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From a few days ago………

Good parents don't typecast their children.

Good parents avoid labels such as 'Henry, our little athlete, Mary our little mother, Poppy our little jokester.'

There are so many reasons why it is a mistake to label our children. Once they've been cast, they often strive to meet those expectations. Even when they are mis-labeled, the effect can still be profound. Parents can miss a whole slew of information because they're not looking for it. If the 'mother' child makes a joke, the parent fails to notice, because that isn't the jokey child. If the jokey child runs a four minute mile, no-one notices. We see what we expect to see, we miss anything and everything that doesn't fit into our preconceived perspective. Or maybe that's just me?

“I'll make an appointment as soon as they're open dear.”
“Now?”
“No at 9:00, they open at nine.”
“What time is it now?”
“Er….7:21,” I scurry after him like a jogging buddy even though I am terminally allergic to any form of exercise.
“How many minutes?”
“Er…….99.”
“How many seconds?”
“Er…………………..five hundred……five hundred and forty, I think?”
“I will have a different pill?” He has lost the 'non-verbal' part of his label. I have lost my marbles.
“Maybe, or perhaps a smaller one. Do you remember the doctor showed you the three sizes of pills”
“Yes. It is the pill that gives me the headache?”
“Yes I think so.”

As we chat, he moves. My slow lugubrious, laborious, lethargic 8 year old marches swiftly around the house and I follow in his wake. When I say ‘march,’ I mean exactly that. Instead of walking on his tippy, tippy toes, digits splayed, he has his heels on the ground, a rare and quite startling alteration, but only one of so many. His hands touch the furniture in time to the band of his feet, but his head flicks towards me at regular intervals.
“As you were saying….” he says, which nearly makes me trip over my own feet.
“I was? What was I saying?”
“You were saying about tummy aches.”
“I was?”
“Yes. You said that they weren't as bad as headaches.” Where has my recall gone?
“Ah yes. Well I don't really know, but I think that headaches are so bad that you can't do anything, just lie down in bed, but with tummy aches you can keep going.” However, I'm not really sure that I can keep going? It is only 7:22 in the morning. The pill has been in his system 40 minutes and I am already completely out of my depth, trotting behind my son, trying to catch every word. I am so muddled and befuddled.

I have been told that most people are already set in their ways by their early 30’s rather than their 40’s. We become incapable of adopting a major change. At best, we can hope to alter less than 5% of our character, behaviour and opinions. Imagine that! A titchy little 5%. The only caveat to this research is where a person has a life altering catastrophe, such a near death experience. Those individuals cast off the shackles of the past and are reborn. I had accepted this fact as truth. The idiom ‘old stick in the mud,’ could have been tattooed on my forehead, but now, evidence to the contrary blasts me on a daily basis.

“Wait up! I'll be right back.” He lifts a hand in a parting farewell gesture as his body shifts into super fast gear and whizzes out of the kitchen. I scramble after him, through the galley, past the utility room, into the garage, out of the door, down the path I scamper after the galloping, sneaker covered, feet of my son.

This isn't my runner. This isn't my Houdini, the energizer bunny that spins into the path of oncoming traffic. This is my dormouse, the sleepy, gentle child curled in a teapot.

This is the wrong son doing the wrong thing. I hear the traffic and see my shambolic boy, as he widens the gap between us. I run. I see the traffic. I run faster. I hear the hoot, the blare of a horn. I fly, dressing gown gaping to rugby tackle him to the ground.

It only seems a few seconds ago that I was too scared to correct his speech, fearful that the few words that he spoke voluntarily, would dry up. This is all so new, relatively. I've been reluctant to risk correction, short of rephrasing and repeating the right version. Far to scared to extinguish the spark.

“What are you doing mum?” he asks slightly dazed, sprawled on the concrete.
I squeeze him tight and run an eye over him to see how much damage I've caused.
“It's o.k. mum, I'm not hurt, er hurted, I mean hurt, I was right the first time!”
“Oh.”
“What is it, what's wrong, why are you crying? I only went to get the newspaper for you! Here, it's got a great picture on the front!”

Post script – please do not rush out to your paediatrician based on this post. There is a huge downside that I’ve not had a chance to compose, other than the OCD. There is no such thing as a free lunch.


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Insatiable curiosity


Nonna is visiting for the summer. She is a little hard of hearing but has the debatable benefit of hearing aides. [translation = where are they?] She attempts washing up amid many gallons of water and a non functioning tap, [translation = faucet] whilst I make lunch for the masses.

“When will it be fixed?” she asks at the fountain streams and floods the kitchen counters and floor.
“Two weeks for the parts to come and heaven knows when we can ever find a plumber,” I bellow. [translation = or afford one]
“Is it original?”
“Original?”
“Did it come with the house or is it new?”
“I have no idea.”

I mop the floor with old towels as the boys attempt to skate. [translation = fall over, bump themselves, get very wet and have meltdowns for all three reasons]

“Why it is?”
“Why is what dear?”
“Why it is wet?”
I point to the broken tap.
“No!” he screeches with annoyance, “no, why is dah water wet?”
“Water is always wet, that's what water is, wet!” I am annoyed at my inadequate explanation of something so straight forward. I am annoyed that the other one has run away to hide with a catering sized jar of peanut butter. [translation = in America these jars are the same size as a small person’s head] I hunt him down, leaving the other two questioners to their own devices.

