader mode. I am so upbeat and jolly that I know I am the sort of person I would shoot, that is if I were not an upstanding member of the anti gun lobby. I take care to assert enough positive attitude to assure my son that we will, eventually, leave the hospital with his finger still attached to his person, his primary concern. His secondary concern is that he will be unable to play any of his electronic games with a malfunctioning finger.

I greet all pertinent members of staff and discretely point to the ‘speech delay’ part of his notes. They in turn, give me the benefit of the doubt: not a deranged hysterical mother.

I explain how it happened and my son interjects with his cartoon, hysterical voice, “she did it to me!” he bellows. He thrusts an accusatory finger at the centre of the room, where there is an empty space. The doctor looks askance, but I don’t particularly care. I continue. High jinks between siblings, an accident. “I’m gonna get her good!” he continues, in the menacing, ‘evil doer,’ cartoon character. I don’t know if the doctor is familiar with scripting, but it’s irrelevant to the current proceedings. “When I git me home, I’m gonna do her wrong!” he adds, in what seems to my untutored ear, like a perfect Texan accent. I don’t explain or excuse.

A needle of any kind, is not generally an attractive tool in a hospital. The staff are careful, they do not let him see it. Jabs, or shots, as we say in the States, alway produce a negative reaction, but it has to be done. I hold his other hand, his free hand, as the rest of his body is encased in a blue Velcro restraint, for his and the staff’s protection. It would be difficult for any child to remain still. The more still he is, the quicker the procedure will be, the sooner he will be released and all will be well.

I stroke his hair and hold his hand. I talk slowly and calmly. The local anesthetic induces a squeak of pain and surprise, his body tenses with the squalk of “oweei!” He holds it together with a quivering lip and moist eyes.

When the threaded needle pierces his flesh his eyes spout fountains of water, arcing rivulets. They fly from each one, his body rigid and arched, mouth open with screams that rip and shred the air.

“He can’t feel it. It can’t hurt him,. Sometimes they get confused between pain and sensation,” she adds catching my eye. Her stitches are swift and all is over within a minute. It is the longest minute that either of us have ever experienced. I rip off my bifocals and wipe my face, as he does not need confirmation that I have failed and betrayed him, that I should have anticipated and protected him. I am tempted to bite the physician because the correct words escape me. So base, so visceral, so instinctive.

Nothing will convince me that it was sensation rather than pain, but of course, we parents know nothing, far too emotionally involved.

Should you need a little light relief, come and visit me “here.”


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Rules is rules you Ninny!

I stand at the kitchen counter fighting and cursing, silently. Junior saunters over to drape himself at my side.

“We can be having dah electronics now? It is being dah 5:30!” I check the clock. [translation = never trust a child on a mission] I know I should check for chore completion but the rising waves of pain are making me fractious.
“Were you a good boy today for the baby sitter?” I offer lamely.
“Ooo yes, I was being dah extra, extra good.” Why do I doubt his veracity?
“Really? Well I’m very pleased to hear that!” But I still don’t believe it. I glance around to notice that the carpet is visible. [translation = tidy toys task is completed]
“Well it certainly is very tidy around here! You must have done a marvelous job?”

He offers me no further information. I dither for a few moments, watching his expectant face.
“O.k. then, let me find the key, and we’ll turn it on in 3 minutes.” I set the visual timer to three minutes, just long enough to read the instructions on the bottles and swig down a quick dose of painkillers. My son watches me.
“You forgotted?”
“I did? What did I forget?”
“Dah rule.”
“Which rule might that be then?”
“Er….the danger….dah cutting…….dah I don know!” he squalks frustrated by his inability to recall the rule, the rule that I made up, repeat often and then ignore myself. I grab him quickly to cut off the meltdown, to reward him for his efforts at reciprocal exchange, for his staggering ability to demonstrate that the theory of mind belongs to the rat population. “Yes, yes, yes, you’re quite right, ‘never open anything bought in America without a pair of scissors in one hand and a cleaver in the other’.” He grins at me, revealing crooked English teeth. I make a mental note to ensure that all additional rules, whether for adults or children, are kept succinct.

