Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘conversation

The Best Presents

with 18 comments

We pulled into the driveway, and the kids immediately noticed that their car was parked outside, instead of in the garage.  For your Average Joe, this would pass without comment, but our kids are neither average, nor Joes (or Jos for that matter).

Our neighbours (and friends) have been away on R&R travel for the last few weeks.  In a clear case of out of sight, out of mind, this has passed without comment by either child.  I was a little surprised that Pudding, in particular, never questioned their whereabouts.  One of her favourite things is “feeding the bunnies”, which is actually a nefarious scheme by Pudding to explore their home and garden, with the most cursory of visits to the actual rabbits.  The lady of the house, Ms. M, very generously accommodates these inspections by Pudding, but we hadn’t seen her since the family returned from their trip.

Cubby: That’s Ms. M’s car, Mummy, she’s back!

Pudding: I want to go see her.  Want to go see Ms. M.

Me: Well, we can see her on Friday- she is having a party and we’re invited.

Pudding: She needs a cake, Mummy, Hello Kitty cake.

Cubby: And candles too!

Pudding: She needs a present, Mummy!

Me: It isn’t a birthday party, just a party.

Pudding: She needs a present, Mummy!  The best presents of all come from the heart.*

*Yep, this is echolalia- a line from a Little People DVD.  Fisher-Price includes one of these with their Little People toys- a horror of claymation and nonsensical storylines masquerading as entertainment, offering a smug moralistic message at the end of every irritating featurette.  The kids, of course, adore it.

Not for the first time, I’m amazed at how she makes the most of things.  She has this incredibly challenging way of learning language, but she manages to memorize a snippet, filter it, store it, and then reproduce it in an effort to communicate on our terms.  Playing it back from the heart.

The best presents of all come from the heart.  Damn…we’ve watched so much Little People that my post has turned into an episode, complete with smug moralistic message at the end.  Now all I need is to start singing the theme tune in an Aaron Neville voice.  Come to think of it, that would make the perfect present for Ms. M at her party…

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Conversation, not Incrimination

with 5 comments

I was sitting in Cubby’s room about an hour ago while he went to sleep. With Pudding home at the same time, this is always a challenge. He fights a nap, and the slightest sound will have him up and out of bed. Pudding…well, let’s just say that the noise she makes isn’t slight at all.

She was downstairs for now, and I wasn’t quite sure what she was up to, but the lesser of two evils would be having one of them asleep so I could focus on the other one (and perhaps clean up any mess).

She came to the door, and I made the non-verbal sign for “shh” by placing my finger over my lips. Pudding knows what this means, and imitates the gesture. She doesn’t always comply, but on this occasion she did, walking a few steps away before making noise.

She then decides to go back downstairs, and Cubby’s eyes close as he continues to stroke his hair. He is close to sleep now.

The phone rings, and his eyes flicker open. Damn. I stay where I am, choosing to ignore him. He is so close to sleep. It stops ringing. Then starts again. I hear Pudding come up the stairs, and I know she has answered it, though I can’t hear the conversation.

Remarkably, there is a conversation.

A few moments later she goes back downstairs and I steal out of the room as soon as I think Cubby has fallen asleep. I find a missed call from Spectrummy Daddy and he tells me he was calling to let me know he was on his way back from a meeting in Soweto. Then he details the conversation.

Pudding (picking up the phone): Hello?

Daddy: Hello Pudding!

Pudding: I’m talking to Daddy!

Daddy: Yes…where is Mummy?

Pudding: She’s putting Cubby to sleep.

Daddy: Oh, okay.

Pudding: Cubby went on the potty for a skittle.*

Daddy: Good for him! Now, Pudding, hang up the phone…bye bye.

Pudding: Bye-bye Daddy (hangs up the phone).

*This part didn’t happen exactly as she tells it.

We are working on a system where Cubby gets a reward (skittle) for using the potty, but he is only interested intermittently. When he feels like a skittle, he uses the potty, but let’s just say he isn’t exactly responding as well as his sister did to this method, where “potty for skittle” was the bargaining tool she used whenever she wanted to go to the bathroom.

Eventually we faded out the treats as she became fully potty-trained. But Pudding does not appreciate her brother being rewarded for something that she isn’t (and vice versa, I might add). So now when she goes to the bathroom, we’re back to the demands for treats, and no amount of explaining convinces her that she doesn’t need one.

Now what did happen….

Pudding was downstairs and went to the bathroom. I wasn’t around, so she went upstairs to request her skittle. As mentioned, I motioned for her to be quiet, and she returned downstairs, to go to the kitchen, move a chair to get into the treat cupboard, help herself to (one? several?) the skittles, and was probably disturbed by the phone ringing before she ate the entire packet. Telling Daddy that was only going to get her into trouble, and she knew it.

But, hey, check out my girl’s telephone manner!

Smart kid that one: conversation is an essential skill, but not incriminating oneself is even more useful.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 30, 2011 at 1:31 pm

The Goat’s Cheese Store

with 9 comments

On Tuesday morning I was in a hurry to get the kids to school and return home for the delivery of our household effects. The usual route to Cubby’s preschool was heavy with traffic, so I opted to go a different way.