“Come along now, you know that's not good for you. If you eat too much you'll be sick.”
“Why I am sick?”
“No, you're not sick…. yet, but you will be if you eat too much of that, it's too rich.”
“Rich? You mean expensive?”
Pardon me! I didn't know he even knew that word and such a perfect delivery!
“Er, no, not expensive, too…….too……fatty.”
“Fatty! Fatty? Is not being fatty it is……er……..a solid liquid. See?” He extracts a finger from the jar with a slick of peanut butter. I hear Nonna squeak in response to the cascading tap and scurry back into the kitchen clutching the jar of peanut butter to my chest.

“When's lunch gonna be ready mum?” my daughter asks quite reasonably as I reach across the sink.
“At this rate we'll be lucky if we're ready by dinner time!” I mutter under my breath. [translation = evening meal time] Instead I offer something more optimistic, in the hope of stemming the tide of enquiries, if not the fountain of water, “just give me five minutes dear.”

“How many seconds are der being in dah five minutes?”
“300!” I snap as I set the visual timer.

“Is it new that?” asks Nonna, flapping a hand in the direction of the timer. I think of all the timers that we have in the household but I have no idea in what order we bought them nor how old this particular timer is. “I have no idea. Newish I think.”
“You had it last year when I was here?” she continues. I think. We've had the visual one forever.
“Yes.” I am confident that is the correct and truthful answer.
“I don't remember it,” she murmours. I am uncertain how or if, to respond in view of the number of hours I spend looking for the many accessories that she possesses, but is unable to find.

She stacks the last cup on the side of the sink in a precarious position. “What about this one then?”
“What one?”
“This thing here…….the dishwasher. Is it new, or did it come with the house?” I take a deep breath. I cannot quite work out why I am so irrationally annoyed with this innocent question? I am tempted to run round the house and take an inventory of every item to date stamp each one. [translation = post date] I exhale as the next round of questions come flowing from a couple of speech delayed people.

“When I am gone?”
“Pardon? Do you mean 'where have you been'?”
“Er, no I …..’mean?’….., er……..what it is 'been'? Bean? Bean! Mean and bean rhyme! I do not like bean…..er ….beans.”

I feel that I have lost the thread of every conversation.

“You think this is a new one?” asks Nonna waving the sodden towel at me.
“No, definitely old, almost a rag, only used for mopping up.” At last I have identified an accurate fact.
“It looks like brand new to me!” she baulks.

“Mum!”
“Yes dear.” I try and suppress the 'what is it now' tone in my voice.
“Do you think that Hermit crabs can smell?”
“Yes. They definitely have an enhanced sense of smell, so that they can find their food and sense enemies approaching.” At last I have identified an accurate fact.
“No. I mean can they smell. They smell bad. Do you think one's “died?”

“What it is?” shouts the next one at full volume.
“What is what dear?”
“It is dah midnight blue or dah indigo?” I grit my teeth and look around for anything, anything at all, that could remotely be described as blue. I can see nothing within my immediate vicinity. [translation = or his] “Can you point to it dear?” He takes his hand out of his pocket, uncurls his fingers and reveals a tiny piece of lego.
“Mid blue” I pronounce.
“Midnight?”
“No, just mid.”
“Can I be putting dah little 'l' and dah little 'e' after dah mid?”

I have the urge to go and dead head the roses, or shred a head of lettuce with the sharpest knife in the drawer or cut the grass with a pair of nail scissors. I decide that my brain has died and that I too, have completely run out of words. [translation = or at least any useful ones]


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Autism Awareness Month – What are you looking at?

Every so often you have the opportunity to step outside yourself and view yourself as others do. This kind of insight usually occurs when you least expect it. One of the [many] times this has happened to me, was on a fairly ordinary day. When I say 'ordinary,' I mean this in the way that 'ordinary' had become for us.

As I am the proud owner, [translation = temporary tenuous custody, at the best of times] of two autistic boys.

At that time, they were still on the smallish side, 39 and 45 lbs respectively, which meant that they were portable. Portable was convenient for me, because their legs only functioned on random occasions. [translation = incipient jelly legs] Added to which, they had a strong preference for being both high up and squished. [translation = the latter referrers to deep proprioceptive input, the former has yet to be formally diagnosed]

Thus if you lie on the floor screaming for long enough, preferably in stereo, you soon learn that your poor benighted mother will carry you. It is a good idea to reward your mother at this point by ceasing to cry, as this will ensure positive reinforcement and ensure that she is quicker next time. In you continue in this vein for long enough, before you know it you'll only need to squeak a bit and just like Pavlov's dog, she'll scoop you up. Easy.

If we then fast forward a couple of years after this kind of exposure, we can now clearly see the woman walking out of the occupational therapist's office towards us. As you watch, two slightly larger children, who have aged a couple of years since we began, scurry on all fours towards the woman, presumably the mother and scurry up her legs like monkeys until they are securely nestled in the waist area, one either side. You, the observer, note that they don't appear to be twins. On closer inspection you are fairly confident that one of them is larger, probably older, but neither has much to say for themselves and at least that dreadful screaming has ceased. You find it quite odd to see three heads aligned in such a manner that has not been posed by a photographer. You cast your mind back to consider when last it was, that you saw three such heads on the same plane?

One child sucks his thumb, or hand, now that you look a little more closely. The other one has his hands planted firmly over each ear. The woman wears dark glasses, as well she might, shame on her! Now where have you seen those three heads before? That's right! Of course! Those three little monkeys, see no evil, hear no evil…..

now don't you say another word!

Parent nil, “monkeys” win again. “This” could be me!

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