“What you are do?” he asks solicitously. [translation = we both know that I am attempting to open my medication, following a visit to the dentist. Since he already knows this, he is merely being conversational, a significant development for an autistic child with a speech delay] Horray!
“Well I just need a pill or two for my teeth.” I am careful to avoid the term ‘pain management.’ Although this Americanism is now familiar, I doubt if it will translate to well to a six year old. I also suspect that the use of the word ‘pain’ will trigger a traumatic reaction. [translation = OCD response to any trigger word that is associated with death, and there are far more of them than one might first imagine, even if you happen to have a dictionary handy. ]
“ Your teef are hurted?”
“Not really,” I reassure, “stuck in some Petri dish somewhere,” I mutter as I rip packaging and accumulate paper cuts.
“Dah dentist be grow new teef for you?” Lummy. How can he know ‘Petri’ dish and it’s associations, but have no knowledge of whether a ‘pear’ is a fruit or a vegetable or even edible?
“Oh no. She’ll just throw them away.”
“Oh. So no hurt den?”
“Oh, only a little bit, so if I take some of these now, it will stop it from getting any worse.” I peer at the small print regarding dosage through dirty bifocals, with an out of date prescription . [translation = the bifocals not the medication]
“How many?” he asks.
“I have no idea. I think it’s two Advil for 8 hours and then two Tylenol for four hours, to overlap, or is it the other way around?” I mutter as brain function reduces in direct correlation to increase in pain.
“I fink dat maybe you are be making dah mistake,” he offers in a slightly warbling tone, the one he uses when he is trying to be cute and persuasive. [translation = rare] I contemplate whether it is wise for a 47 year old English woman to take medical advice from an American six year old? There again, he is an American! [translation = a race blessed with medical knowledge imbibed from their parents after birth, or perhaps in vitro?]
“I fink dis is dah one you be needing.” His index finger, the extra sensitive one, pokes the third bottle. [translation = Vicodin] I try and ignore the fact that my son is encouraging his mother to take the hardcore drug option.
“Why that one dear?” I can’t help myself, I just have to know.
“Well, first it is being dah cutsey one.” Firstly! Do I detect the appearance of voluntary sequencing?
“Yes, it is a rather cute bottle.” [translation = I withdraw all my prejudice against over-use of the word ‘cute’]
“Den it is being dah golden,” he oozes with breathy awe.
“Ah yes, yellow is your favourite colour.”
“Last, er third, er lasty, it being started with a ‘V’” he sighs with dreamy fluttering eyelids. [translation = the less commonly used letters are the most favourted ones]
“Well that is sound advice, dear. Thank you.”


The other two appear from nowhere. “Time for electronics! Can I watch t.v. first?” she pleads, weary after a day at camp.
“Well I promised the boys electronics first, as a reward for being so good for the baby sitter whilst I was at the dentist.” [translation = 5 hours equates to financial ruin]
“No fair! They already had t.v.” she snaps with annoyance.
“No they haven’t, they’ve been here with the baby sitter all day, whilst you were at camp.”
“Yes, we did!” offers my oldest son, the young man who is too honest for his own good. [translation = defends all his siblings and stray felines without a second thought]
“What do you mean? I still have the key!” I open my palm to double check my sanity level. [translation = visual prompt for a visual learner on the cusp of senility]
“Yes, but, but, but……..” he fizzles out. Instead of having a meltdown, he points to the family room. I follow him. The armoire is open. The telly sits there, surrounded by a plethora of remote control devices. I reach up and touch the screen. It is warm.
“See!” he explains. “We wuz very, very good.” I try not to frown or pout or scream. [translation = the real cost of 5 hours of baby sitting, the real pain of 5 hours of baby sitting]
“What were you doing that was so…..good?”
“Well, I wuz fightin, er I mean, we wuz fightin.”
“I see.” I practice breathing. [translation = ommmm]
“She said…babysitter said…. he wuz dah loudest,… an I said ‘no, he is dah loudest in dah world ever,’ every one is knowing dat!” he summarizes with glee. [translation = marks awarded to all those who are able to count the number of negative reinforcements here?] Junior pops back into the room with a question, “I fink you are dah stoopid!”
Well really! That’s all I need, the return of the name calling phase. [translation = a habit I thought we had extinguished]
“Now come along, we don’t name call, remember?”
“No! I am saying you are STOOPID!”
Oh please! Not now! Can’t we do this later, in five minutes or half an hour, whenever the pain killers kick in? “Now listen…” He cuts me off, “No, you are not listening to me!” Golly, where did that come from? Echolalic, scripting? “I say, you not take medicine for dah teef. DAT is stoopid.” I brace myself.
“Why is it stupid to take medicine dear?”
“Coz dah teef are in dah Petri dish not in your mowf!.” [translation = extractions] I smile gingerly, floored by the logic. What a ninny I am! [translation = foolish person]


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Danger lurks around every corner

I take my youngest autistic son to the supermarket with me. [translation = grocery store] To say that such an errand was akin to punishment, would be an understatement, but I am out of options today. Like most children, shopping is one of his least favourite activities, [translation = me too!] but malnutrition is but one missing meal away.