Cubby: I want to go to the goat’s cheese store!

Me: What?! [I am the only member of our family who eats cheese, and even I don’t remember the last time I bought goat’s cheese.]

Pudding: Goat’s-cheese-store, goat’s-cheese-store.  The goat’s cheese store, Mumm-eh! [Pudding is now pronouncing Mummy in a weird way.  Not sure why.]

Me: Thank you, Pudding.

Cubby: The goat’s cheese store!  I want to go to the goat’s cheese store.

Me: What do you want to do at the goat’s cheese store?

Cubby: Buy goat’s cheese.

Me: [Of course.]  I don’t know where there is a goat’s cheese store.

Cubby: I fink it’s around here some place.

Me: Oh, okay.  But, anyway, we’re going to school now.

We come to an intersection where the Pick n’ Pay hypermarket is located.

Cubby: There it is, Mummy.  The goat’s cheese store!

Me: Aah, I see!  You mean the grocery store.  Say “gro-cer-y store.”

Pudding: Grocery store.

Cubby: Gross-er-cheese store.

Me: Hmm. Or you could call it a supermarket.

Pudding: Supermarket.

Cubby: Su-per-mark-et.

Me: Yes, that’s right.

Cubby: Mummy?

Me: Yes?

Cubby: I don’t want to go to the supermarket.  I don’t like soup, Mummy.

Funny that, he usually likes soup.  Maybe, just maybe, he likes goat’s cheese now instead.



Written by Spectrummy Mummy

October 7, 2011 at 4:35 am

Good and Ready

with 22 comments

For once, Pudding’s communication folder didn’t come home with her from school.  Instead of looking at the day’s notes, I was going to have to rely on whatever information she chose to volunteer.

I took her to the bathroom, and found a small scrape covered with a princess band-aid (plaster).   I asked her what had happened, and I got the same echolaic response she has said for 18 months, “I fell down on the playground with Zoey*.”

I sat down with her to ask about her day.  Usually she graces me with a couple of answers, and I piece together the rest from her teacher’s notes.  No such luck today. She ignored my every question, until I gave up.  I worried.

It has recently been suggested to us by Pudding’s speech therapist that we might need to consider medication to help her reach her full potential.  Not that we haven’t considered it before, but the suggestion coming from somebody else is a confirmation of our fears.  And of course, it isn’t as easy as deciding to medicate, or not.  Do we treat the anxiety, the sleep disturbances, or the attention problems and hyperactivity?  Do we accept that treating one area might lead to more problems in another?  And of course, Pudding is so very young, who knows what damage might be done on medicine that hasn’t been approved for use in a child her age.  There are side effects, and there are dosing issues.  It can takes months, even years, to get the levels right.  Her behaviors are manageable to us at home, but can make her unteachable.  International schools don’t have to abide by the laws protecting her here.  Her attention problems might be enough to keep her out of mainstream education.  Not that I feel that mainstreaming is necessarily the right option for her.  As you can see, one question leads to another, and it becomes a lot more complex.  Ultimately, there is no right or wrong, parents just do their best making difficult decisions, and hope that the passing of time proves them right.  The adage about every child on the spectrum being unique is true, which just adds to the confusion.  We would have no way of knowing what the consequences would be until we went ahead and tried medication.  Then, as with all therapies, have no idea if progress was a result of the prescription, another therapy, or just natural brain development.

We’d weighed up the pros and cons, and decided we weren’t ready for medication for Pudding.  We would keep trying other ways.  But what if she keeps pulling away from us?  I couldn’t help but worrying about the wisdom of going against the advice of a respected professional, particularly one who has seen many children with Pudding’s diagnosis, and has nothing to gain from the suggestion.

After taking a bath, she asked me to put her to bed.   Every other night for a couple of weeks she has requested Daddy, so I was pleased to be summoned.  We read a story, then she asked to cuddle in bed.

She asked me: “What did you do at school today?”

I took the bait, and repeated the question back to her.   Then she proceeded to tell me, with more detail than she ever had before, about every activity she had done.  You (sic) ride on the bus.  You say hi to Ms. S, and {lists all the other pupils and aides}.  I do circle time and centers.  I do dinosaur puzzle.  You (sic) play with dolls and trains with Joey.*  I do gym, you (sic) fall down, and get a boo-boo.  I turned the computer on, I played music on the computer, I turned the computer off.  For lunchtime I ate chili, and crackers, and a berry juicebox, and apple sauce, and raisins.  You (sic) played a game. If I asked her a question about it, she’d consider, then respond appropriately.  We had a 10 minute conversation!  She was a different child from the aloof one I’d tried to quiz earlier.

