Breakthrough – carnivores gnash their teeth

A year onwards from where we were last year. Chipping away at “neophobia.”
[translation = a diet containing less than 20 foods]

We have been going great guns. Junior is now consuming oatmeal, pasta, rice, and applesauce. That constitutes four new foods! Feel free to congratulate us and send us your heart felt best wishes.

I know the campaign has been hard, months actually, added to every meal of the day, but it is beginning to pay dividends at last. Maybe he’s not really eating it as such, but those items do enter the oral cavity. He’s still at the ‘spitting them out afterwards’ stage, [after we’ve counted to four,] but it constitutes movement in the right direction. We count more slowly now too, which makes it more agonizing for him and for us, come to think of it. We try and persuade him to close his mouth, lip touching lip during the count, which is a great advance as you it is difficult to scream if your mouth is shut. [translation = more of a muffled drowning sound] Every time the mouth opens and the screams leap out, we advise him to close them again and begin the counting again, from one. Otherwise it doesn’t count. [translation = would be cheating of course]

Personally I think his therapist is getting a bit above herself. There’s ‘positive’ and ‘enthusiastic’ but there’s also ‘are you completely mad!” I think I managed to cover my surprise quite successfully at the time, when she suggested that we should put the pressure on and make him try meat. Yes! Meat! Has the woman taken leave of her senses? Is she completely insane or merely certifiable? My eyes are wide but I keep my lips firmly clamped together as I process this suggestion. Turkey? Perhaps a little beef? Now I know she’s lost it, but I smile cautiously giving the illusion of agreement and consensus. It’s not as if he’s a vegetarian by choice as such. In fact,if you consider his fish consumption this is clearly untrue, although categorizing ‘goldfish’ in that manner might be a bit of a stretch.

We leave occupational therapy with our four little tubs of tester food; oatmeal, pasta, rice and applesauce. I strap the children into the car, deep in contemplation.

Meat? Turkey, chicken, lamb, beef? What is the blandest, most textureless, flavourless meat on the planet?

Of course! Hot dogs!

I worship the ground that their little American feet walk on.

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Back in a Jiffy

I nip out to Target to buy a gift token for the birthday party tomorrow. As I drive in the rain, I reflect over the holiday week that we have just enjoyed. Back to back play dates and small people everywhere.

This is the first 30 minutes that I have had truly alone in 8 days straight.

Poor spouse has been working throughout that time, including Easter Sunday, rarely returning before 1 in the morning and yet still managing to be on time for work at 8 every day. Poor spouse has averaged 3 to four hours sleep a night, as the children, all of them, are on erratic sleep patterns, which involve frequent visits to our bed. Poor spouse.

During these intervals we have discussed the ‘project at work’ in great detail, although our cognitive skills are challenged in the wee small hours. Poor spouse.

I have enforced the ‘no electronics until 5, IF you are good,’ daily. Apart from the odd trip to the supermarket, I have been bereft of adult company. I have had to content myself with spitting words at a wide variety of people under the age of 9, as well as fielding cogent questions about teeth, braces, elastic bands and international dental care. [translation – my children’s typically developing children with full powers of speech and enquiring minds] I may only be a ‘one man band,’ but the tune has been fairly melodious. The discordant cries of ‘where Daddy is?’ denoted divided loyalties.

I return home 25 minutes later, anxious that poor spouse should not be over burdened with child care responsibilities in his weakened and weary state. As the garage door rattles closed I hear other noises in the interior of the house. In the interior of the house, I see small people wired in to their various electronic devices at 2 in the afternoon. I also hear those little independent electronic devices wittering out their individual annoying tunes. It is a scene that looks so “deceptive.”

Bear in mind, that these are children would remain wired in and tuned out, from now until the next Ice-Age, if I ceased to be on the scene. [translation = not the movie, and ignore global warming for this purpose only]

I see poor spouse with his face reflected in the computer monitor. I step closer. Even on this rain filled day, there is enough light for my shadow to darken his view. He lifts his face to mine in vacant acknowledgement of my presence. His children do likewise.

My vision turns crimson. I contemplate murder suicide, shortly followed by murder and blissfully merry widowhood. I think of blue calming things, such as an ice pick. I practice controlling my airflow, but breathe fire. I step back into the kitchen to regroup.

I consider my options carefully, as I do not wish to ruin a potentially ‘good’ weekend by having a paddy. [translation = throwing a hissy fit]

Stage one – determine whether or not spouse’s computer is perseverating upon work issues or play issues?

I march towards spouse and peer over his shoulder to read the screen = play! Ha!

I adopt a jolly sergeant major tone and speak in a voice loud enough to be heard by each member of the family. [translation= family member] “And what do you suppose you are doing?” I ask him rhetorically. The children recognize the tone and turn towards us. Spouse blinks and parts his lips. I ensure that my eyes are opened to their maximum capacity before continuing, “you know the rules, no electronics until 5!” I pull the power cord from the socket with a flourish. Three children erupt with glee, cast their electronic devices aside and roar guffaws at their father. Mass hysteria ensues, to the non-verbal, yet audible chorus of “if yur gud!”

