Broadcast family secrets with a loudhailer

O.k. so maybe “'secret'” is a bit of an exaggeration, but all the same, you'd think these kids would keep a lid on it! Are their social skills so dodgy that they're unaware that you just 'don't do' that kind of a thing? Yes, a rhetorical question of course, but it still pulls you up short when it happens again.

I adopt the composed demeanour of a woman in control. My stiff upper lip may be numb but my teeth are chain linked into rigidity. It has the effect of making me feel fully corseted. I glide to the first class room to await junior. I glide so as to avoid any vibrations that might inadvertently make my head rattle. I come to a dignified halt and pause just as one of his Aides emerges from the class room in a hurry. “Are you o.k.?” she asks with genuine concern, “you look ……kindof funny?” Great and I thought my disguise was working so well! I flap a hand towards my mouth and part my lips for her, “eeeooow!” she grimaces, “no wonder, that does look nasty. Don't worry you don't have to talk.” She scampers off, leaving me to be mobbed by the escaping children. I hunker down for Junior as he hops skips towards me with his hands fluttering over his head and ears, as they try to work out which is in greater need of protection from the blustery wind? He peers into my dark glasses, “can I see dem?” I make an open hand gesture, which he correctly interprets as 'see what?'
“Yur teef stoopid!” I oblige. He turns on his heel and rushes back to his teacher to scream at her.
“Mr. K! Mrs. K! Mrs.K!” he bellows at 50 decibels. He inserts his body between his teacher and the other child that she is currently attending to. He is now even more difficult to ignore as he pogos before her with the palms of his hands clamped to his ears, ruffled by the wind, over-stimulated by the crowd, over stretched at the end of a long school day. She rests a hand on each of his shoulders to calm him and let him know that he now has her undivided attention. He blasts her face with his announcement “my Mum is still broken. Her mowf is not workin. No talkin today!” he roars. A ripple eddies through the crowd, as a sea of faces orientate themselves towards us.

“Good job!” she exclaims. “That means you're gonna have to use your good words and your listening ears to help mom, huh!”
I love her!
This is why it's so important to make sure that the irritating little phrases you use at home, are the same as the irritating little phrases that they use at school.

My older son comes galloping down the incline to join us. He drops his back pack after a few yards, his fingers grasp handfuls of trouser leg as they slowly give way to gravity and inadequate elastic. On arrival he attempts to brake but careens into me muttering 'sorry, sorry' in a little loop of breathiness. He adopts a pose, the one of the skier on the slope, legs together, knees bent, ready to push off. His arms extend forwards to either side of my body, rigid as a robot. He leans forward, face off to the right, as he doesn't want to be suffocatingly close. His head knocks against my sternum woodpecker style, a little jack hammer of pent up but restrained emotion. I'm so glad that he's happy to see me! “We bowf do dah not talkin today,” he says, the more non-verbal one. Clearly he heard every word of his brother's performance, even though he was more than 100 yards away outside his own classroom.

Mind you, he was downwind I suppose.


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Early days 3

After the boys had been diagnosed with autism, together with their respective speech delays, I looked forward to the commencement of ‘therapy’ in it’s many and various forms.  I went along armed with a notebook and pen, to sit in on the sessions so that I could learn what they were doing and how, so that I could reinforce everything at home.  I was also secretly hoping that I would find all their magic tricks.  I would learn what I was doing wrong. I would learn whatever it was that I should be doing and I would learn to do it better.  I would do it better than anyone else, for longer than anyone else and I would make it work.

Although I had read everything I could lay my hands on but I had the distinct feeling that I was missing something, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was.

From the time of their being diagnosed to the start of therapy I had coped well, or what I considered to be ‘well’ under the circumstances.  I knew that the boys were autistic because I had done something wrong, although I wasn’t quite sure what that was either.  I had determined, if not to ‘make amends,’ at least to adopt a positive stance to our change of circumstances.  I had told the people who needed to be told.  We ‘regrouped’ at home and intensified our learning.  I put what I learned into practice in an amateur manner, confident that soon, experts would intervene to put us on the right track.

Therapy commenced, an intensive programme for both the boys, individually. I watched and waited.  There are few things as frustrating for a parent as having to watch [and pay] for 50 minutes of speech therapy where your child refuses to utter a syllable.  I waited to see what would happen, what was the magic key to force him to speak?  Sometimes I could do it at home, sometimes I couldn’t but the difference between the two, were beyond me, a mystery.  The experts would know.  They would teach me, I would learn.

After a few of these sessions where the therapist debriefs the parent on conclusion, I asked what we should be doing at home.  I was advised that homework would be very helpful.  For that week we should perhaps go to the park.  As he climbed up the ladder I should chant ‘up, up, up’ and ‘down, down, down’ on the other side.  Additionally, a Nursery Rhyme [I forget which one now] would be of great benefit.

It was one of the few times that I burst into tears in front of a professional.  The shock was profound, I was bereft.  That was it?  Did she think I had kept my son in a cardboard box under the stairs for the previous three and a half years? There were no magic tricks.

I turned away from my son so that he would not see me weep and attempted to compose myself, straighten my limp upper lip.  If I’m honest, I don’t really know what I was expecting from the experts?  I was so sure that I was missing something, that there was something else I should be doing or should stop doing, as if everybody else in the world ‘knew’ but that it was a secret that I was not party too.

I’d like to tell you that he ran to my arms for a hug, to wipe away my tears and said “I love you mum,” something uplifting, funny or tender but I can’t tell a blatant lie.

I only had to wait another four years for him to say those words.

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