Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Archive for February 2012

Wordless Wednesday 29 Feb 12

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Cubby caught between the impulse to chase a hadedah and to run away from them.

Happy Wordless Wednesday everyone.

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February 29, 2012 at 11:17 am

Rewarding

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 Spectrummy Mummy

I remember my parents being much more successful with the whole not-laughing-when-the-child-is-naughty thing. Oh well, practice makes perfect!

 

 The above was my Facebook status update on Saturday.  Pudding got sneaky again.  Remember this incident  where Pudding rewarded herself for using the bathroom?  It seems she felt inspired to do it again.
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A couple of days ago I noticed that Cubby’s treats were not in the usual place.  I found them, and stashed them up high in a different cupboard, and followed up by locking the bathroom door.  I’m sure at the time I chuckled to myself about how I can outsmart my five-year-old.  Then I thought no more about it.
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Recently we moved Pudding to her own bedroom.  We’d hoped that sharing a room with her brother would help her sleep.  We were wrong, so after my parents left we changed the spare room into Pudding’s room.  Pudding loves this new room.  The best thing about the room, is that one wall is entirely mirrors.  She can bounce on the bed while watching her reflection- Pudding heaven.  It was also by these mirrors that I was alerted to Pudding’s latest tinkering.
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While Spectrummy Daddy was putting her brother down for a nap, we played in her room.  She announced she needed to use the bathroom, and did so leaving the door open.  With the angle of the mirrors, I couldn’t see her on the toilet, but had an excellent view of her afterwards.  I watched her wash and dry her hands (unprompted).  Then I saw her go into the cupboard below the basin and put something she found there in her mouth.
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It doesn’t take somebody as smart as Pudding to work out that these were the very treats I’d hidden in her brother’s bathroom.  To get to them, she had to find and use the correct skeleton key to get through the door.  Then she would have pulled a chair from my bedroom, down the hall, through Cubby’s room and into the bathroom, before getting up into the cupboard for the treats.
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All this is very impressive in a child with significant fine motor delays and motor-planning difficulties.  But more impressive to me was the fact that she returned the chair to my room, and stashed the treats where she thought I wouldn’t see them.  Aren’t those some excellent theory of mind skills right there?  I’d have been tempted to reward her, had she not in fact just rewarded herself!
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Really, all I could do was to laugh.  It was impossible to discipline her.  When Spectrummy Daddy came out of Cubby’s room, I hoped I might call on him to have a stern word.  Of course, he burst out laughing even harder than I did.
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In the end, neither of us could quite bring ourselves to tell her off, but I thought I might at least remove the treats- they were supposed to be Cubby’s, after all.  As he was asleep, I didn’t return them to his room, but hid them in my own bedroom.  Later I returned to find nothing but an empty packet.
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I know, I know.  I’m going to have to find some way to check her before she moves on to world domination.  Right now, though, life is far too rewarding to change anything.

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February 27, 2012 at 4:35 pm

M is for Mistakes

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I’d gone to collect Pudding from school one day, but she wasn’t in the classroom, nor could I see her in the playground.  Her teacher saw me, and gestured for me to come over.  Together we peeped round a corner down the side of the school where Pudding felt that nobody could see her.  She was sitting on a training bike (a bike without pedals- the rider propels along using their feet on the ground).

Actually, no, she wasn’t.  Given that the bikes at her school are designed for preschoolers, and Pudding is our five year-old floating around in the body of an eight year-old, she was awkwardly straddling above the seat.  But the fact that she was even touching a bike was a big deal.  After I wrote last year about our attempt to teach Pudding to ride a bike, we’d tried several more times, but with even less success.  When we moved, we bought her a training bike for her size, but it just confused her further.  Now she won’t sit on either of her bikes, and all my attempts at bribery rewarding have only resulted in meltdowns.

So it came as something of a surprise to see her trying at school.  But not that much of a surprise.  Remember I said that Pudding believed she was unobserved?  This was key, because if there is one thing Pudding hates more than not being able to do something, it is having others witness her mistakes.  Pudding doesn’t like mistakes.  If something can’t be done according to her idea of right, it is better not to attempt it.  Or at least, forbidding anybody else from seeing you make a mistake.

I can appreciate Pudding’s reticence.  Nobody likes making mistakes.  I don’t know if she has yet perceived that things come harder for her than others.  I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know that she will have to try and fail many, many times more than most to do things that come naturally to everyone else.  It makes perfect sense that she is more content sticking to the things that she has mastered- finding comfort in the repetition that has brought her success in some areas, and avoiding those things that are too challenging.

