Ain’t that the truth?

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Superlative Supersonic Tastebuds

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The Theory of Mind is still with us

It’s a given when it comes to autism, or rather a misconception. Like all misconceptions it is both commonplace and all pervasive, the myth that autistic people lack empathy.

***

We arrive at the restaurant, install ourselves in a booth in a rather haphazard manner and begin to examine the menu. Everyone knows off by heart.

A father and a baby arrive at the same time. They wait to be seated.

“Where for it is?”
“Where’s what dear?”
“The kids menu?”
“Oh did we only get one kids menu sheet?”
“Yup.”
“Hmm.” I look at my son’s face which is growing closer to my own height. “Maybe they thought you were too big for the kids menu?”
“Twelve and over?”
“Quite possibly. You do seem to be awfully large these days.”
“Awfully?”
“Um…’quite,’ quite large.” He grabs the unwieldy 8 page laminated menu with alacrity and begins to peruse his choices. He drops it again in favour of the less daunting single page of ‘specials.’ I watch him, animated and engaged. I don’t believe he has ever actively chosen to read a menu, even at MacDonalds, even if MacDonalds can be described as having a menu in the first place.

His eyes are sucked off the page by the arrival of the quite adorable baby and his father in the opposite booth. They had no problem ‘waiting to be seated,’ unlike my unruly brood. The baby cooes and kicks with contentment whilst his Dad quips his order to the server. I examine the specials so that I’m better able to prioritize and limit my son’s choices, as choice is always a hurdle.

The boys gasp collectively for no apparent reason. “What is it?” I ask two people who are staring across the room. I look across the room at the baby and father. The father reads the newspaper and eats from a plate piled high with pancakes, sausages and salad. “What is it dear?”
“Dah baby.” I look at the baby but my view is obscured by a large cuddly toy.
“It’s o.k. his dad will probably feed him in a minute.”
“No! Dah baby!”
“What about the baby?” I look at the big furry mass with the still legs underneath, the stiff arms poking out either side, the silence.
“He dun like it.”
“He doesn’t like what…..I mean…..what doesn’t he like?”
“Dah wolf is scary for him.” Whilst one child speaks, the other takes action as he flits across the passage, grabs the cuddly wolf and turns it’s face outwards, teeth bared, the wolf, not the boy, and slips back to our booth like a whippet. The father snaps down his paper, but not quickly enough. He glances at his baby son who chews contentedly on the wolf tail in his face.

Rats to “the theory of mind.”


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Twiddling with the ledger

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SOOC and Smiley Saturday

They all have some version of it, the twiddle syndrome. It is of course extremely annoying. However, I thought I should better detail this particular twiddle because whist it is terribly irritating, one day it may not be there any more. Elimination or extinguishing the behaviour, would be designated as progress, but I will also miss it in some strange way that I don't really understand.

In his book “Look me in the Eye,” “John Elder Robinson” details many skills, talents and abilities that he experienced as a child, which were later displaced by other skills, such that the former intuitive capabilities were no longer available to him. It makes me hopeful, but also cautious.

In our house, like many houses with children, many objects are on the floor. Not just furniture and toys but other things. Within minutes of their wakefulness a whole slew of things hit the floor such as cushions, sofa cushions, anything that happened to be on either. This means that the floor space becomes an obstacle course in seconds. This wouldn't be a problem per se, but my children also have difficulty navigating their space and frequently trip over things that aren't even there. The obstacle course makes the task of moving from A to B even more hazardous.

My eldest son, speech delay aside, is now far more willing to communicate with us verbally and voluntarily. It is at first light that he is most willing to talk. He talks primarily about Pokemon. Through the haze of dawn he chats. As he chats his feet propel him over a radius of approximately three yards in constant movement. As he moves, his feet come into contact with an object. The object sticks to his feet like a magnet, even if it is made of plastic or cloth or paper. The object moves similarly to a ball that is being dribbled by an expert soccer player, but in slow motion. As the object tumbles between his feet, clenched by toes and glued from one ankle to another, the words flow from his mouth with a sweet breathy expression. It is very hard to concentrate on the words, as my eyes are distracted by the object. It is quite mesmerizing.

I already know how to correct this. I need to take him by the shoulders to orientate him towards me, his audience, and remove the distracter. Experience tells me that if I ground him; 'stand still while your talking!' and remove the object, his words will dry up, the smiling expression faulter, so I refrain, and just listen. People are unlikely to listen to a spinning speaker but somehow I suspect that given time, he will adjust himself, as he grows older and more things fall into place.