I have carefully chosen an alternative store. This alternative store, has one overwhelming advantage over it’s competitors, one that the store owners are probably blissfully unaware of. The shop has electric doors, which are the bane of many a parent’s life. [translation = they’re open, they’re closed, hop in, hop out, get in the way off all customers who arrive or leave, as they are invisible, chortle merrily throughout]

However, in this particular sanctuary, the electric doors have foolishly been located in close proximity to the produce section. [translation = fruit and veg] Few things are as obnoxious as fruit and veg, to my son. The stench of produce is more than sufficient to curtail his door activities, or at least that is what I am hoping.

The produce department has long been an area of fear and dread because periodically, water sprays down upon the lush vegetation, a mist of glistening droplets. Whilst for most people this adds to the enticement, for others it is a deterrent. [translation = sensory] Should you see a small child scream and run for cover amongst the boxes of green bananas under the tressel table, clearly he is a hooligan on a quest to trample fruit. Or even a larger child for that matter.

I have only three or four items on my shopping list. I encourage his help but he will have none of it, nor will he touch the list. He won’t touch the small piece of favourite yellow coloured paper, because it is paper. [translation = tactile defensiveness, but we’re working on it] Additionally, my list is hand written and fails to meet his standards of cursive letter formation. [translation = I imagine that he would find fault with the copperplate of monks too]

I nearly trip over a basket that some idiot has abandoned in the middle of the aisle. Why do people do that? The inconsiderate nature of the general public never ceases to amaze me! My son chortles, “Elliot is idiot, Elliot is idiot, Elliot is idiot.” His scripting is right on target, which is excessively irritating. [translation = many speech delayed children use clumps of words that they collect from here and there. More often than not, the spirit of the phrase is accurate, like a dart.]

To distract himself from the pain of shopping, he reads every label aloud, loudly. This innocent pastime engages him as he bolts around with his arms folded across his chest in a protective gesture. He startles and jumps at things that I am unable to identify. [translation = hyper-vigilance] In the dairy aisle he fondles eggs and cooes gently at them. Strangely, eggs, any eggs, are always soothing to both the boys. It is as they have magical powers, even though neither of the boys eat them. This is the calmest 7 seconds that we experience.

He queries labels and harangues me with questions with every step. For every step that I take, he takes ten, rushing around in the style of a skateboarder. I choose my last item. [translation = grab something that looks vaguely like what I want and hurl it in the basket] “We are done?” he sparks.
“We are.” He accelerates off in a tail spin to the bakery department to choose his treat. [translation = task completion and reward time, for holding it together for 12 minutes]

He skids to a premature halt aghast at the view. I look at the cakes and notice that each set has a hand written label. [translation = it would appear that the bakery does not employ monks] He covers his mouth with his hands and bounces on the spot. [translation = a dilemma of the tallest order, how to look at the cakes and yet screen out the offensive labels?] He agonizes for a few more moments before a bolt of spare bravery comes to his rescue. He takes one long single step, very slowly, to bring his body close to the glass. He stands rigid with his arms close to his sides and his eyes closed. He breathes slowly and deliberately. When he’s ready, his eyes snap open and absorb the cakes.

“What is it?”
“What is what dear?”
“Petit?” Oh dear, a new word, a foreign word. Do I want my son to learn foreign words at this juncture? Other than “Brioche?”
“It means ‘little’ dear.”
“Why it is four? Why it not three?” [translation = his current favourite number]
“It’s the name of a cake dear, “petit four,” means little cake. It’s French, a different language.” [translation = actually it means ‘little oven,’ but I didn’t know that at the time] He mouth starts to move, he puffs and blows like a steam engine pulling away from the station.

“Dat is dah most stoopidest…….”