I get it, because parenting is harder for me than I ever expected.  When I look around at others, they seem to have it all figured out, while I’m still learning.  But then, I’ve also learned that there isn’t a right and wrong way to do things.  Sometimes the mistakes I make with one child are the exact right thing to do with my other one.  At times, it is the timing that is wrong, and I only find out when I try, and make a mistake.  Maybe another time I’ll try and be successful.

Like Pudding, I’m going to try and fail many, many more times at doing something that comes naturally to most other people.  Mistakes and Motherhood are synonymous, so I’m making every effort to show my kids that I make mistakes too, very often, and they help me to learn.  They also help me to laugh at myself for thinking something this complicated could ever be easy, or this easy could be so complicated.  I don’t mind having witnesses for that.

So M is for Mistakes, and Motherhood.  Both are as natural as riding a bike- it just takes some of us a little more practice than others.  I could still use a helmet and knee-pads on some days though.

 

This post is the letter ‘M’ in my A-Z series.  You can read the rest by clicking >>here<<.

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February 23, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Wordless Wednesday 22 Feb 12

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Image

Well, my camera is still broken, so I delved into the archives to find one from this time last year.  I managed to catch a moment of sweetness seconds before Cubby started screaming at the proximity of his sister.

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February 22, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Happy Hands

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“Mummy, look: she’s got happy hands!”

Pudding and I had returned from an appointment, and Cubby was observing his sister.  And he was right.  Spot on.  Pudding was flapping, but her hands were unmistakably happy.  She gets flappy when she’s happy.  She also gets flappy when she’s frustrated, or anxious, or overwhelmed, or terrified, but those are all different flaps.  If you pay very close attention, you can tell the difference.  This was a happy one.  He knew.

Cubby flaps too.  As he gets closer to 3, I’m pretty sure that he flaps like his sister, and he flaps to be like his sister.  So essentially I’m just as certain about not understanding as ever I was.  There are times when he deliberately imitates his sister: he watches her flapping and joins in.  At other times, it is an unconscious reaction.  He flaps for the same reasons she does.

I flap too.  Less than either of the kids, and so infrequently most people don’t observe it.  I flap at extremes of emotion.  Which emotions?  When I’m especially frustrated, or anxious, or overwhelmed, or terrified, or happy- just like my little ones.  I don’t consciously flap: no sooner have  I realized I’m flapping than I stop.  It is almost like I’m overwhelmed by emotion, and it takes me out of myself for a few seconds, and in that time, my hands have their own plans.

So what are my hands’ plans?  I don’t know.  Maybe there is in fact a purpose to this automatic and subconscious gesture.  This could be my brain’s way of calming me down when faced with an unexpected feeling, in the way that my eye will blink when an unexpected foreign body enters.  Pudding and Cubby have a much greater degree of sensory dysfunction, and the world is therefore a much more unpredictable place.

But Cubby’s comment intrigued me, because it is entirely possible to read what she is feeling by the flap of her hands.  What if this is also an instinctive communication tool?  At those moments when our communication is challenged, the hands take over.  I don’t know if this holds true for me- if by observing my hands alone you could tell if my agitation was due to a positive or negative event.  I just know what always holds true: that behaviour is communication.  Even if all I’m saying is that I need a moment or two before I can speak.

Cubby has the gift of being able to express himself much easier than his sister.  But he has another gift: he is attuned to her.  He understands how she expresses herself.  Just like any other siblings, their relationship isn’t perfect, but there are moments they make my heart flap.

 

 

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

February 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Showstopper (at Hopeful Parents)

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Though there have been times I felt like calling my agent because I didn’t like the way the script was going, I can’t really see myself playing any other role.

Just beware of scene-stealing elephants!
Hopeful Parents

Read the post >here< at Hopeful Parents.

It started out as a romance.  A pretty cliched love story, actually: boy meets girl, boy sweeps girl off her feet and whisks her off to distant lands.  Before they knew it, a baby girl came along and the script had morphed into a screwball comedy.  This was hackneyed fish-out-of-water stuff.  Adding a baby boy moved the family straight into a farce.

Then there was a twist: a diagnosis- this was special needs parenthood.  A showstopper.  It couldn’t be a comedy any more, could it?  Surely the next scenes had to be gritty.  A kitchen sink drama.  Moody stuff, filmed only in black and white.

Maybe, for a little while.  But what if that was just one scene?  What if the story continues in glorious technicolor, with joy and laughter, and plot developments we never saw coming?  Perhaps as the camera keeps rolling it can return to comedy, or romance, or even an action adventure.

