The curse of sun kisses

I am blessed with freckles, so many that you can't put a pin between them. Whilst I used to loathe them, I have gradually grown to accept the status quo. This occurred in part, due to gentle gentleman in France. He explained to me, that in Germany, people call freckles 'sun kisses,' which somehow sounded so much better.

Now that my skin is turning into rhino hide, my ancient wisdom is reflected in age spots instead. I don't know the German for age spots but they don't fuss me much either. The ones that really annoy me, are the badly placed marks. In this particular instance, it is not vanity, more the unexpected consequences of having a mark where a mark should not be.

The visual acuity of an autistic child [or adult] can often be quite extraordinary. This means that a cluster of random freckles that overlay one another, especially as the sun moves us into Summer, become the equivalent of constellation study. Groups of freckles can become shapes. [translation = or letters or numbers]

The boring collections of freckles sometimes pretend to be a nose leak or a blob of chocolate on the corner of your mouth. Sometimes, as Summer heats up and holidays are in full swing, they might be mistaken for dried blood, if you were so inclined to interpret it in that manner. Some autistic children deliberately choose to interpret collections of freckles as being dried blood, merely to drive the freckler to distraction.

Snot, blood and all other bodily fluids are a cause of great angst in the little one. [translation = OCD clean] Whilst we are working on this aspect of his autism, like so many other campaigns, it can be difficult to manage them all simultaneously. [translation = some take priority over others, such as the food campaign] Blood would definitely score most highly on the Richter scale. Thereafter would be a wide variety of foods. One can also throw in the variable of temperature such as cold ice-cream or warmer than strictly necessary oatmeal, as well as every variation on a theme. Snot would be a high ranker but it would be hard to place it accurately on the continuum.

By the Memorial Day weekend, I have spent sufficient hours playing in the garden, to ensure that my skin has been exposed to the suns rays long enough to make bursts of freckle compilations appear everywhere. [translation = well everywhere that the sun shone, in any case]

I hunker down to wipe chocolate pudding off his face. Whilst I wipe his face, he watches mine. His eyes scrutinize every wrinkle.

“Ah! You are blood. You are dead? You are ill? What you are? Ah! Ah! Ah! Don touch me or I be dead too, go away!” Verbal expressions are of course a joy. [translation = so much better that the screaming meltdown with no clue as to the cause] Few people could be expected to interpret a meltdown as being caused by melanin. Such worries and concerns can quickly spiral out of control, as demonstrated by my son's premature exit from the room, a little vortex of over stimulated nerve endings. He takes himself to the furthest point in the house to maximize the distance between himself and the alleged dried blood.

I seek him out in the hope of translating the evidence in a more enlightened view. [translation = I know most of his hidey holes]

I know that he hears my footsteps approach from 500 yards away. [translation = supersonic hearing] If there were any doubt in my mind, that I might accidentally surprise him by my arrival, this worry is dismissed as I hear him crow. He crows like a rooster. He does this because the correct words to accurately describe his distress are unavailable to him. They are unavailable to him because he is experiencing distress.

It only takes about 10 minutes of breathing and massage to calm him down sufficiently for him to be able to attend to my words. The logic of my explanation is faultless. His index finger very bravely checks my veracity. Surprise! Indeed, I was telling the truth all the time, only coloured skin, no blood.

Big brother appears to peruse the scene. He stands with his legs astride his brother to assess the situation. He peers at my face as I explain the difficulty. He contemplates for a few moments. [translation = plays for time whilst he retrieves suitable words of comment] He offers his verbal support to bulk up my conclusions, “it's o.k.! Listen up little buddy! It's not dah blood, it's dah snot!” Gotta love those scripts! Boys 2 : Mum nil. [again]


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Early Days 8 – cracking the code

That innocent word, ‘play’ can be huge hurdle for some autistic children. “Scheduling time” is a marathon and many of us, parents that is to say, have a hard time planning out what to do, how and when?

What we [parents] refer to when we say ‘play’ seems simple enough and doesn’t need any explanation, but ‘play’ when it comes to autistic children may not be quite so straightforward.

If you looked at my boys when they were little, you would have seen them playing, not just the typical autistic play of lining things up, moving toys in a mechanical and repetitive manner, examining some tiny feature on a toy but behaviour that would ‘pass’ as typical play. Teasing these elements apart, unless you are very observant or a play therapist, is not that easy for the novice. [translation = me]

The key element that experts often refer to is ‘lack or impairment of imaginative play.’ When I looked at my boys, I would see them pretending to be dinosaurs, or dinosaur eggs. To me that looked like imaginative play, there was no impairment that I could see. I knew what my eyes saw and yet I knew that I was missing something, but I didn’t know what it was?

