Sweet dreams

I arrive just as spouse is tucking them in to bed. “Right, so no pull-up then!” he announces in a booming tone. I stop dead and pout. No pull-up? Who is he to determine withdrawal of pull-up privileges? Is he responsible for the laundry? The inevitable carpet cleaning? Now there's a man who is totally out of line. I think about pulling rank. I decide to keep my own counsel instead, and content myself with thoughts of the following morning's 'I told you so scene.'

The nerve of the man!

I kiss my children good night, hide my pout and return downstairs to smolder. What could he have been thinking, to change the rules in such are arbitrary fashion? No preamble, no warning, no carefully implemented campaign. The man must be completely barmy? I can think of no rational reason why he should have chosen tonight to turn the bed time routine upside down. I froth, stew and steam. [translation = voodoo dolls] I won't have time to do an additional load of laundry tomorrow. The knock on effects could be earth shattering! No spare bed linen. Bare bed. More upset to bed time routine. No sleep for anyone. Curse the man!

In between fumes, I consider my own plan. It's not as if we haven't attempted this 'dry at night' campaign before, it's just that it has yet to be successful. There's no reason that we shouldn't implement a new campaign, we just need careful thought beforehand. How can I have 'beforehand' if we're already after? [translation = failure at the first fence is not a good reinforcer] All campaigns must be orchestrated with the finesse of a conductor. I suppress a growl. Spouse looks across at me. He is unable to detect the steam coming out of my ears, “are you alright love?”
“Fine!”
“Anything wrong?”
“No, nothing. I'm fine, just fine!” I do my best flounce and depart. [translation = high dudgeon] I swear he the most annoying person on the planet. Who does he think he is? Why is the other adult in the household such a complete nit wit. The venom and bile accumulate, but are well leashed.

I debate whether I should lift him later before we go to bed ourselves. Should I haul 56 pounds of sleeping boy onto the toilet? I decide to delete. I stomp back into the family room, because flouncing more than once in any one day, decreased it’s impact. “You’ll be o.k. lifting him later?” I announce rhetorically. He blinks in my direction, “er, sure, if that’s what you want?”
“Me? What I want? And how exactly do my ‘wants’ suddenly come into the equation now?”
“Hmm what?”
“You asked if that is what ‘I want,’ but you weren’t concerned with my wants when you pulled the pull-ups!” I snap with the perfect enunciation of the truly incensed.
“Pulled? Pull-ups? What are you on about?”
“You told him he didn’t have to wear a pull up, without us talking about it first!” I squeak. [translation = and inadvertently spit at the same time]
“Ah! I see.”
“Well?”
“Well what?”
“What do you have to say for yourself!” [translation = Lummy! I’ve turned into my husband’s mummy]
“Well, I er, didn’t have much choice really.” I wait. I wait a bit longer. I suppress a sigh. “Why did you have no choice?”
“Well, it was him wasn’t it.”
“What was him?”
“Him,… I mean…, he said it, he asked, er, he said he didn’t want to wear a pull up any more…… now that he was a big boy, although……those weren’t the words he used………but that’s what he meant,…….I think, yes, that’s what he meant, I’m quite sure.”
“Well why didn’t you tell me that in the first place! That changes everything!”

Moral – before you flounce, feel free to ferret around for the facts first.


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No Compass

Now do feel free to stop me at any time when you've had enough, as I do have a tendency to go a little off track on occasions. I won't be in the least bit offended as I'm well versed in social blunders of this kind. When I first meet someone new, I have a inclination not to mention children, mine or anyone else's. Do I behave in this manner because I am ashamed? You'd be justified in that opinion, but you would be way off. Unlikely as it may seem, seeing as how I am a Brit, on the contrary, I like to think that I am being considerate to that person. Unless you, the listener, have unusually enhanced social skills, then if someone that you meet, such as me, tells you that they have a couple of autistic kids in tow, that might prove to be a little bit of a stumper. What is the appropriate etiquette when receiving such a piece of information?

I don't know the answer to that, but I do know that whatever the person says, they at least, feel that it was wrong.

Now I am sympathetic to their plight and that is why I keep mum. [translation = don't let on] As it turns out, after all this time, it doesn't really matter what the reply is, as I've heard most of them, some of them many times and I can honestly say that I am not in the least bit offended any more. I feel sorry for you, the receiver of the information, because hearing this piece of information makes you feel uncomfortable.

It's a tricky one though, if I leave it too long before I mention it to you then it can be even more of an unpleasant or disconcerting surprise.
I know that you're just dying to know what the most common reply is? Well, sorry to disappoint, but generally the one that happens most often is an 'oh!' and a combination of a shifty eyes and a weak smile, followed by either a lengthy pause or a rapid change of subject.

But this isn't really my area of expertise, seeing as how I hale from yonder small island, where 'body language' merely refers to rude hand gestures and there are no such things as social skills, merely rules, a hierarchy and a sense of decorum at all times. Now if my autistic children were hoping for a leg up [translation = advantage] in the realms of social interaction, then they basically drew the short straw. Since I'm out here, in Jolly Old California, rather than back there, at least I have the advantage of understanding the not so subtle messages that I exude. The tight face, stiff upper lip, brow frown and rigid shoulders, tell every one to keep their distance without me having to utter a single syllable. My diction may be first rate, my enunciation second to none, but that won't get me very far with an autistic child because my facial expression doesn't match my message. If you have a face like a poker, you are wasting your time trying to communicate with them. You need an animated face, a cheerleader's movements, an Italian's hand gestures and a tone of voice that is arresting. Without these tools you are wasting your time, you won't even get their attention let alone permit a message to transmit.

