Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘joint attention


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Top hat as an icon for magic

Image via Wikipedia

We were at the grocery store.  As we passed down one aisle, something caught Pudding’s eye, and she ran off in pursuit.  When something attracts her, she must touch it.  Nothing can come between her and the object of her desire.  In this instance, it was a collection of beanie baby toys.  Before we could catch her, she dashed off, and proceeded to pull down from the display the ones that interested her, and discard the ones that didn’t meet her standards.  By the time I got to her, she had several in her arms, with many more on the floor, and she showed no signs of stopping.  As always each one had to be picked up, observed, and kept or discarded.

I began gathering the ones on the floor and putting them back in the display, but I was no match for her speed, and yelled for back-up in the form of Spectrummy Daddy.  He abandoned Cubby in the trolley, and set about trying to stop the mayhem.  She darted behind him, and found she could spin the holder, which she took to doing, naturally.  Like her favourite princess, Sleeping Beauty, my girl is in the thrall of spinning objects.  She spun, and darted around, and evaded capture.  Eventually, she succumbed to our pleas to stop, and even helped tidy up the chaos she’d created.

She was particularly enamored with a Hello Kitty beanie, and made several heartfelt pleas that we might buy it for her.  We weren’t moved though, we are old-timers now, and know better than to reward a behaviour that we’d like to discourage.  I was mildly surprised that she didn’t whine as we continued on our way through the store.  I would go so far as to say that I was astonished that she held my hand the rest of the time, and walked neatly by my side in the most angelic manner.

I believe as we walked around, I was congratulating myself for raising such a good child.  Sure, there’d been that little hiccup with the beanie babies, but didn’t she recover well?  She is going to be okay this girl.  Perhaps next time we come I’ll reward her with the beanie baby of her choice.  Her brother too, such a well-behaved toddler!  We deserted him to go to his sister, and he didn’t make a peep.  He never made a fuss.  We must be doing something right, we should pat ourselves on the back!

We got to the check-out, and began loading the groceries onto the conveyor belt.  It was the two of them giggling that alerted me.  My eyes flashed to her, and took in the tell-tale giddy bounce.  When this kid is happy, she can’t hide it.  I looked over to her brother, and saw that he was holding one of the beanie babies!  At some point while we were fixed on the mayhem, Pudding had performed a sleight of hand, and passed off her stolen merchandise to her accomplice.  He’d sat there as quiet as can be, as his sister misdirected our attention.  They’d have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for their mirth!

I recall reading an article that people on the spectrum aren’t fooled by close-up magic.  Their joint-attention deficits mean they aren’t looking at what the magician wishes them to, but focus instead on the area they shouldn’t, and spot the trick immediately.  Interestingly, these findings are being used to find a way for magic to be used to teach autistic children about social cues.  Pudding definitely struggles with joint-attention, something we’ve worked on with both of them for some time.  I’m looking forward to seeing the ways this could help her to learn.  I’m wondering, though, if being on the spectrum might predispose you to being good at misdirecting attention, or seizing an opportunity that would be missed by others.  Is it wrong that I was impressed at the skilled teamwork they showed in their first foray into shoplifting?

We were duped pretty easily by this brother-sister scam.  I’ve wished for so long for the two of them to have a better relationship, and now we’re getting it- that is magic in itself.  But I never predicted what a team they would become, nor that they’d be sucked into a life of petty crime at such a tender age.  It makes me wonder what trickery this duo will come up with next, and if I am in any way ready for the challenge.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 3, 2011 at 7:21 am


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Now, some of you may have noticed that there is another little person in my life who doesn’t get as much of a mention as his big sister. There is a Cubby-sized hole in this blog. It isn’t right. He deserves his own write-up.

I’ve been putting off talking about him, because I don’t exactly know what to say. Every time I write a post on WordPress, there is a place for me to ‘tag’ my posts and this puts them in a category. I don’t know how I’d tag my boy, and I don’t know what category I’d put him in. I used to think Aspergers was a binary thing, you have it or you don’t, but Cubby is pint-sized proof that this isn’t the case.

When Pudding was diagnosed, Cubby was only five months old. At the time I was angry with myself (and the world) that I’d missed things in Pudding that were suddenly so obvious. I was determined not to miss anything second time around. But Cubby, like his big sister, hit all the developmental milestones. Just like her, he was born liking fans and lights, and tactile sensory-seeking. Just like her, he developed separation anxiety at a very early age, and seemed over-attached to me. And just like her, when I mentioned these things to the doctors, they told me this was normal.

Even Dr. P, Pudding’s excellent, perceptive, developmental pediatrician has yet to see the signs in him, but referred us to a sibling study to monitor his development.

We’ve had two sessions of the sibling study at the Kennedy Kreiger Institute. Each one is a grueling seven hour assessment, and both times we’ve had to split the session over two visits. The first evaluation found him to be developmentally on target, but with joint attention problems. Joint attention is where a caregiver shows something to the child, and he or she acknowledges this and responds accordingly. Joint attention deficits are considered to be the first indicator of autism. Cubby had some joint attention, but hadn’t mastered it. We went to work on this, and by the time his second evaluation had taken place, he had age appropriate joint attention.

We aren’t allowed to breathe a sigh of relief though, because this time around they found problems with his social communication, something that had been one of his strengths at the first visit. At age 16 months he knows and uses many words, he is developmentally ahead, even putting words together, but there is something about his use of words that is slightly off, or atypical, to use the word which frequently describes our children.  I’m working on his pragmatic skills, and teaching him some basic sign language, which enables both sides of the brain to be engaged in communication.  Perhaps we can get him back on track with this too.  Or maybe there will inevitably be another sign emerge, and then another.

Only time will tell.

For the moment, he makes great eye contact, shares his interests and imitates in play. Our local Early Intervention services will only provide therapy if he has a significant developmental delay, or has a formal diagnosis. Saying that I think he could be spectrummy just isn’t going to do it!

The A-word isn’t so scary the second time around, but that doesn’t stop me worrying about my baby boy. This time we know what challenges may be ahead, and how hard it is going to be to meet them, with our increasingly limited resources.

In January we’ve got our appointments for his assessments, perhaps by then things will be more evident. Until then, he just doesn’t fit into a cubbyhole, he can’t be categorized. He just is who he is, and we love him for it.