I suspect that “Kal” doesn’t have these issues, even though she has double trouble too, with twins no less. But there again she’s won an “award.”

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Learn by observation

Many autistic children are reluctant to make eye contact and mine are no exception. Additionally, they do not naturally orientate their bodies or faces to the person that they speak to. The average person, even when they leave mid conversation, is likely to talk over their shoulder as they depart. To have a conversation with someone who is in a constant state of movement is disconcerting. Generally speaking, it is my habit to attempt to reduce those movements, as it is supposed to help them concentrate on their speech, although I’m not entirely convinced. Occasionally, they manage it all by themselves.

I hang over the sink sputtering ineffectually as junior appears at my side. He lies his head on the counter for a better view, pillowed and protected from the cold surface by his long sleeved arm. “You are a spitter now? We can be doing the spitting togever? You are all better now?” I turn to face him, bespattered by toothpaste, grab a wash cloth and hold it close to my face.

“Do you get dirty when you spit dear?” He cogitates as white foam dribbles down my chin and drops onto the waiting cloth. He puts his index finger to his lips, an affectation that indicates that thought processing is in progress. His pupils sweep my face in assessment. His nose crinkles and eyes narrow.

“Er……you know I am finking dat you need to do the practicing more.”

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School report

Communication with the school about daily events is a pivotal point of contact between both parties on the front line. Junior’s school report is not a happy one. It is a recurring theme, spitting at school. Bad habit or perseverating? He spits at home too but we are here to deal with these incidents. When he is at school we are virtually powerless. It is sad to note, that of all the many skills that we would love him to generalize, [translation = be able to repeat in different geographical locations and times] spitting isn’t one of them. We have used a variety of tactics to curb this habit, thus far they have all failed.

There is a veritable panoply of tools available to the parent of the autistic child and whatever current crisis that you are currently experiencing.

We started with the most obvious first step, namely the basic threat – ‘stop spitting or we’ll whip your gizzard out.’ [note to self – research location and function of ‘gizzard’] We moved swiftly onto step two –’it’s duct tape for you matey!’ [translation = an option limited to fellow Americans] We then trolled through our usual options, the social stories, [translation = “Carol Gray’s site”] the sticker motivational option, the negative count. [translation = count the number of times that you didn’t do it, when you wanted to do it, and compare with the number of times that you couldn’t resist, then gradually tip the balance in favour of the later] This method is useful for the child that loves to count. I suspect that they enjoy it purely for the counting exercise, but that is immaterial if it brings positive results. Then the logical ‘germ’ talk, which often works well with the OCD kind of a kid, but to be used with cautious due to backlash of temporarily tamped down neurosis. The superclean child who is learning to be less so, is likely to react negatively to such a suggestion. This may result in all the reduced OCD habits re-emerging like a plague. It is a brave parent indeed, who will risk fiddling around with the status quo of the OCD.

We occasionally try out more conventional measures such as the ‘big boy’ appeal or ‘make me proud’ guilt trip, just in case something might have changed and we failed to notice the development. On the whole the last two are a waste of breath since no-one has any desire to grow older, nor be regarded as older, and ‘maturity’ is not rated as a strength. This is to say nothing at all about the unlikely or remote desire, to engender pride in anyone or anything. It always amazes me that these two most powerful tools in the average parents’ arsenal of tools, are actually the most worthless ones for the parent of an autistic child. But we haven’t forgotten their existence and we throw them into the mix every so often just to check the status quo. I fear, that should someone ever unexpectedly respond to either of these two appeals in the future, that I might suffer an attack of the vapours if not properly mentally prepared in advance.

In summary, the ‘spitting’ issue is a recurring one that we have yet to deal with successfully by any of the above means, as well as a whole host of others that I haven’t mentioned, due to time and space constraints, as well as the boredom factor. In the meantime, I think.

I prepare myself mentally and take him to one side so that we may both ‘clean our teeth.’ It’s a slow business for me, as access to my mouth is minimal after jaw surgery. I use a lot of face cloths to clean myself up before we retire to my bed, where my wipe board waits. I write, he reads.
“I had a bad day today.”
“You cant spit.”

“Why you cant spit?”
I pull an exaggerated sad face. His finger tips brush my lips.
“I can see? Open dah mowf please?”
I oblige revealing braces, lumps of plastic and enough elastic bands to play cats cradle to professional Olympic standards.
“What deal?”
“You want to spit with me?”
“You are the sad one?”
“I fink maybe I can wait a bit. You are better tomorrow?”
“How long is dah long time?”
“I DON’T KNOW. TELL YOU WHAT, WHEN MY MOUTH IS BETTER WE CAN SUCK UP CHOCOLATE PUDDING WITH STRAWS TOGETHER AND THEN BLOW IT OUT.” [translation = an exercise recommended to help with lip closure and breath control!]
“You cant blow evver.”
“May be……….but I will not be blowing dah chocolate pudding out because I am liking to be eating it. You can blow it out though, coz I know that you are hating dah chocolate pudding.”

The ‘Theory of mind’ dies again. Horray!

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