Once again, the lesson that it will be her way, or no way.  You’d think I’d have got that by now!  I’m okay with giving her more time, we have plenty of it.  We’ll wait until she is good and ready, perhaps then we will be too.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 11, 2011 at 7:20 am

An Ongoing Dialogue

with 11 comments

I struggled to keep up with the flow of conversation.  Everything was moving too fast for me to understand.  I longed for those nonverbal cues I instinctively pick up on.  When is it my turn to say something?  Do I introduce myself, or should someone else do that?  Do I direct my conversation at one person, or talk to the whole room, at anyone who will listen?  The buzz of conversation was going on around me, and I needed to take part in it, but I was thrown by how alien it seemed to me.  Too frenzied, with constant repetitions, butting in where I thought I would interject.  A whole new way of framing questions.  Some people were conversing before I got there, was it acceptable to put my words across?  What do I even talk about?  When I figured out something too say, it was too long, and the words could not come out.  Symbols to decipher that everyone else had already figured out.  I was confused.  I didn’t know the rules.   Where are the rules written down that everyone else seems to get?  It was too hard, on top of a long day.  My brain is just not wired for this, I thought.

Despite my utter conviction to shout out, my first few minutes co-moderating for The Coffee Klatch‘s 24 hour event were all too silent.  I’d meant to go to a “Tweet Room” before the event, but life just got too busy.  I tried several times during the day to show my support, but with Pudding home from school, and Cubby ill, there was just no time yesterday.  Finally in frustration I tweeted that my autism parenting was getting in the way of my Autism Shout Out.  There was no let up for the rest of the day, finally Spectrummy Daddy came home, we ate, and it was time.  No preparation, no time to figure things out.

Then I thought about my Pudding, how she must feel like this all the time.  How she keeps struggling in the face of all her challenges, but she does it anyway.  I took a deep breath, expressed some not-so-meaningful thoughts, and tried to include people in the conversation.  Or conversations.  I don’t know, like I said, I was confused.  I’m not cut out to be a Twitter chat room moderator, that is for sure.  But then again, a few months I didn’t think I was cut out to be a blogger.  And just over a year ago, I really didn’t think I was cut out to be an autism mother.  Sometimes you just have to do things anyway.  Kudos to the gang at The Coffee Klatch who make this look so easy.  I have a deep appreciation for all who brought about yesterday’s amazing event, it was incredible.  Well done everybody!

I’m still in awe of the incredible feeling of support and solidarity amongst strangers.  You can never underestimate the feeling of being amongst those who get it.  I’m humbled by the efforts of adults on the spectrum to ensure that my children have an easier passage through life.  I’m inspired by parents who encourage me to keep going through the difficult times.  When our community comes together, it is worth shouting about.  I lost my voice for a while after Pudding’s diagnosis.  At times I was silent when I should have spoken out.  I’ll make every effort to be part of this ongoing dialogue, even if I can’t always figure out how best to do that.  Though the day is over, some people are just starting to talk, others only beginning to listen.  We’ll have to keep talking until we have understanding and acceptance, and those who need to break the silence know who they can talk to.

Enough of the silence of shame and stigma.  I’m talking about my children, and this wonderful community we all belong to.  I just feel honored to be part of this conversation.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

November 2, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Too late

with one comment

We were at a 4th birthday party on Sunday, and we had a great time.  It was a big party, with lots of guests, and had to be moved indoors at the last minute due to inclement weather.  So, too many people and no place to escape.   Usually a recipe for disaster for my girl, but for the most part she behaved very well.  It wasn’t the time to force social interaction with strangers, so I didn’t.  And there were so many kids there that I don’t think anyone but me noticed she only played by herself, and she perseverated on putting a figure in the fire truck.  And I tried very hard not to notice, because I wanted time off too.

It was nice, so what if she wasn’t fully engaged?  She interacted with anyone who tried to get her attention, and I tried not to care that the other kids didn’t try.  After all, they all knew each other from day care, she was the stranger.  She is happy playing by herself, and I’m grateful for this.  For the fact that she hasn’t yet noticed she gets left out, that she is always the odd one out.  We could sit back and chat with friends.  There was so little drama that we stayed a while, perhaps too long.

We knew it was time to go when Bashful was mentioned.  As previously mentioned, he is our ten minute warning to get out of a situation that has become unbearable for Pudding.  So here is what you don’t do when you realize your spectrummy child has had enough.  You don’t, at that point, try to get her to wish happy birthday to the boy she has ignored all afternoon, because you hadn’t facilitated a conversation between the pair.  You see at that point, she is beyond social pleasantries, and is entirely unconcerned with how he might feel.  It is far too late.  And you know, if you’d done it earlier, she’d have happily complied.  She loves her little friend A, and would only want to please him, especially on his birthday.

So when we tried this, and she repeatedly refused, we had to stop trying.  Pushing her would have only led to a meltdown, and the end result would not have changed.  It is a reminder, that no matter how comfortable the situation, there is no time off, no shirking on the duties.  To do so leaves a little boy feeling that his friend was mean to him on his birthday, when she’d been so excited to see him.  And when friends are a scarce commodity, we can’t afford to lose them.  Those social conventions, so unnatural for my girl, are even more essential.  She has to learn to do them, and we have to teach her.

Today, two days after the party, Pudding was singing Happy Birthday to A.  Until she can navigate the social world without our assistance, there is no time off for us.   First we have to make it happen, and then we can relax.

If left to do it by herself, it will be too late.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 18, 2010 at 5:05 am