Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘aspie

Memories

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Pudding has an awesome memory.  We’ve never had it tested, but every once in a while she’ll say something that tales my breath away.  She has been able to recite entire books from the age of two.  She remembers what dress she wore on her 2nd birthday.  She remembers almost everything that everyone has ever said to her, indeed this appears to be the way she learns language.  I have dark fantasies about abusing this gift by taking her to Vegas for some card-counting, but have managed not to exploit it yet, even though the chips are down (ha ha).

I don’t intend to imply that Pudding has any savant skills.  She is no Rain Man, and is way cuter than Dustin Hoffman or Tom Cruise anyway.  I suspect rather that her memory skills have been sharpened because when the world gives you unpredictable and unreliable information, you have to use what you can to make sense of it all.  Her memory muscles simply work harder than ours do.  As she continues to develop, I’m hopeful that she will be able to use these skills effectively, and they’ll enable her to navigate the social world a little easier.  For now though, that memory can prove equal parts useful and problematic.

Take Wednesday.  Pudding has a half-day at school.  Every other week she has an OT session, but this was our week off.  Pudding was reluctant to go to school.  She is going through a phase of separation anxiety, and wanted to stay with me.  I promised her we’d do something later that she would enjoy.  Immediately she requested that we go to the mall.  Not a problem.  I promised, and she happily left on the bus.

I still had some chores to do, so decided to get them done in the morning so we’d have plenty of time to fulfill my promise.  At the store, Cubby went through his usual routine of taking off his shoes.  Rather than putting them back on for him to remove again, I placed them on the handy shelf below the shopping trolley/cart.  To distract him and keep his hands busy, I bought a warm soy milk from the “Mermaid Cafe”, which Cubby proudly told me was coffee.  We carried on shopping without incident, his shoes still riding below.  Even though I noticed as I put him back in his car seat, in the 20 seconds I took to return the trolley, I forgot them, and subsequently drove home without them.  Obviously, I do not have Pudding’s mad memory skills.

There was no time to go back before I had to get Pudding from the school bus, so I called to ask them to keep them for me until I could collect them.  Cubby wears custom-made orthopedic inserts due to problems with his legs turning in, so there was no question wearing different shoes- we only have the one pair.  By this time, Cubby was screaming tired, so I put him down for a nap.  I decided to be proactive and make dinner in the slow cooker.  I opted for Maple Dijon Chicken, but erm, forgot the Dijon.  Yes.  I swear I had a decent memory until I developed pregnesia carrying Pudding. I turned it up high, and added some rice.

Pudding’s greeting to me as I met the bus was, “I want to go to the mall now.”

Right.  The little glimmer of hope that she’d forgotten about that fizzled out.  I explained that we couldn’t go to the mall as I’d lost Cubby’s shoes, and we needed to collect them.  Cue unhappy Pudding.

When Cubby woke up, I bundled them both into the car, and we collected the shoes.  All the while, Pudding demanding we go to the mall.  To appease them both, I suggested that we went to the book store nearby.  Pudding ran to the Abby dolls again, Cubby went right for the trains.  Around 45 minutes later, I realized in my haste to leave, I’d forgotten to turn down the heat of the slow cooker.  I told the kids we had to leave again.  Evidently, this was a cue for the kids to pitch why I should buy them their favourite items.  Pudding was in no way appeased by my assertion that she had her own Abby doll at home.  She wanted that one.

Likewise Cubby didn’t care that he has a bunch of brand new trains at home from his birthday.  He needed Salty, an obscure diesel dockyard engine.  He doesn’t even watch the Thomas the Tank Engine show, but has a catalogue of engines that he studies.  Oh yes, I’m not even going to open that can of spectrummy worms right now!  He screamed that he wanted Salty, as I put him in a fireman’s lift on one shoulder, my backpack on the other, and shepherded a whining Pudding out of the store.