A typical exchange at that time would be when I watched my son be an Allosaurus. I wasn’t allowed to join in, though I often tried. [translation = on each occasion that he pretended to be whichever dinosaur was in favour that day] He didn’t mind me watching by then. [translation = first he was unaware that I was watching, then when he did become aware that I was watching, he objected violently] This was something that he played alone. Since dinosaurs were his area of enthusiasm, this was my cue to engage with him. [translation = joint attention]


I had learned to be upbeat and use simple language. His mimicry was superb, his body and gestures matched those in the many, many books we had about dinosaurs. I knew that to praise him, would guarantee a level 10 meltdown. It also took me a long time to correct myself. [translation = not to ask a question that elicits a response, which would seem the most obvious step when you’re dealing with a speech delay, but instead, to make a statement which removes the pressure and stress of having to find a response]

At that time we were still trying to fathom out his rule matrix. [translation = the many triggers to meltdowns] One trigger was buried in this daily ‘pretend’ play, but I didn’t know what it was. The experts always ask you, ‘and what exactly preceded the outburst’? I knew that I was doing something wrong and provoking his meltdown. I changed ‘my script,’ my ‘approach,’ and everything else I could think of, to try and make it work, but the outcome was always the same. It remained the same until he was able to use enough words for me to be able to translate and interpret their meaning.

I watch. I have a pad of paper and pencil behind me listing in detail each exchange we have attempted over the last 27 days all of which have been unmitigated failures, each of which I’ve crossed off, eliminated. I am going to play dinosaurs with my son if it kills me. [translation = or the T-rex bites my head off first]


“You are a Lambiosaurus!” He rears up a little in response, bears his teeth a little more and claws the air in slow motion. I watch carefully, willing myself to see the trigger. Nothing. So far so good. He jumps onto the sofa a morphs into a different dinosaur. Which one? I watch. I watch until I am sure.
“You are a fantastic Stegosaurus!” He snaps a glare at me! I used a ‘praising adjective’ by accident! It just slipped out! I hold my breath waiting for the explosion. Nothing. I got away with it, but he did notice the word. Maybe I’ve made a mistake? Maybe all this time I’ve been assuming that he didn’t like praise but actually it’s something else that’s setting him off? What could it be?


He lumbers off the couch onto the floor and morphs into a, into a ? yes, into ….. “You’re pretending to be a fabulous Parasaurolophus!” I blurt with unsuppressed excitement. He arches back raging at the ceiling, screaming his lungs empty, not as any dinosaur but as a misunderstood child. He rolls on the floor crying and beating the carpet. What? What? What? Please help me understand.

I can’t believe that I’ve blown it again. I rub his back as he curls into a small hard ball, blocking me out. I wipe away the tears coursing down his cheek his body wrapped up like an egg. Why is there no manual? No book? No ‘how to?’ Can you plead with a four year old?

All I can say is ‘sorry’ quietly, again and again as I stroke his silky hair. He calms, slowly and lifts his head, “I not pretend,” he says crisply. These are probably the only three words he will utter during the next 24 hour period. 3 words. His eyes stare into mind. Eyes may be windows but I still can’t see. He says it again with emphasis on ‘pretend.’ 6 words in 24 hours! Does this mean they’ll be no words tomorrow, that he’s used up two days supply of words? I cringe at the thought of the future silence, wasted on a repetition because I am too stupid to understand him the first time. I stare at the surface of his glistening eyes willing myself to see.
“You’re not pretending you ARE a dinosaur!” I gasp. He dives at me, medicine ball head to sternum shouting “YES!”
We rock. 7 whole words! We rock back and forth clutching each other with all the force that can be mastered by a four year old.

He bursts away from me, “I am egg! You sit on me!” I am in a state of shock, too dumb to quibble, I simply obey. I sit on my son who is curled up like an egg. [translation = proprioceptive input on the sly] The egg starts to crack as I move off, to find that a baby Corythosaurus has hatched, tweets mewling noises and preens his crest for my wonderment. He had invented a game for us to play together, our first real pretend play. He has used 14 words in one day. We played it every day. I try hard to forget to count words. It was my all time favourite game ever.

Lastly, a lesson in imaginative play, brought to you by the ‘guy’ I love to hate, Spongebob et al in ‘The Idiot Box.’ [translation = television]


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In my Grandmother's Chest

One of my favourite childhood 'in the car games,' for long journeys from my own childhood of course, not my own children's. As I stand at the check out at Target, I stock up on essential supplies for the forthcoming holiday. I have a smug and self satisfied expression at my collection of purchases.