These days it's also reciprocal, not just a monologue as he asks me pertinent questions about my own preferences, questions that I am supposed to answer. As I stumble for an answer, whilst the object tumbles, he is patient with me, as my brain searches for the right words. I'm sure my annoyance and confusion is well disguised. As I gape like a fish, my mind struggles with word retrieval. He steps across to me to pause and place an index finger on my chin, fix me with soft brown eyes, “it's o.k. mom, I know that “you are being tired,” he beams, “dere you go!” he puts the two foot, Halloween spider from his feet into my hands and scampers off.


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Assertiveness training

My oldest son talks less frequently than some other children, but he does “talk.”

When he was younger than he is now, people often saw fit to remark upon his early attempts at communication in a less than complimentary manner. Stutters and stammerers are used to such treatment. The struggles of speech production are rarely appreciated, merely mocked. Initially I was ill equipped to either retaliate or educate. I took solace in the lonely thought that “I knew otherwise.” I knew that his instincts were “keen.”


Empowerment is an annoying but popular word. As a natural born wimp from birth, at some moment on the journey I decided to adopt this approach for my own children, not the wimpy but the empowering. I would learn to speak up, not be mealy mouthed, challenge and stand tall, but I'm still practicing.

***

I launch into a monologue of the glories of one of our cats. His attractive appearance, skittishness and howling yeowl. I wax lyrical of his charms, more dog like than cat, more intelligent and delightful than the average feline.

My son takes a step towards me to look me straight in the midriff.
“Mom?”
“Yes dear?”
“It's not nice to have favourites.”

Some people learn better than others.


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Lupus in Fabulo …… but true

I abandon the little one, his homework and his meltdown. I'm there in a nano second in response to the universal wail of “it was an accident!” Her face is shiny with tears and snot as she clutches her foot to her chest and blows on it. There is no sign of other more alarming bodily fluids. She is of course incomprehensible. I stroke her hair and wait for calm.

“I think I've got a tooth in my toe!”
“Are you sure? How did you manage that? Let me see.”
“No you're gonna dig it out with tweezers or a needle or take me to the Emergency Room.”
“Maybe, but lets take a look first. No touching, promise!”

She relinquishes custody of the foot. I peer through bifocals. “It looks like a blood blister to me.”
“What's a blood blister?”
“It's a blister under the dermis. The skin isn't broken.”
“Does it hurt?”
“I don't know. Does it?”
“Er…..no actually it doesn't hurt.” I have a sudden urge to quote the little boy who cried wolf too frequently for other people's sanity.
“Shall we go to the ER then Mom?”
I give her chapter and verse on blood blisters, with my best peeved tone, when I hear a “darn it! S'all sticky!” from behind the sofa. Her brother's voice sparks something in my tiny brain, “why did you think it was a tooth, by the way?”
“Coz I accidentally kicked him in the face.” I dive over the back of the sofa where my son holds handfuls of Legos drenched in blood. He turns his face towards me to speak, “see dey're all sticky!” he complains as blood bubbles with saliva over his red smeared cheeks, arms and nake.d torso. I scoop him up and dash to the bathroom amid howls of complaint, “hey! Put me up, I am drop my Legos!” I hose him down to check the source. “Ooo I think you lost your baby tooth. Do you feel o.k.? Does it hurt?”

“Er…..?”
“Sorry. Have you lost a tooth?”
“No.”
“No?”
“Not lost, it's on dah floor.”
“Do you feel o.k.?”
“No.”
“Why?”
“Coz my Legos is be ruined!”
“Does it hurt?”
“Does what “hurt?”

I give him a hug as today has been filthy all round.

“Tell you what, leave the Legos with me. I’ll wash them. Go and play with something safe.”
“Legos are safe.”
“True. I know, go and play with Slinky.” He smiles a warm, gap toothed grin at the thought of his pet Skink and ambles off. I retrieve the baby tooth for posterity and clean the floor.

I take a moment to check on line to see whether my medical knowledge regarding blood blisters was my usual pile of gobbledegook. Wikepedia quotes me word for word. I conclude that the “Wikipedia” author and I, are either soul mates or fakes! Or maybe just blood brothers?