On the way to the car, Pudding remembers that she still wants to go to the mall, and begins her plaintive petition to go there.  Meanwhile, a still screaming Cubby recognizes the mermaid logo, and changes his yells for Salty to “I WANT COFFEE!  MUMMY, I NEED COFFFFFEEEE.”  Pudding decided to join in, only she wanted her coffee at the mall, as four year-old do.  My off-kilter sense of humour kind of relished the looks from everyone in the car park, as I looked exactly like the kind of flustered woman who does, in fact, pump double espressos into her high as kites young children.  Wonderful timing there, kids!

I drove home to find that the only useful thing I’d achieved all day- cooking dinner- looked and tasted exactly like vomit.  I served it up anyway, and amazingly the kids ate it.  I wonder how long it will take them to forget this particular act of motherly malevolence.

Try getting this image out of your mind!

Another day in our life.  Memories are made of these.  At least mine is goldfish short these days!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

April 15, 2011 at 7:44 am

Tangled

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Before Abby Cadabby, Ernie, around the time of Bashful, but after Upsy-Daisy, there was Sleeping Beauty and all the Disney Princesses.  She still likes Disney Princesses to this day.  So do we.  Having a 4 year-old girl in the house means we have an excuse to indulge ourselves by watching Disney movies.  We have been waiting to add another title to the collection of Pudding approved movies, though popcorn lends an appeal to certain non-Disney choices.

We didn’t get to see Tangled at the cinema, as there was no sensory showing for it, but it looked good from all the clips I saw.  I resolved to buy it when it came out.

I’d read another FS blogger’s post about her daughter being inspired by Tangled to draw a Rapunzel mural on her bedroom wall.  What struck me the most is a comment she made later about Rapunzel dealing with her isolation with art.  The Small Bits family are posted to a Mexican border town, a place that is dangerous and isolating.  I hadn’t thought until that point about what Pudding’s artwork is telling us.  She is in her own way isolated.  Her drawings focus on human faces, particularly the eyes.

I loved it.  Pudding seemed to enjoy it too.  She still cantered away when the popcorn ran out, but every once in a while she would return to check it out.  When I sat down to watch Tangled, I was thinking about it in these terms, and watching it through a lens of Foreign Service isolation.

But not for long.

Rapunzel strokes her hair when she is nervous.  She goes barefoot the entire time.  She yearns to be with other people, but is scared of them.  She is (said to be) clumsy and naive.  There is a whole montage of her swinging, rolling around, and generally sensory-seeking.  Even though she has lived in a tower her entire life, she is not at all afraid of being in water.  She has special talents too.

I’m not saying that Rapunzel is on the spectrum (though if Arthur can do it, I don’t see why Disney can’t go that little bit further).  I’m saying that I viewed Tangled through a spectrummy eye.  Even though I was predisposed to interpret it differently.

It is more than seeing my child in a different way, it is seeing life through an entirely different lens.  The world is altered with my spectrummy eyes.

So if it looks this different to me now, how does Pudding look at the world?  I still don’t know.  But I can tell you that she asked for a Rapunzel doll as her next reward.  Maybe she is starting to see herself through these eyes.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

April 12, 2011 at 7:42 am

Behaviour Is Communication

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I didn’t come up with this idea.  It was….ooh, can’t find it.  Probably Skinner though, sounds like one of his.  Feel free to let me know in the comments, I don’t have time to find out this week.  Anyway, behaviour is communication.  I know that.  I’m a Spectrummy Mummy.  I know these things because we get a nice little manual explaining everything with the diagnosis.  No, I’m just messing with you.  I know this through learning the hard way.  There never is an easy way, now is there?

So just to be clear, I know that behavior is communication.  Right?

I also know that my girl has a pragmatic language delay, and that her senses create a bunch of mixed signals, which cause her to be disconnected from her body.  Yep, I know that.  I know things, see.

On top of this, I know my girl.  I know my girl.  I don’t claim to always understand her, but I do know her.

Still, on Monday, all I saw was a terrible day.  I knew her sensory issues were driving her behavior, but that seemed to be all I could see.  She was more impulsive, compulsive, destructive than I’d seen her in a very long time.  I asked myself why, but I guess the part of my brain that figure out these things was too busy trying to deal with the chaos.  Because unregulated Pudding is chaos.  Impulsive, compulsive, destructive chaos.