Oh dear. A level 8 meltdown ensues to the horror of all the surrounding shoppers. At six and a half, he is too large to be rolling around on the tiled floor screaming. There are too many feet and too many table legs for this to be safe. I have no option but to scoop him up and retire to edge of the wall.

Seven minutes later he has still not regained the power of speech, but he is able to lift an arm to point. I follow where his index finger indicates. The sign on the cakes reads ‘Large Petit Four.’ For him, to have ‘little’ and ‘large’ in the same description, on the same label, is too much of a contradiction for him to be able to fathom or tolerate.

I decide to give it best. [translation = admit defeat] I leave my basket of four items un-purchased. I carry my son, limp, exhausted and ever so slightly damp. [translation = ignore the rule about ‘no carrying under any circumstances’ = another campaign failure] Surely there must be something edible in the freezer at home that I can unearth? I sneak one of the cookie samples for him as compensation. [translation = and pray to the basket collector to forgive me my idiocy]

Recently, someone, probably ‘anonymous,’ implied that I might indeed be losing my grip on my rather tenuous sanity. Should you care to share your own opinions on this vexing matter, please comment upon whether I really do have a “screw loose.”


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Not autism just complex advanced laundry skills

When I was a youthful person, several life times ago, one of my hobbies was sub-aqua diving. Dive suits are made of neophrene. After every dive it is necessary to rinse off your suit with fresh water to ensure that this expensive piece of equipment does not rot prematurely. Ideally it should be left to dry under natural conditions. [translation = say no to tumble driers] If you care for your suit it will give you years of trouble free wear.

Like many of the younger generation, my spoiled children enjoy the pampering of a lightweight wetsuit. [translation = no goosebumps for my little wimps] It is a well documented fact, that they only people who have swimming pools are movie stars, millionaires and show offs. [translation = and a few Californians, although these categories are not mutually exclusive] Around here, we lucky people enjoy a swimming pool in our very own garden and it is kept warm by solar panels on the roof of the house.

As soon as the pool water reaches 96 degrees, junior deems the temperature acceptable, dons his wet suit and gingerly makes progress. [translation = there’s the ‘wetness’ campaign too.] Each year, the wetness campaign becomes shorter. As the days pass and the water becomes warmer still, we find that junior delights in wetness at a sloshing 99 degrees. [translation = but still in his wetsuit] My little chap is his own personal mobile sauna. [translation = and a very speedy one at that]

Following a nasty bout of stomach flu, we have returned to our normal routine. Children splash, scream a lot, and frequently give the appearance of drowning. [translation = senior prefers to hover just below the surface, immobile for long periods of time] Thus, when the squalker erupts from the pool making rooster noises, I am immediately aware that something is up. The something that is up, is unknown, because the ‘up’ is so distressing, that words have abandoned him. Instead, he rain dances at high speed and tippy toes on the hardcore. After a couple of athletic jumping jacks, he kicks starts his body into remedial action and spins off in the direction of the toilet.

I supervise the swimmers deep in thought. Why does he look like a cartoon so much of the time? 85% of his time is spent at high speed. [translation = fast forward] He runs where most people would walk or saunter. It’s not just the tippy toes that seem cartoonish. What is it? The fact that his arms are straight, rigid against his body? That may be part of it. I run the video of the runner through my mind’s eye. Of course! It’s because usually when you run, you lean forward, sort of in to the wind, whereas he is vertical, suspended by an invisible, taught string running through his torso, so that his legs seem disengaged from the rest of him. [translation = “Irish Dancing”] I am just patting myself of the back for unraveling this conundrum, when the rooster crows reach level 10 volume with accompanying bangs and crashes. Oh no! He’s in his wetsuit! The one with the zip up the back. I dash into the loo. Too late. He lies on the floor, curled like a shrimp having convulsions.

He takes a considerable amount of time to cleanse his personage to his requirements. [translation = not just clean, but sanitized to hospital standards] Remarkably he is in fairly good spirits following this trauma and anxious to return to the pool. [translation = stomach flu free and returned to normal functioning] We both glance at the contaminated wetsuit. “Sorry dear, that’s not going to be so easy to clean.”
“Oh no! What am I be going to be doing now?” he sighs.
“It’s a bit of a stumper!”
“Good golly! This has gotta be the end of life as we know it on this planet!” [translation = gotta love the appropriate scripting]
“Maybe you could wear a swimming costume instead?” [translation = trunks?]
“No, no, no. I am not a fish.”
“Fish?”
“No net, no net, no net.” I think. I think about boy’s swimming costumes, those loose garments that permit unfettered movement when swimming. I look at the three new virgin pairs of swimming trunks that he refuses to wear even though I have washed them many times in order to soften them. I grab a pair of scissors, vandalize the garment and remove the netting.

