A Mind of My Own
Posted by Gail | Filed under Autism
Chapter Fourteen — Familiarity Breeds Contentment (Part 2)
I learned about not punishing Malcolm the hard way. When he was quite young, I took a toy away as punishment for something. When I tried to give it back, he’d have no part of it. While it was a favourite toy, he resolutely refused to have anything more to do with the offensive item. And he never changed his mind.
While “distraction” is a technique often used with toddlers, Malcolm could never be distracted. Nor could he be re-directed. Instead, he would wait patiently for you to give up and then go back to whatever it was you wanted to distract him from.
Malcolm at 16:
Every now and then I’m surprised at how much Malcolm has NOT changed, and how accepting I’ve becoming of my sweet boy’s very unusual behaviour. Our last vacation together was an eye-opener.
Before we left for the Bahamas, I told Malcolm I wanted him to bring a book or two to read on the beach, in the hotel room, while we were travelling. He is a reluctant reader and I have to encourage him. He was noncommittal on the reading, so I suggested the first couple of books of a series I knew he had yet to read. My sneaky plan was to get him into those books while away and then watch him devour the rest when we got home.
When we got to the Bahamas I discovered that Malcolm had packed the entire series. Half way through the week when I said, “Dude, if you weren’t going to read the books, why did you bring them ALL?”
“I can’t leave some of the series behind.”
“It belongs together.”
See, not a lot has changed since he was hauling his stuff to and from the basement to keep it all together.
The other thing that came out of the last trip was how hard travel is on Malcolm. Never one to enjoy travel, he’s done it because I think it’s good for him to have those experiences. It’s how I counter his I-won’t-leave-the-house-i-tis. But the last trip, though short, was particularly difficult.
Previously when I travelled with Malcolm I could do more to offset the stress. Deep hugs have always been the antidote for too much of everything else. On this trip, however, he was both too old and too big (he’s six foot two now) for me to pull him onto my lap for comfort. So he had to deal with the stress himself.
We arrived at our hotel in the Bahamas at about noon and Malcolm went straight to bed. He was running a temperature and totally worn out. The next day he was fine again. The trip back to Canada was equally stressful. He was actually nauseous in the airport.
When I subsequently told Alex about how hard it had been on him she said, “Why don’t you use dark glasses to cut out the lights, and noise reducing head phones to cut the sound stimulation.”
“Oh shut up!” I said. But next time I will. If there’s a next time.
As we were walking through the airport towards immigration I said to Malcolm, “You know that trip to Africa we’ve been planning.” He grunted an acknowledgement. “We’re going to have to rethink that. I don’t think you could stand two days of travelling.”
“Thank God” he said.