I scrub Legos and remember that blood is closely related to cement, chemically speaking. A small person arrives at my side. “What?”
“Pardon? What is what dear?”
“What about me?”
“What about you dear?”
“Er…….my homework.”
“Golly! I’m sorry, I forgot all about you and your homework. Let me just dry my hands a minute, wouldn’t like to torture you with dampness would we?” I am mid towel when another shriek of agony demands immediate attention, level 10 alert. I take the tea towel with me, a makeshift first aid kit cum talisman to ward off further evils. I skid to my son who continues to scream without words, spattered in blood, jumping up and down with an extra finger spurting red fountain arcs in the air. I grab his wrist as the rest of his body whip lashes and writhes.
“Bloody hell you pulled his tail off!”
“It was an accident! I love him sooo much!”

Rats to the “theory of mind!”


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The cat that got the cream

“I am be like!”
“Really! What do you like dear?”
“I bin dun like dah cream!”
Oh no! Don't tell me 'bin dun' is back to haunt us again, one of this pre-emptory terms equivalent to 'er.' I look at my little neophobe and his 15 foods. Verily the child doth lie through his little wonky baby teeth.

“Indeed!”

Oddly enough he picks up on my tone of skepticism, as does his brother, who dives in to defend, encourage and elucidate.
“Yeah Mom we are have ice-cream in school today.”
“Ice-cream!”
So much for the 'healthy food in school policy,' that didn't last a whisker.
“How come you had ice-cream?”
“Coz it was Tim's birthday.”
“Ah.”
“It wuz a birthday treat.”
“Nice explaining dear. Surely he didn't eat ice-cream?” I ask over his brother’s head in a need to determine the real truth of the matter.
“No….he don eat dah ice-cream.”
I thought as much!
“But he did eat dah cream!”
“What cream?”
“Dah cream dat woz on dah ice-cream!”
“Cream on ice-cream!” talk about overkill.
“Yeah an it was real cold, but he ate it anyways……he din scream at all neither but he did his shivery thing………he wuz real brave mom.”

I smile as I think. Is cream really a food or merely a condiment? Does anyone eat a whole bowl of cream? Can you count cream or would that be like counting mustard as a food?

I look at my boys. The retrieval of the words has the effect of making him relive the experience. I watch as the little one judders involuntarily at the memory and the big one puts a steadying arm around his bony little shoulders.

Bravery awards all round [and rats to the theory of mind.]


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Tinker, Tailor, Postman…..I Spy

I drag all parties into the garden against their will on a mildly overcast day.

Ideal planting weather.

Other neighbours labour in their yards, whilst we play in our garden. The boys lie in the gravel and sing an old Carpenter's song, or rather particular snippets that they perseverate upon:- 'bring me a letter,' 'oh yeah,' 'Mr. po o o o o ost man.' It is their task to remain within the confines of the garden for a minimum period of ten minutes, one tiny step in the direction of desensitization to ‘outside.’ The little talismen of Pokemons assist to distract and engage.

My daughter is an enthusiastic under gardener, keen to learn the ropes. We have before us an array of magnificent plants to plant, each in just the right spot.

“Shall I dig a hole for this big one?”
“Great idea, but where shall we dig the hole?”
'Mr. po o o o o ost man.'
“What about there, in that bare bit.”
“That's a good idea but I think you might find that white or bright flowers are better placed in the shady areas where they'll draw the eye.”
“Mr. po o o o o ost man.”
“This purple thing?”
“I want to put the purple violets next to the mail box.”
“Why?”
“Because it's drought tolerant, in full sun and the scent will be given off when the postman fiddles with the box.”
“Lucky mail man!”
“Bring me a letter.”
“O.k. how about this one, with the long bits?”
“We need to check the labels too, as some plants prefer sun and other's need more shady areas.”
“Mr. po o o o o ost man.”
“What about this pink one?”
“Great but we need some sand to plant that one as we have clay soil.”
“Mr. po o o o o st man.”
“They're very fussy these plants!”
“Hmm I suppose they are a bit.”
“Bring me a letter.”
“I like this one! It smells of…..bubblegum.”
“Bubblegum? The scented ones are good in spots where you'll brush past them with your body, like the rose scented geranium. When they're leaves are disturbed they release their perfume.”
“Bring me a letter.”
“I like the one around the door coz when they bring a parcel the smell comes in the house.”
“Oh I'm glad you noticed that. It's like when the UPS guy comes through the front gate and sweeps past the Aquilegia, same thing. Jasmine round the door frame.”
“The Fedex guy always comes around the side.”
“Yes where the Honeysuckle is.”

