A Mind of My Own
Posted by Gail | Filed under Autism
Chapter Thirteen — Same Old, Same Old
I don’t like it when things change. I like things to stay where I put them. And I like to know what’s going to happen next.
A few weeks ago, Teddy and Ivana and Callie came to spend the Easter long weekend with us. We all were going to sleep in the basement together, me and Ivana in the TV room and Teddy and Callie and Alex in the bedroom at the back. Before I could go down, though, I had to bring my “beloveds” – my stuff from my room – donwstairs. I took most of the books I like best, my Calvin and Hobbes collection (it is very heavy), the turtles that I bought when I went to Mexico (they’re the newest things I have but I like them a lot), my balls (all of them) and my pillow and blanket. I did the same thing last Christmas when everyone came to our house and we kids all slept in the basement. But then, after Christmas morning, I also had to move every single one of my new presents down to the basement. My mom thinks this is really dumb and refuses to help me bring it all back up again. But I can’t move out of my room without my stuff.
Chapter Fourteen — Familiarity Breeds Contentment (Part 1)
Malcolm takes time to acclimatize to the voices of the people around him. It is almost as if his brain needs to form a neural pathway for every voice he must listen to. Each year as he enters a new grade with a new teacher it takes him eight weeks or longer to begin to process his teacher’s voice without the teacher having to get his attention before she speaks. Prior to that, as the teacher speaks to him it is like the communication is traveling along a very bumpy country road. It’s slow going. Once he becomes familiar with her voice, tone and specific speech pattern, the communication begins to speed along as if on a highway.
I’ve noticed that this is also true for other things. As he becomes more familiar with a new musician, his enjoyment of the music goes up exponentially. As he re-reads a book for the second, third, or tenth time, his ability to understand what’s going on in the book goes way up, belying the belief that Asperger’s learners don’t understand the subtext in fiction. If they have an opportunity to become familiar, they often understand more than people assume they will.
While Malcolm is a man of rules – you tell him the rule and he’s the enforcer – if he doesn’t understand the rules and you try to punish him for breaking them, you’re in for a battle. I have warned his teacher to avoid “punishing” him. That’s not to say he can’t deal with consequences; he can. But he needs to know the ground rules and what the consequences are before they can be brought into play.
This is a concept that’s hard for a lot of people to understand, siblings included. So, when Malcolm walked into the kitchen and accused Alex of stealing his video camera, she, naturally, expected an apology.
I took Malcolm to his room and pointed to the video camera sitting on his shelf. He didn’t look in the least bit chagrined. So I said, “How would you feel if Alex accused you of stealing something of hers? You’d be mad, wouldn’t you?” He agreed he would be. “Okay,” I said, “the next time you falsely accuse your sister of something you will have to apologize. If you do not, you will have to stay in your room until you do. Got it?”
“Got it,” he said.
Then I had to go back downstairs and explain to Alex that trying to make him apologize when he didn’t know the rule before hand would result in a major meltdown. She let us both off the hook.