Last week, we drove an hour away from our home in Johannesburg to a wildlife reserve.  We fed a family of elephants.  The kids reserved at first, then curious, then brave, then gleeful.  Picture a baby elephant raising its trunk, and Pudding reaching out her own arm in wonder, then tentatively stroking.  It was a sensory experience like no other.  After a few moments of silent greeting, Pudding raced off to place carrots between the “lips”.

My girl who struggles with social interactions with her own species was instinctively communicating with another.  Then the elephant- scene-stealer that she was- sneezed on Spectrummy Daddy.  You didn’t need canned laughter for that piece of improv!

There are some things you can’t capture on film, but these are the very scenes you will never forget.  The diagnosis wasn’t the end of our story; it wasn’t even the beginning.  There’ll be more tear-jerking moments, suspense, and side-splittingly funny times.  Forget what they say about never working with animals or children: the show must go on!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

February 19, 2012 at 12:56 pm

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Wordless Wednesday 15 Feb 12

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My boys.

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February 15, 2012 at 8:03 pm

L is for Love

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I told you she loved me- I just had to wait!

I know a lot of parents worry that an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis might mean their child will never know love.  All those challenges our children experience seem to thwart love and romance.  The communication challenges, both spoken and non-verbal.  The sensory challenge of being caressed.  Gazing adoringly into a loved one’s eyes.  They are barriers, for sure.

But I know my kid, and I know how she likes to hurdle her barriers, in her own way, at her own pace.

And I know love.  Love likes nothing more than overcoming the seemingly insurmountable.  Just ask the quirky English woman who met the odd American mere weeks before he left the country.  We had our problems of distance and communication challenges.  Rather than breaking us, it helped us to learn a different way of communicating, of being open and honest and prioritizing each other no matter how far apart we had to be.  Whatever directed us together, be it fate or pheromones, Love knew we’d find those lessons useful.

I don’t doubt Pudding loves me.  I know it though I’ve only had one spontaneous kiss on my cheek in five years.  I know it though she has voiced those words only a handful of times.  I know it when she makes me a Valentine’s Day Card, but I’m not allowed to touch it.  I know it when she’d can’t stand to be touched, and when being held isn’t close enough for her.  I feel her love.  I know her love.  Just like I knew the moment I saw her that no distance could ever break that bond.

When she was diagnosed, I learned that there would be challenges, but love won’t be an obstacle for her.  It will find her, if she wants it to.  All it will take is for somebody to see the magic of my girl, and if they are the luckiest human on the planet, she’ll see the magic in them too.  Love won’t weaken in the face of those challenges, it will teach her lessons she can’t learn any other way.  Just like it did for her parents.  I’m sure of it.

You know how I’m so sure?

When she showed me the Valentine’s Card that I may not touch, we were at her school, and her crush walked by.  I mentioned that she could have made a card for him.  Before Pudding even responded, Jimmy* spun around and agreed with me!

Somebody already sees the magic in Pudding, though he is going to have to wait a couple of decades to get past her daddy.  She’ll have plenty to learn about love during that time.  Like whether the barrier is Asperger’s or the Atlantic, she can overcome anything that comes her way, and Love will be with her always.

This is the long overdue L installment of my A-Z series.  If you think I’m a little hypocritical for writing a love post on Valentine’s Day, just remember that my only constancy is how fickle I am, but I really do love you every day of the year!

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February 14, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Away

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It was beautiful in the Drakensberg mountains.  There was a stillness I wasn’t used to.  A calm to our days.  It was about peacefully breathing fresh mountain air, rather than rushing around to schools and therapy appointments.  You know what I wanted to do when we first got there?  Tell you about it.  But being all the way up in those mountains, we were far away from an internet connection.  And a sensible, forward-planning kind of person might have stocked up on credit for her own wi-fi hotspot, but I’d left that woman back in Johannesburg.

The funny thing about email, Facebook, Twitter and yes- this blog- is that I hadn’t realised how long a week would seem without them.  Little did I know when we first arrived and I was unable to check in, that a storm would take out our internet at home for the week after we returned.  I was already feeling antsy.  Still, it wasn’t going to hurt me to be offline for a week, after all, there were other things to be doing.

