Thursday, November 09, 2006

Showing Some Flexibility
Many people do not know what it is like to share the life of someone with autism. Indeed, those on the autism spectrum vary widely in the degree of impairment and in which effects of the disability affect them more or less than other individuals with any of the diagnoses that are on the autism spectrum: pervasive development disorder, Asperger's Syndrome, autism and perhaps some others.
Today is a typical day with Alan. There are some things that are nearly always the same, some that are often so, and some that are different. Alan is a bright student. He likes to do his work. We begin with math when we are both fresh and have not usually had any conflicts of any kind, large or small. While I do have chores for Alan to do, in the morning before his school work, the routine is simply to eat, take care of the two dogs and get dressed. Once in a long while, I have him bring his laundry down to the laundry room before work. I try to avoid that and incorporate it after math is over. Can you tell math is not my strong suit? If you know me already, you know that is so. Alan does not like to do anything he sees as a chore, so there are discussions and tensions I prefer not to have before math. Today, we had three different questions in his mixed practice that were similar to others that have already been covered but which neither of us has mastered. It has been a problem in the past to get Alan to skip over these and to go on to the next question he can do to get other questions done and to leave the unsolvable ones until Dad can tutor us. Today, I am happy to report, he did label the dfficult questions, leave space for them in his exercise book, and move on. That is a huge step for him as in the past he has always wanted to do all the questions in order. I want him to realize that most people need some tutoring at some point and it is fine to move on, if possible, and get to the tutoring later. There are many jobs one has to leave at one point or another, move on, and come back to the work later, so this is also good work training.
Today, also, there were still election reports coming in. Alan has been quite happy with the outcome of this election. Immediately, he has begun to look forward to the next presidential election. He is comparing elections of the past where there has been a change of direction and also he has chosen six or eight possible Democratic challengers he thinks could win the presidency, and stated why he thinks one challenger can't win. This is a sign of his intelligence and ability to weigh past outcomes and make predictions about possible future outcomes. What is too bad about all this is the fact that his Dad and I, mostly I, have got quite testy with him about his repetitive comments and his insinuating them into every possible situation. It is difficult not to get bothered when someone will not give a subject a rest. In addition, he repeats the names of past candidates under his breath and aloud, when he is thinking of them, but they have nothing at all to do with what is happening or being talked about by others at the moment. As my friend commented, "My Dad does that, but he has Alzheimer's." I must give Alan more understanding and try not to flinch, or worse, discourage him with negative feedback. I know I need to simply ignore it as much as possible once I have heard it the first time and I truly intend to do that.
We go to the library on Friday afternoons. This Friday, along with Saturday, the library here is closed for Veteran's Day. Alan reminded me of the fact and I am glad that he was able to make our library visit part of our Thursday plan. He is definitely getting more flexible. On the other hand, here is an example of the rigidity he sometimes has, and how we were able to discuss it without any anger on either part. Alan wanted to get the DK Eyewitness Amphibians book. There were three copies on the shelf. He picked up the most battered one. I picked up the newest one. He wanted to get the first one. I told him since it was a science book, it is preferable to take the newest one. He picked up the third copy, which was identical to the first,except the cover was less battered. He said several times, " This one has the other Eyewitness Titles on the back." I looked inside "my" copy to find the copyright date and to see if there had been a revision. Nope. Actually, he could have had either of the first two copies, since my argument had no merit now. Here is the good part. Once he saw that the inside of the newer looking copy was the same with only the covers being slightly different, he took the newer copy in his hands, put it in the bag and left the two "older" copies on the shelf.
When we were outside, he began to tell me, "That was like my waffles." "And my waffle syrup." The Vans waffles are the same inside, the same as the Trader Joe's waffles." "I wouldn't take any other syrup than the blackberry sugarless Knott's syrup and the stores stopped carrying it."
Woo, Hoo, Alan! I'm so happy for you! I hope this ability to accept something slightly different or a lot different expands.
This very week, he accepted a new watch that is a man's watch, rather than a child's watch. Yes, it is a digital watch. Yes, it is a Timex watch, both features of the old watch. However, it is an Ironman watch, with some blue on it to match his eyes.


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