“There you go! Perfect!” He rests his forehead against my hip bone for a few seconds, all the thanks and acknowledgment I need. [translation = more than] He skips towards the pool and hurls himself in with glee. [translation = wet all over but no wetsuit.] I stand next to the soiled wetsuit.

[translation = how do you wash them when they’re in that condition?]
Should I have posted this in “Alien” instead?


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The curse of sun kisses

I am blessed with freckles, so many that you can't put a pin between them. Whilst I used to loathe them, I have gradually grown to accept the status quo. This occurred in part, due to gentle gentleman in France. He explained to me, that in Germany, people call freckles 'sun kisses,' which somehow sounded so much better.

Now that my skin is turning into rhino hide, my ancient wisdom is reflected in age spots instead. I don't know the German for age spots but they don't fuss me much either. The ones that really annoy me, are the badly placed marks. In this particular instance, it is not vanity, more the unexpected consequences of having a mark where a mark should not be.

The visual acuity of an autistic child [or adult] can often be quite extraordinary. This means that a cluster of random freckles that overlay one another, especially as the sun moves us into Summer, become the equivalent of constellation study. Groups of freckles can become shapes. [translation = or letters or numbers]

The boring collections of freckles sometimes pretend to be a nose leak or a blob of chocolate on the corner of your mouth. Sometimes, as Summer heats up and holidays are in full swing, they might be mistaken for dried blood, if you were so inclined to interpret it in that manner. Some autistic children deliberately choose to interpret collections of freckles as being dried blood, merely to drive the freckler to distraction.

Snot, blood and all other bodily fluids are a cause of great angst in the little one. [translation = OCD clean] Whilst we are working on this aspect of his autism, like so many other campaigns, it can be difficult to manage them all simultaneously. [translation = some take priority over others, such as the food campaign] Blood would definitely score most highly on the Richter scale. Thereafter would be a wide variety of foods. One can also throw in the variable of temperature such as cold ice-cream or warmer than strictly necessary oatmeal, as well as every variation on a theme. Snot would be a high ranker but it would be hard to place it accurately on the continuum.

By the Memorial Day weekend, I have spent sufficient hours playing in the garden, to ensure that my skin has been exposed to the suns rays long enough to make bursts of freckle compilations appear everywhere. [translation = well everywhere that the sun shone, in any case]

I hunker down to wipe chocolate pudding off his face. Whilst I wipe his face, he watches mine. His eyes scrutinize every wrinkle.

“Ah! You are blood. You are dead? You are ill? What you are? Ah! Ah! Ah! Don touch me or I be dead too, go away!” Verbal expressions are of course a joy. [translation = so much better that the screaming meltdown with no clue as to the cause] Few people could be expected to interpret a meltdown as being caused by melanin. Such worries and concerns can quickly spiral out of control, as demonstrated by my son's premature exit from the room, a little vortex of over stimulated nerve endings. He takes himself to the furthest point in the house to maximize the distance between himself and the alleged dried blood.

I seek him out in the hope of translating the evidence in a more enlightened view. [translation = I know most of his hidey holes]

I know that he hears my footsteps approach from 500 yards away. [translation = supersonic hearing] If there were any doubt in my mind, that I might accidentally surprise him by my arrival, this worry is dismissed as I hear him crow. He crows like a rooster. He does this because the correct words to accurately describe his distress are unavailable to him. They are unavailable to him because he is experiencing distress.

It only takes about 10 minutes of breathing and massage to calm him down sufficiently for him to be able to attend to my words. The logic of my explanation is faultless. His index finger very bravely checks my veracity. Surprise! Indeed, I was telling the truth all the time, only coloured skin, no blood.

Big brother appears to peruse the scene. He stands with his legs astride his brother to assess the situation. He peers at my face as I explain the difficulty. He contemplates for a few moments. [translation = plays for time whilst he retrieves suitable words of comment] He offers his verbal support to bulk up my conclusions, “it's o.k.! Listen up little buddy! It's not dah blood, it's dah snot!” Gotta love those scripts! Boys 2 : Mum nil. [again]

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