My parents, both confirmed Facebook fans, were also feeling the disconnect.  It didn’t help that their business calls weren’t getting through without Skype to route them to their phone.  Spectrummy Daddy had no such luck in escaping work- his Blackberry was fully functional, and kept him in the the throng of one of those crises that always seem to happen if we go away.  The grandparents got to busy themselves with Pudding and Cubby, giving me lots of free time in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

Unable to write, I turned to my other special interest: photography.  It was the perfect place to practice different techniques, and almost every direction I looked in I found something I wanted to snap  Then some strange things started to happen with the camera.  Maybe if we’d been back home, I’d have just stopped using it.  No doubt I would have taken it to a camera shop to look at.  But I didn’t.  One day we went to a wildlife reserve, and the first time I picked up the camera, the shutter mechanism broke.  Really broke.  Beyond repair broke.  Gone and we can’t afford to replace it kind of broken.  Sigh.  All this was going through my mind as I was taunted by an adorable giraffe scampering right by our car, and image after image I was desperate to capture.

Now, I’ll be living in South Africa for another two and a half years.  There’ll be ample opportunities to go to reserves, game parks, and safaris.  But I couldn’t get out of the frustration I was feeling, try as I might.  I couldn’t just enjoy the moment.  I was angry with myself because I couldn’t just enjoy the moment, when everyone else was managing to do just that.

Not the first time, I’m reminded of how similar I am to Pudding.  I feel all the frustrations of not being able to communicate easily, and not having things go my way when I try to escape into my own world.  But I’m the lucky one, this kind of situation occurs rarely for me- it is the way my girl experiences this world.  And she manages to do it with a whole lot more grace than I can even begin to muster.

I was glad to get back home, even if it has taken until now to get reconnected.  The funny thing was that Pudding was all happiness and ease in the mountains.  We had a week with improved communication and far more relaxed interactions, including lots of cuddles with the grandparents.  I’m curious about whether it was the altitude that had such a positive effect on her.  Or perhaps she just needed to get away from it all.

At least I got some photos for future Wordless Wednesdays before my poor camera went to the great developer up high.  It was great to get away, but I’m so glad to be back.

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February 10, 2012 at 6:57 pm

The End

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There is something pretty sinister about disappearing from my blog for a week, only to emerge with a post entitled “The End.”  Anyway, we’d been in the Drakensberg mountains for a week.  For some kids on the spectrum, a change in routine can be hard for them to handle, but Pudding was spectacular for the entire week, which of course meant that her brother had to be the one acting out.  A week without internet access was quite isolating for me, but obviously something about the area suited her well.

In fact, she was doing so well throughout the week, that I began to get concerned about how she might react to returning home.  I had a couple of talks with her about the fact that her holidays were coming to an end, but she didn’t seem too perturbed.  Finally we got to Saturday: the day we were driving home.  I’d already packed her toys away, so Pudding was busying herself by drawing pictures in the condensation on the windows.

Before long, she became frustrated.  What she sees in her mind’s eye never translates well enough to paper, or glass in this case.  She so loves art and drawing, that her fine motor difficulties are at odds with her perfectionist tendencies.  Several times she drew something on the window, only to rub it away moments later.

Pudding: Mummy, help me!

Normally I love that she will actually ask for help instead of getting angry about something that is challenging.  Normally.  But not when it comes to drawing.  If she finds it hard to translate an image, it is even harder for me to decipher.  I’m neither an artist nor a visual thinker, so my efforts rarely turn out the way she wants.  A week earlier she’d been trying to draw a shower, or a series of showers for different people (Hello Kitty’s shower, Cubby’s shower, Jimmy’s shower) and it had taken a while to produce something satisfactory.  n the end I’d drawn a very similar shower with different colours to denote the ownership.  I was glad that I got there in the end, but it took repeated efforts.

On the morning of our departure, I didn’t have sufficient time to devote to the craft.  I hoped against hope that she would ask for something simple that I could easily reproduce.

Me: Okay, quickly- what would you like for me to draw?

Pudding: The End.

Oh.

I racked my brains.  Was she referring to the end of her vacation, in which case some suitcases and a car might depict her commission.  Or, picking up on her inflection, does she really mean for me to draw The End?  And what in the universe would that look like?  Why is my five-year-old an existentialist?

After a few seconds of looking like a goldfish, I thought of a solution.  This wasn’t so different from Hello Kitty’s shower.

Me: Okay, but you have to tell me- what colour is The End?

Her turn to be the goldfish.  What was I doing talking about colours when we were drawing with our fingers?  In fact, she still hasn’t answered me, and she let me go about my business of getting our things together.  I’m not fool enough to think this is over yet, but I do have a reprieve.  At least until she comes up with a colour for me.

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February 7, 2012 at 9:00 am