I have enough Play dough for several days because now I am the proud 'owner' of a seven and a half year old and a six year old who no longer consider playdough to be the substance from hell. They can touch it, they can squish it, tolerate the stench of it's perfume, permit their bodies and clothing to be contaminated by it. Ah yes, life is good.

A very smart woman behind me, [translation = nattily attired] surveys the conveyor belt and smiles at me in a friendly manner. The huge carton of pull-ups, 65 – 125 lbs catches her eye. Bit of a give away.

I have enough mouth wash to kill every bacterium from here to San Francisco and back again. Enough 'Ensure' to ensure that I will be able to refuel at high speed.

Otherwise I have three of everything. It is always a mistake to try and match gifts to the personality and preferences of an individual child. The net result is always the same, everyone likes one particular item and no-one likes the other two. If you wish to commence warring factions in the confines of your own home then this is the best place to start. Having said that, although each item is identical to it's fellow, due to the joys of mass production, someone will determine an identifying feature, flaw or anomaly, that will ensure that each is distinguishable, preferred or disowned.

I now have enough cleaning materials to make sure that the house remains sterile. This in turn will enable me to continue the on-going food campaign. In most households, food that falls to the floor is discarded as unsanitary and contaminated. In this household, that rule is reversed, because small intelligent people learn fast. Their solution to any food campaign is to deposit my nutritional choices on the ground. Parents need to acquire nerves of steel, so as to be able to endure the sight of their children licking the floorboards. This is not a job for the faint hearted.

My eye drifts over the contents of the trolly behind me. [translation = cart] I am a dry, old stick of a woman. I refuse to permit myself to make any disparaging assumptions, cast any aspersions or otherwise make judgments about her catering pack of multicoloured, flavoured conhttp://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifdoms. I have it on good authority that they serve a wide variety of purposes. I determine to remain “open minded,” it would be dreadful if my


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Questions of an existential nature

There are the big ones, like 'why does autism exist?' and then there are a whole host of other scientific issues, such as 'how can a four foot square cushion disappear?' although that is probably a physics question, or maybe a physical one. I think it's a mathematical problem involving 'cubic metres of child'[ren] versus volume of cushion, but weight to strength ratios would be a contributing factor or maybe a variable?

This is not some namby pamby lightweight fluffy American cushion. Oh no! This is a heavy duty, won't dent if you punch it, dead body weight kind of a British cushion and probably pre-war although I can't authenticate that.

If your pincher grip is fair, the average cushion can be picked up by a corner and tossed through a gentle arc to the sofa. Our version is more like a collection of house bricks with a fabric coating for the sake of appearance and about as comfortable too. It doubles as a step if you need to reach a high cupboard. A building contractor or body builder might be able to heave it up and lob it, but on impact it would kill the victim stone dead. Even if this were not true, it's shear bulk means that you can't stick it up your jumper and pretend to be pregnant.

We could be critical and list it's many faults as a household item, but the main point is that this is not something that is easy to lose. You need to try very hard to lose it. If we ignore it's deficiency of purpose, why would you want to lose it in the first place? Maybe the real question is 'who' would want to lose it, which in turn begs the question 'who' would be sufficiently motivated by 'what' to lose it?

This is a variation of what the experts tell us to do for determining the cause of meltdowns, the antecedent, and it's a good one that I would highly recommend, it's just that it's not so easy to put into practice. This time I'm in luck. I find the cushion. It has a couple of Pokemon on it which tells me the 'who.' I find the 'who' so that I can enquire as to the 'why.'

“What are the Pokemon doing on the cushionshttp://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif? Are they playing?” It is supposedly helpful to suggest an answer in the hope to trigger a response.
“No dey are not playing.”
“Oh. Having a little rest maybe?”
“No dey are not dah rest.”
“Asleep?”
“Not asleep.”
“O.k. You tell me, what are they doing?”
“Dey are camouflaging.” Are they really? Not bad. Good colour match, if a little obvious now he comes to mention it, easily picked off by a sniper. There again, it's his brother that colour obsessed. Junior's “visual acuity” is usually second to none.
“So they are!”
“It is camouflage like “Gecky.”” Good follow up comment matey, and voluntary.
“Good job Pokemon, they blend in so well with the colours.”
“No stoopid! Dey are just being dah friends of dah dat one, Serviper.”
“Which one is Serviper?”
“Dah lickle guy dat looks like dah zig zag.”

Well, this is the planet that we exist on. Not everyone is as gifted as him at “pattern recognition.”


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Touche


You may care to read ‘phobias’ prior to this article.

