Tuesday, December 28, 2010

People in Glass Houses

Y'know, I think we've got it all wrong with our autie kids.

We are taught to view their supposed lack of social empathy as a Bad Thing.

Many of us are locked in an endless battle with our kids to extinguish  undesirable behaviours that make life difficult, embarrassing or inconvenient  for us, but which the child themselves have no issue with.
But to what end?

Bob is perfectly happy to play the opening credits of  a film over and over (and over), and I have to overcome my itch to force him out of his Happy Place to watch the film "normally".
Why do we accept that we are supposed to train them, like little performing seals, to tick boxes on a psychology chart?
It shouldn't even occur to me to want to change his behaviour just because it makes me uncomfortable, and because I want him to be more like other kids.
It's actually deeply disrespectful of who he is.

He has no qualms about thrashing about like a small (but ridiculously handsome) rhino when he feels caged in a situation that he's unhappy in.
My initial reaction to this is sometimes embarrassment, but mostly I just wish I could express myself as freely.  I have wasted so many hours of my life being bored into a coma at mandatory social occasions, and it would be wonderful to throw a tantrum and to scream "screw you, I'm outta here!!!".
And maybe to strip off while I'm at it.

Also, it's a bit rich that I'm teaching Bob how to be "socially appropriate" when I bolt for cover at the mere whisper of a party ...and when I've just replaced my perfectly respectable hallway light with a creation that can only be described as a purple, glittery disco-ball (1970's, how are ya?).
I could teach Elton John a thing or two about  left of centre garishness, but that's who I am and I feel free to express myself in my own home.

Bob is allowed to do the same.

But it occurred to me that this lack of social awareness could be a gift that allows the child to focus on what's really important, without being imprisoned by worries about what the neighbours think.
That's the X Factor that has allowed scientists to shine fiercely and artists to produce magnificent masterpieces.
They simply weren't concerned with who complied with what social rule.
They just got on with what they were good at.

By interfering with Bob's Happy Place, I could very well be damaging his development.
So I don't do it.

That's not to say he has a free rein to engage in whatever behaviour pleases him whenever he feels the urge...I may be the youngest hippie in town, but I also don't want to spend my pension fund bailing him out of prison for lewd behaviour.
And he is made to do his homework under strenuous protest, because he is bursting with potential and I would be letting him down by not pressing his gorgeous little nose to the educational grindstone.

So I won't throw stones about not getting the social appropriateness thing.
I'm living in a creaky old glasshouse of my own, but it has a really funky hallway light so I like it fine the way it is.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Clothes Show

Lots of autie kids can't bear the sensation of clothes next to their skin.
They may perceive clothes as feeling too itchy, heavy or even painful.
Consequently, a streak of bare flesh zipping through the house at warp speed is a common sight to behold chez Bob.
Usually I locate him by following the trail of clothes flung in his wake.
It's like his bespoke GPS system.

We use de-sensitisation techniques taught to us by our Occupational Therapist (who hasn't been replaced since she left 6 months ago...thank you Irish Economy), but that's really just a fancy way of saying we give Bob lots of deep massages, play tickling games and generally try to expose him gradually to as many varying textures as he can cope with.

A few years ago he couldn't bear to walk on sand or grass, but these days he can handle both pretty well.
(I have argued with Bob's Dad about his "therapy" of depositing our child barefoot in the middle of the lawn and running away... but it became a really great game and seems to have helped. God I hate it when he's right.)  

And Bob's doing great.

But the wearing of clothes remains a contentious issue.

Now, if we lived on a sun-soaked, balmy beach I'm pretty sure we could bribe reason with Bob to cover up his bare essentials while enjoying a fabric-free everywhere-else (the kid will do pretty much anything for chocolate).
But the closest we get to balm in Ireland is the tons of Vaseline we smear onto our wind-chapped lips to prevent them freezing off our faces.

While flashing his wares is not such a big deal at the age of six, I'm pretty sure the cute element will have worn off by the time he's sixteen.
The people who giggle at his innocent lack of inhibitions today will be speed-dialling the cops in ten years time.

So I'm working on teaching Bob not only to get dressed, but to keep his clothes on.
It's a slow process, but he loves the high-fives he gets each time he manages to push an arm through a sleeve and the tickles he gets on his toes when he pulls on a sock.

Even though it takes me every ounce of self-control not to "help" Bob dress himself (the job that would take me three minutes takes him fifteen), I'll stick with the programme because I need to foster as much independence in him as possible.

And you never know... maybe by the time that happens  this sheet of ice that is coating Ireland will have melted into the grey sludge we are used to.
Well, a girl can dream.