Last weekend ,we bribed promised the boys that they would get a small Lego toy if they got their hair cut. Hey…whatever works people alright! My boys hate getting their hair cut so we used the currency that they respond to.
So off we went to Big W and walked towards the toy department.
In the Lego aisle there was a beautiful little sandy-haired boy who I guess was about 6 or 7. His father was shadowing him closely and they were looking intently at the Star Wars Lego together.
I recognised a lot of the dialogue from The Phantom Menace being scripted by the boy (yes….I am surrounded by it – some of it is BOUND to sink in!) and I watched as he pulled all the boxes to the front of the shelves and started to re-arrange them in size order. My ASD radar was well-and-truly dinging at this stage but I shrugged and turned my attention back to my boys. However, the knowing look that Mr Patient and I exchanged said it all
Harley was on the verge of a meltdown and was showing some very early indicators that we were on a time limit. He was rocking back and forth on his heels and his arms were stiff by his side and his face was contorted into a puzzled frown. It was still early enough to get him out in time but we had to make the transition as smooth as possible.
I narrowed down the selection by pulling 2 boxes down from the shelves in the price bracket that we had already pre-determined and told him that he needed to pick one of the two I was offering. I have learnt that he copes better when a huge chunk of the decision process is done for him and I knew that now wasn’t the time to overwhelm him with choice.
He selected one and started to visibly relax. Lucas grabbed the other one and we headed for the front of the store so we could go and pay for the Lego.
Behind us I heard what sounded like chanting but on closer listening I realised that it was the same phrase being repeated over and over again at a rapidly rising volume. It was the little sandy headed boy saying: “I want this pod- racer, I want this pod-racer, I want this pod-racer” and he was flapping his arms furiously.
His father (bless him) got down to his son’s level BESIDE him not in front of him and gently whispered something into his ear while stroking the boy’s forearm firmly. The boy started jumping up and down on the spot and flailing his arms everywhere and screaming bloody murder.
The Dad realised that it had escalated so he took his little boy by the hand and started to gently walk him to a quiet corner but the boy wasn’t having a bar of it so the Dad decided to leave the store altogether. He wrapped his own coat tightly around the boy for security and walked past us and I overheard him saying gently: “Shhh, it’s ok, Daddy’s here.” And I wanted to hug this man.
By this point, I knew that my instincts about the boy were spot on because this Father looked like he had dealt with this many times before and there wasn’t a hint of anger or disappointment in his voice at all. He just wanted to remove his boy from what was overwhelming him.
Mr Patient looked at me and we both had tears in our eyes. We had both been exactly there on so many occasions in the past and seeing it played out in front of us was surreal.
As the father finally made it to the front of the store and proceeded to exit – his boy was now jumping and thrashing and clearly not coping but still chanting: ““I want this pod- racer, I want this pod-racer, I want this pod-racer”. My heart went out to them both but my compassion quickly turned to anger as I overheard a group of onlookers openly speak their uneducated opinions out loud.
“What a Sh*t of a kid / he needs a good thumping / OMG how funny – did you see that tanty that kid was chucking/ guess who Santa isn’t coming to/ If that we MY kid blah, blah, blah” ….Yeah well, it ain’t your kid so shut up!
They went on and on and on…..
I didn’t realise that I was stepping forward to say something until my husband put his hand on my shoulder and firmly pulled me back saying “No….stay out of this one Fi, this isn’t your battle”.
But man was I furious.
And I guess that this is another part of the reason that I blog about my family and our trials.
I know that there is a lot of misunderstanding out there about autism and what it is and exactly how it presents but instead of sitting back and moaning that “no-one gets it” I decided that I was going to splash our life with ASD all over the interwebs in the hope of contributing my little piece in creating more awareness. And from a new comment that I received today on yesterday’s post I can see that a helluva lot more needs to be done in raising awareness for this widely misunderstood but rapidly increasing conundrum that is autism.
I wrote yesterday about autistic obsessions or “special interests” if you will and how they can escalate into something that can easily get out of control and I was slugged with this comment:
|** You’re the parent who buys all the Ben 10 merchandise, who allowed him to watch the programme to the point of obsession so what do you expect? Censorship is not only for teenagers and R rated movies. It is for littlies also. I know a modern, educated mother who was so proud that her daughter’s first word was “Elmo”??????? I can’t walk in your shoes but I can see the big picture from afar.|
|** So I replied with: I’m guessing that you don’t live with autism or have any idea about perseverations? Because clearly by your comment, you have no idea.|
The thing is: Harley has never watched a single episode of Ben 10 and most of the Ben 10 merchandise that he owns was given to him.
His obsession started because a boy in his class liked Ben 10 and Harley wanting to be accepted (and most kids with autism are mimics) decided that to be “cool” and “popular” that he’d better like Ben 10 too so he took it upon himself to “research” Ben 10 by asking 1001 questions.
Harley would suck this information in like a sponge and be able to recite it whenever he needed to but he lacked the social understanding to recognise when he was in overkill so the off switch appeared to be broken in him.
If this commenter had bothered to read anymore of my posts and discovered more about this family and they way that we operate, or tried to gain a better understanding of perseverations and special interests in autistic kids, she’d know that her comment was way off the mark. She found me by typing Ben10 into a search engine (I discovered that in my stats) and obviously thought she needed to set me straight!
But what she didn’t know is that parents cannot control what their child develops an interest in. I have adult aspie friends who tell me that they don’t always choose what will become their next obsession and Tony Attwood who is a renowned world expert in Aspergers teaches that if you remove a special interest (SI) from a child – they will only seek it out more. The trick is to use the SI to help guide the child in the direction that is desired.
Allow the child a certain time frame to indulge in this interest as a reward for completing a task or weave it into their learning so it works for you instead of against you.
ie: Harley: what is 5 aliens + 7 aliens ?
It’s SO much more interesting for him to learn that way an far more effective!
This has actually been a week of discovering new and exciting things about myself though. It’s been a personal growth week in that realising that if I had have received a comment like that 2 years ago I would’ve fallen apart. It would have destroyed me and I would’ve been out for days. But now – it’s actually spurring me on to spread more and more awareness about autism because with every new day, It’s becoming increasingly apparent to me that my boys will have to go out into the big bad world one day and it’s not only my job to prepare them for it - but to prepare the world for them.