She was ill.  She felt wrong, and was compelled to make herself feel right, with her sensory-seeking ways.  When they didn’t work, she didn’t stop, she just kept going.  Desperately trying to make it better, angry with me and herself for not being able to fix the problem.  She can’t tell me she is ill, in fact, she says the reverse when I ask her.  Experience has given us clues.  If she talks about wanting to clean her mouth- get a bucket, she is less than 10 seconds away from vomiting.  If she wants to lie down, or needs a blanket, or tells you to clean it up, she is ill.  She’ll tell you she is not sick if you ask her, but she is.  You just have to read her behaviour.

So I can’t tell you why I didn’t think she was ill on Monday.  That I didn’t interpret all that behavior as communicating that basic fact.  If I’d known, we’d definitely have skipped speech therapy.  Who needs that when they are ill?

Yet, aside from that, I wouldn’t have done anything different.  When she got into the fridge and began smearing food everywhere, I found some tactile activities for her.  When she jumped on the sofa and the bed,  I directed her to the trampoline.  When she asked for hugs, I gave them.  When she pushed me away angrily, I let her.  When she screamed, I was calm.  Not a natural calm, but a learned, forced, necessary calm.  A calm almost two years in the making.

I’m not a saint, I was ready for a drink when Daddy walked through the door, I whined to him about all the gory details of the day.  But I’m also a little wiser than I used to be.  I know that behaviour is communication.  And even when, especially when, I can’t understand hers, I need to make sure I’m communicating the right thing.  That I’m here, even when she pushes me away.  That I can’t always make it better, but I will always try.  That when her world feels terrible and different, I will be constant.

You know though, if I could go back two years ago to that Mummy who didn’t know, I’d whisper in her ear what I know now.  Behaviour is communication.  Somebody (damn it, who?) very important came up with that, but before you even try to understand Pudding, you’d better look at your behaviour first.  You can read all about it in this manual.  Nope, just kidding!  Still no manual, sorry.  I keep finding there is still so much I just don’t know, even when I know it.

_______

Today you’ll also find me at The SPD Blogger Network.  Come over and read and share.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

April 7, 2011 at 6:43 am

Say It Ain’t So

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Pudding learns language in a very different way to most kids.  I know this, and have known it for some time.  Yet it still continues to surprise me.  I still find it difficult and frustrating to tailor my language to her needs.  For the most part, I’m successful in getting her attention before I speak, and keeping my sentences short and clear.  But I’ve also been doing a lot of something else, and it is damaging to her communication.  I’ve been correcting her, over-correcting her, really.  Now I’m paying the price for it.

Pudding has an Asperger’s diagnosis, which might fool you into thinking that she doesn’t have language delays.  In fact, she has very significant pragmatic language delays, like many other kids on the spectrum.  One of the most instantly noticeable of these is her difficulty with pronouns.  Initially, she would substitute the pronoun with names for extra clarification.

Pudding wants Mummy to get Pudding a drink.

Then we began speech therapy.  She understands pronouns.  She knows that I mean Mummy when I say “I/me/mine” and Pudding when I say “you/your/yours” and Cubby or Daddy when I say “he/him/his”.  She understands we/our/them/their without a problem.  But when it comes to generating the correct pronoun herself, she struggles.

She went from using her name to using the word “you.”

You want Mummy to take you out.

I would correct her:

Say: I want you to take me out.

She would repeat back, always emphasizing the pronoun just as I had.  Then over time, she began to correct herself:

You want Mummy to take you out.  Say I want Mummy to take me out.

Now that “say” is stuck there.  Wrapped up in almost every utterance.  I hate the effort that she puts into correcting herself, only for it to be wrong.  I really hate that it is my fault for over-correcting her.

***

I turned to the experts in Pudding’s life.  First, her teacher who approaches things from a behavioral standpoint.  She recommends ignoring the incorrect request, and only responding to correct language. It is what they do in her Verbal Behavior classroom.  It works there.

But I can’t.

I can’t turn away any communicative intent.  I can’t ignore her language because it isn’t fluent, not when I know how hard she tries.