Yes, when dealing with an autistic child, whilst it pains me more than you can ever know to admit it, two particularly loathsome American terms come to mind; 'in your face' and 'on your case,' because 'would you mind awfully' and ' when you have a mo' just don't cut it. Fortunately, learning to be a 'citizen' out here has conferred far more benefits upon me than the mere permission to work.


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Harsh Reality

Many of the difficulties that parents experience with their autistic children is the vast disparity between different skills in different situations. This, in some situations, is referred to as an inability to generalize skills, which means that if they learn a particular skill in a particular place, often they are unable to use that skill at different times and places. The skill is encapsulated within a discrete area which can be difficult to expand. I whip him of his cat and explain that his head is as heavy as a medicine ball, which will surely crush the middle of the cat into a pancake. His understanding is immediate. He is flustered, uncertain whether to make amends with his pet cat or with me, for his inadvertent error. I scoop them both up and collapse on the sofa together for a group cuddle. I stroke the cat and my son in exactly the same manner. He mimics his cat, they both purr with contentment. Whilst we sit I recall a couple of years ago when his first original cat went missing. Jasper the cat, was lost and I suspected that he had come to untimely end. I decided to prepare my son for the loss by actively addressing the matter. We made posters and pinned them up in the neighbourhood. When the weekend came Spouse took care of the other two whilst we went round house to house to make enquiries. We had the script and had been practicing. He held a photo of his cat. We would approach each house, ring the bell, wait for the owner, ask 'have you seen my cat,' hold out photo for viewing, wait for a response and then depart having given thanks. It is a variation on our 'trick or treating' skills which we also needed to break down into steps and practice.

We started with the real locals, the people who know us, the people with patience, kindness and understanding. We went further afield, but still no more than 50 yards away from our own front doorstep. He was motivated because he understood the logic of this method of cat finding and he really wanted to find his 'lost' cat. He had been pump primed for years with 'try, try, try again,' and 'use your eyes, keep looking.'

We would amble up each driveway with his usual gait. At that time, is was his gait that immediately gave the game away that something was different. The simplest description I can come up with, is that of a badly strung marionette with an apprentice puppetier holding the controls. He moved in slow motion to the front door by a circuitous route. I would prompt him to find the bell and remind him to press it. When someone arrived I would squeeze his shoulder to induce speech. Technically he was standing, but his body moved as if his skin were infested with ants but he could only respond in slow and perpetual motion. His body was not orientated towards the homeowner, nor was his face. Eye contact was out of the question. Eventually the 'exchange' would be over and we would leave to go to the next house. I walked close to him as he stumbled in the general direction of the road, oblivious to traffic and the next step in the sequence of the task that we were trying to accomplish. It was a time consuming exercise. In all I think we managed a dozen houses.

During that time, every so often we would come across a dog or a cat. He's not keen on dogs. Each 'pet' we bumped into evoked the same response. He would skip up to the creature with alacrity, almost agile, squat down and start chatting face to face, “Hi, you live around here? I'm looking for Jasper he's my cat, here's a photograph of him, here, take a look, ain't he cute, have you seen him at all?” He would whitter away having an animated one way conversation, body orientated, face and eyes locked on to his target.

It was so extraordinary to witness that even now I don't think I can do it justice, he behaved like two different and completely unrelated children, the contrast could not have been more stark. It was watching the switch between the two; the discombobulated, inarticulate, disinterested child talking to the homeowner and then the gregarious, talkative, energetic whiz to the pets that was mesmerizing, back and forth, off and on, over and over again.

I think is why all parents need to continue to try different experiences, as you never know what may be lurking just around the next bend.


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Intolerance

Personally, I do not suffer from this affliction. I have the patience of Job. [translation = coming as I do, from a country renowned for their love of their fellow man, as evidenced by their tendency to seek out new lands and colonize them.] British people are well known for their non-judgmental attitude towards all matters of high import. Whilst they also have a tendency to nit pick about matters too petty to mention, overall 'British' is synonymous with tolerance. [translation = a consensus of opinion]
“But I hate dah sweet potatoes!” he bleats. [translation = an improvement of 50 decibel yelling, indicating a capacity to wheedle. {sub translation = much higher functioning level of communication}]

“But they're so good for you, full of vitamin C and a true American food.”
“I am an American?”
“Of course you are.”
“But I fort I wuz dah Californian?” [Translation = how come he can pronounce the 'State' perfectly, but there's not a dipthong within ear-shot = the 'th' sound]?
“You're both, Californian and an American, aren't you the lucky one!”
“I fink I am a worldian. A universian. A galaxian.” [translation = I wish I hadn't taken this route.]
“Anyway, the point is, that you need to eat them for all their Vitimin C.” [translation = pronounced 'vit- i- min –SEE' = UK, as opposed to VITE eR mn SEE = US {sub translation = say them out loud and you'll hear the difference, give it a try, think 'monarchy,' visualize a glittering crown on your head and then speak, and again, but louder this time] Digression over.

“But I hate intimacy!” he blurts. [translation = I didn't even know that he knew that word?]
“Not 'intimacy,' 'vitamin C!'”

So it's not just autism, not just the speech delay, merely an accent that makes
communication so bumpy.

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