My daughter is engaged in the bathroom [translation = sitting on the throne] with one foot operating the lever on the pedal bin as she chants “bin, trash, garbage, rubbish,” in time to the clanking of the lid as it crashes against the pedestal. I sit at the table with the boys. Junior son's current breakfast consists of 3 grapes, each color, a raspberry, a strawberry, a blackberry, a serious challenge, a few blue berries, the blandest and most innocuous fruit ever to grace the planet, a cube of pineapple and half a banana. This means that breakfast is generally a very LOUD affair. This is of course perfect timing, now that we’re reaching the end of the soft fruit season. He’ll have forgotten all about them, that he has nearly conquered them. By next year they’ll be ‘new food’ again. Ah well. The fruit is a precursor, nay an aperitif, to more preferred food, 44 minutes of fruit, one minute of cereal. 44 minutes to eat a quarter cup of fruit, one minute to eat a cup of cereal, but life's a trade off. Her chant continues in the bathroom, “bin [clank], trash [clank], garbage [clank], rubbish [clank].” I consider removing the label from the bin, marked with the same words to assist those who have difficulty identifying everyday household objects without such clues.

I run a quick inventory of the odd things in my house that are labeled, just a few of them, like the 4 foot toy chest that has a little yellow label on it saying 'trunk' or the 6 foot fridge labeled 'fridge' or more confusingly, the door labeled 'sink,' which is at eye line height, so that when he walks into the door in the morning, he'll be reminded that he's really heading for the sink. It's like some deep surreal mystery, where I inhabit the same planet where I am the alien.

We reach the hurdle of the latest new fruits. He screams as is his wont and tries to escape from the cage of his carver chair.
“It's hairy!” he yeowls.
“What is?”
“The fruit!”
I examine his platter looking for a rogue bloom of mould that I may have missed in haste. Nothing. Pristine fruit, the peak of freshness, a delicious, juicy, tempting array of the best the supermarket has to offer.
“It's not dear, it's perfect.” His sister appears by my side to comment, “he's never gonna eat it ya know.” I am uncertain whether she has mislaid her American positive attitude or whether this is my reality check?
“Rubbish, of course he will, he's eaten one every day for ten days now.”
“What cha mean 'rubbish,'” she enquires, head to one side. I blink, checking continents.
“Oh, 'rubbish' can mean 'nonsense' or 'don't be so silly,' sort of thing, too.”
“Hairy, hairy, hairy! 'Hairy' cannot be food,” he screams in case I didn't manage to hear him properly the first time.
“He's not gonna eat it,” comes the voice of doom. I look again in case the hygiene consultant shed a follicle inadvertently during food preparation, as such mistakes do occur in non commercial kitchens such as mine. Nothing.
“It's fine dear, no hairs.” The other one starts up, breaking his monastic silence, “I, I, I, um, I don like fruit, it is yucky for me, but I'm gonna try, I'm gonna try and eat it anyways,” he says stuffing a blueberry into tight lips.
“You need to open your mouth first dear.”
“I can't eat hairy! It is bad to eat hairy.”
“There is no hair dear,” I say firmly with my eyes very close to his eyes. He growls with exasperation at my stupidity.

I concede the point that some fruit is in fact hairy, a whole category of hairy fruit such as kiwi, or peaches, if you're being really picky, but his breakfast is devoid of the hairy varieties. He gestures with his index finger towards the offender. I follow as he identifies the raspberry, stabbing the nearby air space with teeth bared and a crumpled nose, as the stench of raspberry is clearly overpowering. Our faces move in closer to examine the culprit. “See!” he accuses, but I don't. He hurls himself back in the chair and clunks his skull of the wood, 'mothers! Who'd have them!'

“Your eyes are bad, your eyes are stupid, why you have stupid bad eyes that don't work proper?” A well reasoned argument, one that I haven't recently considered but always subject to review. I try harder. I pick up the raspberry to line it up with the bifocals at 6:52 in the morning, and do you know what, he's right, there are tiny little hairs on a raspberry, minute ones. This is a valuable new piece of information for a middle aged person to acquire. I wonder why it is, that whilst for most people, advancing years result in greater wisdom but that other less fortunate persons, are forced to face chasms of ignorance? I also wonder how best to proceed, now that I have been proved wrong both categorically and category wise? His face is set, arms folded across his chest in a gesture of defiance. I replace the fork on the side of the platter as a droplet of juice forms on the pierced raspberry. I debate how to manage my defeat, which apparently is discernible from my facial expression, as he reaches a gentle hand across to my shoulder, “I am sorry your eyes are old rubbish.”

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