So I tried her speech therapist.  Her method was to find an alternative way for using “say”.  She suggested “try” or “tell me.”

While that suits my instincts better, I have a feeling that before long they’ll also be incorporated into Pudding’s speech.  I mentioned this to her therapist, who acknowledged it is a very real possibility.  Then when we went to leave, she said goodbye, but Pudding was outside focusing on a flower, and didn’t hear her.  Before I could stop myself, I called to her: “Say goodbye.”

These language habits are tough once they are instilled, for both of us.  I’m going to do what I should have done in the first place- let Pudding be.  Let her learn our language immersion style, my teaching methods are clearly useless.  That is something I don’t mind saying.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

March 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Wordless Wednesday 16 Mar 11

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Sensory Integration- my girl can never get too much at once. Right after this she went for a swing.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

March 16, 2011 at 7:40 am

Home sick for Christmas

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I get homesick at Christmas.  It feels strange to say that, because our motto is that “Home” is where we are all together.  Each different place we’ve lived together has been our home, and every future one will be too.  So I call here Home the rest of the year.  I’m not expected to get homesick in a place I call home, where I’m a citizen, and own property, where people (mostly) speak the same language, and has many cultural similarities.  There is just enough the same to make it feel really different.  When we’re serving at a post, I don’t feel like a foreign-born spouse.  When we have a domestic assignment, I really do.

There is something about Christmas that makes me yearn for England, and my family and friends there.  I’ve only spent one Christmas in England during the last seven years, so perhaps that adds to the nostalgia.  I’m probably homesick for a Christmas that doesn’t even exist any more.  My parents no longer live in the house, nor the area where I grew up.  My brothers have their own families now, and my friends are all grown up too, with their own commitments and schedules.  I think when you live at a distance, your mind can play tricks, and you convince yourself that the place you can’t be is a perfect paradise.  If you were only there, everything would be just as it is supposed to be.  Fortunately, I only get like this at this time of year, and the rest of the time I immerse myself in my surroundings.  I’d be pretty insufferable otherwise.

There was no way to go to England this year again, and probably not next year either.  For our family, the tradition is now to spend Christmas with just the four of us.  I’m acutely aware that the way that we celebrate now will be the memories that make our kids nostalgic some day.  I’ve tried hard to get into the spirit for this reason, and to encourage Pudding and Cubby to do the same.  For the first time this year, I felt like Pudding “got it.”  We’d played with her nativity set.  We’d read stories.  She’d helped me to put our ornaments on the tree, and when we finished, she informed me that the presents would do right here (under the tree) and Santa would bring them.  We’d attended her school Christmas party, and her delight and excitement was contagious.  We made plans to spend a festive day with friends on Christmas Eve, followed by a cosy day at home by ourselves.

When she woke up on Christmas Eve, she refused food and drink.  As Pudding is almost always in a whirl of hyperactivity, this was our first clue that she was ill.  She had a fever.  Her temperature came down with medication, and she had no other signs of illness, so we continued with our plans, and she was fine, though a little subdued.  We waited for her to get better or worse, but she stayed pretty much the same.  She went to bed, smiling as we told her that Santa would come in the night.

Pudding woke up even earlier than usual on Christmas Day, chattering away to herself until Daddy went in to see her.  Instead of coming in to cuddle with me as she does every morning, she stood rattling the gate and pleading to go downstairs. She was thrilled with her presents, but not long after breakfast she asked to lie down on the sofa with me.  As the day wore on, she looked more out of sorts, until she fell asleep.  After about an hour, she woke up, was violently sick, then went to bed.

For the first time ever, we took down the decorations on Christmas Day.  I just wanted Christmas to be over this year.  Even the Christmas Tree came down, and everything was packed away for another year.  Like Pudding’s illness, my homesickness has abated now too.  I’ve packed that up, hopefully it won’t come out again for another year.  It is time for everything to return to our version of normal, whatever that is.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 27, 2010 at 6:59 am

Wordless Wednesday 15 Dec 10

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Birthdays make me feel the same way.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 15, 2010 at 7:01 am

Posted in wordless wednesday

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