Art Linkletter Was Right...

For my family, the worst thing about autism is that there are no "hard reset" magic key strokes and there is certainly no "system restore" option available. There is no going back and wiping the hard drive. One cannot just simply wish that certain things would be forgotten and POOF! they're gone. Once there they are always there - now and forever.

An autistic brain seems much like a warp-speed-hyper-drive DVR.
"Oh, I only saw that movie once more than a decade ago? No problem! BAM! Let me begin quoting every inappropriate line in it verbatim... In fact, just to help you recall it, I will also begin acting it out and inflecting my voice so that I sound just like the scene..."
Take for instance the "F" word. Yes, that one! Of all the words he could have heard he had to hear the queen mother of all cuss words. Worse yet is that he has learned to spell it (sort of), and much like George Carlin, has determined that this word is not only a verb, but a noun, adverb, adjective, pronoun, proper noun, and pretty much any other type of word you can think of. 

For instance, I took his iPad away because he had done something inappropriate. We were in the middle of a meeting with our support coordinator from the Department of Developmental Disabilities. Ethan was acting up and so I asked him to give me his iPad until after the meeting was over. After a few minutes he continued to complain and would not be quite about it. Suddenly he stood up walked over to me and said "Give me back my iPad you ____!" 

So there I was at the crossroads of Should-I-scold-him-for-using-the-bad-language or Commend-him-for-a-perfectly-constructed-sentence? I opted for the first and threatened to put soap in my own mouth if he did not stop using that word. Yes, I know I said my own mouth. It sounds strange, but in fact the thought of us putting soap in our mouth is a greater deterrent than if we threatened to put soap in his mouth. It worked; he apologized and sat down.

It is not the only time that word has been used, unfortunately. It has caused a few suspensions, and lots of heartache at school, church, home, tithing settlement at the Bishop's house, the Art Museum, etc.

This leads us to my second biggest gripe with autism in our house - anxiety and compulsion. Okay that's two items, but they are inseparably connected around this place, so they're as one where we are concerned. No matter what it is that is being said, there are certain times when his anxiety is so high that he must say what is on his mind. If we don't let him get it out it will simply boil over and [INSERT NUCLEAR POWER PLANT ALARM SOUNDS] we have a meltdown. 

To combat this, we have adopted a new strategy of allowing him to say what he needs to say, and then asking, "Do you need to say it again?" Most often he will say yes, but not always. If he does, we reply, "Okay, say it one more time and then it is over." He will say it, and we reinforce that it is now over and he will move on. I know it is not a perfect system, but it is what it is, and it has lessened the meltdowns.

That brings me to my last complaint about autism in our house - Reality. You known that clear distinguishable line between fantasy and reality? We don't have one. Our clearly defined line is more like a giant smudge the width of Alaska that runs from Canada to the Tierra del Fuego. It doesn't matter what the subject, it is always a combination of reality and fantasy intermingled in some sort of Terry-Gilliam-twisted-Steven-Spielberg-cohesive sort of way.

Just last month we were returning from the store. It was a Monday night, so my wife thought she would try to get in a little Family Home Evening lesson. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and parents...
    "Ethan, what is your favorite story from the scriptures?"
"When Nephi cut of Laban's head with a sword."
    "Why do you like that story?"
Okay, so I lied, I have another issue with autism in our house - the littlest things can set it off!
"That's because, because, Laban was a $#!+"
    "Hey, we don't talk like that."
"Mom, that's because, because Laban was a [lets out the F word under his breath]."
    "Alright, that's enough," I chime in. "We don't say those words."
It was too late; he was suddenly wound up tighter than a fake Rolex. It came out again before we could stop it, and it was heading this way for a third pass.
    Grasping at anything to stop this I say, "Ethan, do you need to say it one more time?"
"Yes."
    "Okay, one more time and than we're done."
"My name is Nephi! You killed my father! Prepare to die!... [makes sword gestures] Stop saying that!...Hello, my name is Nephi Montoya you killed my father, prepare to die... [slashes in the air with his pretend sword] ...Offer me money... Yes! ... Power, too, promise me that... [more sword gestures] ...Offer me anything I ask for. ...Anything you want... I want the plates back, you --- -- - -----!" 
Art Linkletter was partly right, kids say the darndest things. Around this house, however, what I wouldn't give just hear the word darn!

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