At the sound of gravel crunching, my son sits up from his position to look over the fence at the visitor. “You are be love,” he murmours. The mailman jumps from his little delivery van and waves. Other neighbours stand and pause momentarily to hail him too, familiar and welcome. Late 50's, a grandfather with a Santa Claus beard, pith helmet, regulation shorts and a heart break smile.

“Hi guys! Got em all workin today huh!” My daughter examines him, trowel in hand. My older son grins at him, wordless. My youngest son jumps to his feet, “wait a minute, wait a minute, oooo yeah,” as nips over to peer at the name and address. “Dey are for you mom…….all of dem are for you.” I beam at my son and the postman as the garden gate clicks closed, on to the next house, the next family, the next welcome.

“I fink…….when I am growed up……I am be a mailman too.”

Rats to the “Theory of Mind.”

If you happen to find yourself with a few spare moments, please take a minute to watch this video.


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src=”http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docId=4118828456034835918&hl=en”
flashvars=””>Alternatively you can click on this “link.”


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Grumpy is as grumpy does

 


I drink coffee through as straw as instructed by the Dental Devils and sulk. Another visit to the dentist brings more bad news. Ten months after surgery we are still struggling. I am sorely tempted to clamp a bag of espresso to my hip and drink it intravenously, just to avoid all possible current and future mouth issues. However, I don't want to tempt fate. It seems only a tiny step until I'll be old enough to wear a colostomy bag instead, an area of fashion as yet untouched by Calvin Klein.

The word 'dentist' and all derivatives have been banned from the household. I refuse to allow my children to pick up negative vibes. They will have American attitudes towards dentistry if it kills me. Spouse and I will not whisper about the subject either, because our offspring have more finely attenuated hearing that the average owl. They absorb our body language and the instinctive shivers that pass between us. Their father's facial expression needs no interpretation. When he clamps his hands over his mouth and screws up his eyes, all three small people wince in response.

I tried so hard to be jolly with the new pharmacist but we do not appear to enjoy the same sense of humour. This is probably just as well for other patients patronizing this establishment.

I toss back another couple of antibiotics as instructed by the dentist. This is a preamble to another fishing expedition for various assorted hardware, to include but not limited to, loose screws and lumps of cement. I am sadly disappointed with the dental community, not for their lack of dentistry skills but for their complete failure to comprehend Elephant jokes. What manner of medical professional is unfamiliar with such hilarity? Are they all childless or are they just foreign?
“Don't worry,” he soothed, as I submitted to yet another x-ray to ensure that I am totally radioactive, if not magnetic.
“So you're just looking for just those two things then?” I ask, an unnecessarily.
“Yes.”
“Just allow ten days for the infection to calm down?”
“That's right. Everything will be just fine.”

For two pins I would just curl up under the desk and admit defeat. Take up permanent residence. In fact I would, but they don’t have an espresso machine.
“I'm sure we'll find whatever they are, when we open you up. Very tiny.” I should probably ask an intelligent question, or maybe two? I should probably ask an intelligent medically question, but I can’t think of any, apart from ‘does it hurt?’ but I already know the answer. I am heartily sick of being the tiniest percentage of dental patients, I want a different spot on the bell curve.
“I didn't do anything wrong, it's just bad luck?” I beg.
“Good luck that we found it just in time!” It doesn't feel lucky to me.
“Right. Let's hope you just find those two then, and not any elephants?” I offer, as a means of dispersing the tension, although it may only be my own. The radiologist and the surgeon exchange meaningful glances. The radiologist steps closer. She has more qualifications after her name than would fit on the average business class envelope. She smiles to expose her birthright, a perfect line of pearly enamel tombstones. “You know,” she says tapping the x-ray, “an elephant would show up on this.” I examine her face to locate a smirk, spot a wink or some other tiny clue that we are on the same wavelength, as I don't want to keep making the same mistake over and over again. Blank. I give up. I go home.

