How your body works? A knee jerk reaction!

I react to unusual yelps of pain. I find her in the family room, beating herself with a hair brush, with a silent audience, her brothers.
“What on earth are you doing to yourself?”
“I can’t make it work!”
“Make what work?”
“The knee jerk thing.”
“Oh……I see. Well you don’t have to be so violent about it. It’s really easy. Let me show you. Pull up your trouser leg. Cross your legs. Now feel your knee cap and tap firmly just underneath.”
“Wow! It works!”
“Be more gentle. It only takes a tap.”
“Geez, that is so cool!”
“You can do it to anyone, especially if they have bare legs. All you have to do is look carefully and tap. It makes for a great joke. You could try it at school.”
“Come on you guys. Whydontcha have a go too?” The boys examine their own knee caps, with care and a good degree of contemplation.
“Not joke.”
“It’s not a joke? Don’t you think it’s funny dear?”
“Er…….not if you ain’t got no legs.”
Rats to the “theory of mind!”

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Oiling the wheels

I already know that the process will involve squeaks, so I pick my time.  I hope to keeps the screams of agony to a minimum but you just can't be too careful with this kind of thing.  I wait until the boys are engrossed in electronics time and then coax her to the table.  I don't know how it got in there and neither does she, but some how or other, the bubble gum shall be removed from the tresses.  Ice cubes have proved a failure so now it's onto olive oil and picking.  She doesn't believe my promises after the previous debacle with ice and I've noticed that all the scissors from the kitchen drawer have disappeared.  The offer of a new hair style was shunned.  This is definitely one of those chores that I would prefer to delegate to her father.

I make soothing noises as I massage the sticky mess, messages of reassurance with few real words but still she whimpers in anticipation of pain or pending baldness.  I hear the scrape of a chair in the hall, quickly followed by another clatter.  Over her shoulder I see two boys move in slow motion.  One adopts the marine on manovres approach, on his tummy, the hand over hand crawl.  The other is in a sitting position, his back towards us as his feet propel him in our direction, very, very, slowly.  They take up position under the table in silence.  Their sister squeaks, shudders and snivels.  The big brother takes the universal protective stance of flat fingers over eyes and thumbs in ears.  The little brother takes the alternative protective stance of thumbs in eye balls and index fingers in ear holes.  They wait in silence.  Every few minutes one of them bends down to peck a kiss on her feet.  Precious electronics time minutes ebb away, as they stick to their vigil of solidarity.

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Love you forever – book review by autistic person

Surely it is a harmless enough title for a 6 year old to read? He brought it home from school, although he did not actively choose it. He sits on my lap at 6 in the morning, before anyone else is up. The contents, the story, is a tender one. He reads the refrain in his robot voice, no doubt, just to gladden a mother's heart…..

'I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living,
My baby you'll be.'

It's on nearly every page. The child grows up, bigger and bigger, but the mother still rocks him in her arms and whispers the lullaby. As he reads the rest of the book, his appropriate expression and emphasis, indicates comprehension, although he omits all the 'he, she's and its' as they are superfluous, not because he is incapable. He squalks at the illustrations, irritated by the sketch lines.

In the final pages the parent and child role is reversed, as the mother is elderly and sits on her now adult son's lap. That is too much for junior to accept, the sheer lunacy of the thing makes him hurl the book, scowling.

He pauses, jumps up and retrieves the book for further study and review. His eyes flick up to mine to ask, “he is autistic?” This is a word he has never said.
“How do you mean?”
“Dah man is growed up autistic?” This is the devilment of a speech delay for an inadequate parent.
“Why do you think the man is autistic?”
“Coz when he is lickle dere are cuddles, now he is dah big one,… dah man, his mum is squishing him.” [translation = deep proprioceptive input]

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The Theory of mind and other minor irritations – don’t cry for Pluto, who still has chums

I do not like the “Theory of Mind.” A few years ago I’d never heard of it and didn’t know what it was. With the arrival of a couple of autistics chaps in our family, I rapidly became aware of this pernicious irritation. For current purposes, we may simply say that it is an inability to put yourself in the shoes of another. [
I would respectfully guide you to a more scholarly account of the dratted theory at
“a bfh”
as I believe that I know [a few of] my limitations.]

It is a very popular theory with experts. I suspect, but have no evidence in support, that it is not quite so popular in other pockets of the population. The hot bed of loathing against this theory, resides right here, within the four walls of my home. I see the ‘truth’ of the theory often, daily. But I also see the opposite. “What exactly is the opposite of the ‘theory of mind,'” you ask? Good question as always. Frankly I don’t have the right answer. I don’t know what you call it [offers gratefully received] but I know it when I see it, and I see it often, more often, and soon, perhaps more often that I see incidents of the Theory of mind. I am seriously considering adopting ‘opposites day,’ everyday, where instead of looking for ‘symptoms’ we will search for ‘the opposite’ to counter each and every one of them.

Round here, such issues are complicated by the speech delay factor. How can I know that my child is capable of viewing the world through someone else’s eyes, if he is unable to tell me that this is what he is seeing? Well, if I pay attention, as I sometimes do, they do have other ways of telling me: body language, mimicry, action.

Now that the speech delays are less so than they once were, I only wish I had paid more attention, or had been better at interpreting what they were trying to communicate by other means.

That aside, I am appreciative of the small acts of kindness that the average child bestows upon the world, seemingly with little effort, to melt the heart of a parent.

It’s true, I’m biased and not a scientist. I leave such cerebral exercises to the experts. I’m just a mum, so I’m allowed to make up my own rules. But I do not think that should detract from similar moments displayed by an autistic child. Indeed, lets be totally outrageous and posit that the theory, that autistic children, in many respects, outstrip the limitations of the Theory of Mind with their superior qualities of empathy.

Without digressing into the staggering powers of Temple Grandin in this respect, we can still find many incidents of this phenomenon, in our own autistic children. Not for them the scripted stagnant waters of ‘I’m sorry you hurt your knee,’ together with appropriate facial expression and body language. Oh no, we soar to un-recognised heights of concordance, where little Sally, Boa, Arcadio, Adarsh, Jerzy, Kona and Muhammed, together with their pals from across the globe, acknowledge that Pluto may be too small to be a planet in today’s universe, but that the books that once held truth do not necessarily lie, just because somebody changed the rules.

p.s. Here is a picture of my daughter’s plant grown from seed at school. A long tendril comes out to slip round my son’s asthma inhaler chamber and then further forward to entwine my soap dispenser gizmo.

First of all, they both notice the tendril and where it’s heading. Junior, who has excessive washing tendencies, remarks that ‘maybe the plant needs more air.’ My older son, with asthma, remarks that ‘maybe the plant wants to wash.’

O.k. so I admit it, I’ve indoctrinated my children with respect to the environment, my lesson plan obviously needs a little tweaking, but who is in whose shoes now! Pass me my slippers before I confuse myself any further.

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