Sunday, March 28, 2010


There are numerous conditions related to autism-- this is why it's called the "autism spectrum." Some disorders are severe and others are mild. Very rarely does someone simply have autism. There is usually a crossover with autism and other condition(s). This is called "co-morbidity."

Our sweet little Aspie also struggles with ADHD. And mild sensory integration dysfunction. And other things, too. One of these is auditory processing. This means that it takes longer for spoken language to go from his ears to his brain. We have to repeat what we say to him. A lot. And sometimes the language gets scrambled in the process.

He has come up with his own coping mechanism for this. And we, his parents, think it's cute. No, not just cute. Absolutely adorable. His teachers find it endearing as well. As he processes the statement or request he's just heard, he'll whisper it back to himself. For example:

"Mom, where's daddy?" he'll ask.

"Daddy's at work. He'll be home soon." I'll say.

A pause. Then comes the whisper: "Daddy's at work." He'll hold still for a moment longer (quite a feat!) And then he'll proceed with what he was doing (usually, jumping off the furniture,) satisfied that he understands what I just said. This type of exchange always makes me giggle.

Spring has come, somewhat grudgingly, to our area. Our little guy was outside with daddy, working in the garden. He noticed a multitude of ants crawling across the hose reel and pointed them out to his father, who asked:

"Do you see ants? Do we have ANTS in our PANTS that make us DANCE?" joked daddy.

Our little guy froze. The wheels turned in his head. Then came his whisper:

"Ants... pants... dance................ JOKE." He processed it quite well.

And with the tiniest of giggles, he dug into the garden again.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Leprechauns and lectures

We have a "tot lot" at the head of our street. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, it's a mini-playground, usually with just one structure and meant for small kids. The ground is covered with wood chips to cushion the inevitable fall. It's a great place for our kids to let off steam, except... not just the little kids use it. The big kids do, too, namely teenagers. Except they use it as an ashtray.

You can imagine how delightful that is: teaching your child to be careful as they climb, slide, and dodge cigarette butts. I overheard one of my neighbors say, "It would be nice if we could actually talk to the people who leave the cigarettes here. They're probably teenagers. You think it would make a difference?" We all laughed at the absurdity.

Today I was parked near the tot lot as I waited for my little guy with Asperger's syndrome to arrive on the school bus. A car pulled up next to me and three large teenage boys got out. They sauntered over to the lot. In my rearview mirror, I watched them light up. I sighed. Wouldn't it be funny if I confronted them, I thought. What would they do? Laugh at me and mock me? Roll their eyes? What exactly would I say, and how would I say it? I pondered. Then the bus arrived.

As my son ran down the bus stairs, I decided. I grabbed his hand and marched over to the tot lot. As we approached, I watched the teens' body language. They stiffened as we drew closer. Finally, realizing that we were there to talk to them, they turned to face me. I thought I might appeal to their adult side. I hoped.

"Hey guys, the parents who bring their small children here think it's pretty gross that you leave your butts on the ground."

They were startled. I suppose they expected a harangue about their health. I continued.

"When you're done here, could you please throw your cigarettes in the trash?" Of course, I didn't think about the fire hazard, but it's been raining for days here.

They were speechless for a moment. They looked at each other and, likely realizing that my request was entirely reasonable, they nodded. "Yeah, okay."

No derision. In fact, they seemed to hang their heads. That threw me, and I could do nothing but stand there, lost for what to do next.

Thank goodness for my little Aspie, who can't read facial expressions or voice intonation, or in this case, be aware of an awkward situation. He yelped,

"Hey guys! Wanna know how to catch a leprechaun? You get a box with a trap door..."

He then proceeded to lecture them about trapping those elusive little green men. He was quite entertaining. We all laughed as we walked away.

I'm pretty sure that's not the lecture they were expecting.