What is commonly referred to as 'dry mouth' in the States, would more accurately be described as glue mouth. I pout at my son as he demonstrates his vastly superior lip closure, him of the speech delayed camp.
“You are dah suck again?”
“I am.”
“I am dah suck too. See?” he slurps, just to show off. “You can be do dat too?” he taunts. I temper my reply, “well no actually. As it happens I'm having a hard time getting to the bottom of the mug.” I try and remove the sneary tone from my voice.
“Ooo, you are dah dribble.” I dab my chin and demonstrate my perfect mastery of etiquette and table manners.
“Ooo, not dah mouth. Dah mouth is being clean.” I examine the napkin. It is clean, not a coffee stain of dampness. I suppress swear words and dash off to the mirror in the bathroom because my nose is still numb and lies to me frequently. Footfalls follow me at high speed. Oh for a bit of privacy! I peer into the mirror. My son inserts himself between me and the mirror, so that we can both look at my reflection, although not admiringly. Oh the joy of joint attention!
“See! You are dah snot!” I grab a handful of toilet paper and dab gently, as nerve endings are thoroughly unreliable around here.
“Don be sad.”
“I'm not sad,” I respond far to quickly and in the wrong tone.
“Soon you are not dah snot. Soon you are dah big sucker.”
Whilst it sounds like an insult, it’s really a rallying cry, a supportive gesture. Yet another demonstration of the heartless, soulless autism that we know and love so well. Rats to the “Theory of Mind.”

Ain't that the truth.


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Naughty Nicholas

 

The names have not been changed to protect the anonymity of the players.

“Stop it Nicholas!” he barks at a sandy haired little boy. My boys look at Nicholas and stop doing what they are doing.
“Not like that! Here do it this way. Are you listening to me?” Nicholas isn't listening. My boys are listening. They are both unusually quiet, uncommonly still.
“Geez you're so dumb sometimes. Squeeze the red button why dontcha?” Nicholas doesn't squeeze the red button. Nicholas' Dad helps Nicholas' thumb squeeze the red button, “there. See? That's how you do it.”

“Ouch!” squeaks Nicholas. Two additional 'ouches' echo, but Nicholas' Dad doesn't notice. I think I dislike Nicholas' Dad, but say nothing. I say nothing because one of my sons is wrapped around my ankles and I'm carrying a six and a half year old, the epitomy of an over protective and incompetent parent. We wait. It will be our turn soon. I remind myself that we all have bad days. I would not like anyone to closely observe one of our bad days. I remind myself that we are enjoying an exceptionally good day. Lucky us!

I am surprised that my boys are waiting so patiently. I am also surprised that they appear to be watching with close care and intense attention.

One of my boys learns by observation. He will watch whilst somebody else does a task. He'll watch again, and again, and again, until he's ready. When he's ready he will make his first attempt. He rarely gets it right the first time. No-one is allowed to help him. He will scream uproariously with each attempt until he finally masters the new skill.

We watch and learn.

“Give me that,” snaps Dad, as he wrestles the controls from Nicholas. Nicholas pulls a face, so do my boys. “Enough with the attitude!” snarls Nicholas' dad. I shift the weight on my hip a little as Nicholas looks at me with a clear blue gaze. I smile a bit, then I remember that my teeth are no longer off limits. I flash him my enamel with a glint of retainer. He smiles back. “Pay attention Nicholas or you'll never learn anything.” His head snaps back to his dad. “Don't' you know it's rude to stare at…. er……. people!” I glance away because I suspect that I am blushing or blanching.
“Mom?”
“Yes dear.”
“I am stare at people?”
“Oh no, I don't think you ever stare at people, at least not that I've noticed.”
“I am rude?”
“No, not rude.”
“We are have a turn?”
“Yes, we shall soon.”

I think perhaps Nicholas' dad overhears us.

“Come on Nicholas. Lets give these guys a turn, you're no good at it anyway.” Nicholas' dad pulls Nicholas from the seat and moves off to another exhibit. My son unravels himself from my feet and tiptoes cautiously onto the empty, warm seat. My other son slowly and gently slithers down from my hip and steps tentatively towards the same seat. It is very quiet. Their two little bottoms shuffle a bit to make room for each other.
“O.k. let see if we can get this thing to work,” I offer, seeing as how I am a poor teacher in the technology department. Two little faces turn towards me. They are not smiling even though they now have the opportunity to exploit their time and enjoy the activity that they have waited for so patiently.
“Mom?”
“Yes dear?”
“Nicholas' dad is naughty.”

It's not a question, it's a statement.

By other parents, such as myself have committed greater “crimes.”

How do you spread a little luck and rats to the “theory of mind?”

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