Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Problem with Pragmatics

Pragmatic, or social, speech is a problem for Gus, and this is pretty typical of individuals on the autism spectrum. No big news there. Because of his difficulty in grasping the different connotations of words and because of his very literal mind, I now have a child who is terrified of Tootsie Rolls. Honestly I don't know how we got there, but there we are.

It all started two days ago. We have a prize box where the kids can pick prizes from when they received enough stars on their charts for good behavior. Any manner of thing can end up in that box, such as the Tootsie Roll push light that someone had given Gus at the end of last school year that had ended up in a cabinet. So Gus chose the light for his prize and I thought all was well.

That night, he asked, "What's a Tootsie Roll?"

"It's a candy."

"Is it good for you?"

"Well, no. Candy isn't really good for you."

I should have seen the slope getting slippery, but it was late and I just wanted to get his brushing and compressions done. When he asked what would happen, I should have thought longer before I spoke.

"Well, too much candy can make you sick and it can give you cavities."

Isn't this a typical response about the evils of candy? Ah, but I'm not dealing with a typical child, am I?

"If I eat a Tootsie Roll, I'll get sick." The bottom lip started to quiver, the eyes started to water, the breath started to hitch. Within a second, he was full out crying. Stupid mommy. "I'm gonna diiiiiie!"

Of course all my attempts at damage control were pointless because once he latches onto something with that wonderful perseveration of his, it's all over. But I had to try.

"You won't die from eating a Tootsie Roll. I said that if you eat too many you might get a tummy ache or cavities. You won't die from those."

"I'm gonna get sick and die!"

I tried everything - even making funny faces to snap him out of it. Finally, the faces somewhat worked. He told, through sniffles, that he didn't want to be copied. We were saved from a major meltdown because of my extraordinary facial control.

I thought the drama was done, and obviously I'm still a stupid mommy.

We went through almost an identical scenario tonight, except this time I didn't let it go on so long. For one thing, my patience was much shorter tonight. Finally, I asked, "Do you want a Tootsie Roll? Is that it?"

"No! I'll get sick!"

"You won't get sick. Do you want a Tootsie Roll?"

"If someone gives me a Tootsie Roll, I'll get sick!"

"Did someone give you a Tootsie Roll?"


Now I was wondering if there was some talk of stranger danger or something going on at school to bring this up.

"No one's going to give you a Tootsie Roll."

"But if they put it in my mouth I have to spit it out or I'll get sick."

"Okay." I didn't have the energy to debate it any more. It was bad of me, I'm sure. But thankfully, he let it drop and he went to bed. No tears tonight over the candy.

Then I just had to console him over the Pirate story he asked me to read that set him to tears. I can do nothing right this week, apparently.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Grass is always greener

I know that most people with children on the spectrum would love nothing more than to have their children speaking. And honestly, I wouldn't want Gus to not speak because then I'd miss the wacky jokes and hilarious observations he makes. However...

There's always a 'but,' isn't there?

I don't know if he's doing it more, or if my nerves are just more sensitive than normal, but the constant noises and chatter are driving me batty. Almost from the minute he walks in from school until the time he falls asleep, there is a constant stream of sound coming from this boy. It's often accompanied by running through the house (like he is now). There is literally a cacophony: words, words, words, engine revving noise, earsplitting scream, engine revving, words, words, maniacal laughter, words, scream, engine...on and on. And by the way, the words are either unrelated to each other or are slightly varied repetitions of each other. Here's a for instance: I would like a chicken sandwich...I would like a macaroni sandwich...I would like a peanut butter sandwich...I would like a naked mole-rat sandwich...I would like a knuckle sandwich...I would like a trampoline sandwich...

Sometimes I can tune all the sounds out - I have to because noise is a bit of a sensitivity for me. To much of it makes me nuts. It helps in a way because I'm able to really empathize with him when certain sounds are upsetting him. But at times when I am trying to get him to focus, like when we are doing homework or eating dinner (or when I'm trying to explain to him why he can't put the chair upside down on the stairs and he's ignoring me) it's extremely frustrating to have him just droning on constantly.

Heaven help me when MM decides to chime in and rev him up even more. Then we get a situation like the other night when I finally just screamed, "Why do I bother to say anything in here?" I really just wanted to get through dinner. I don't feel too badly about yelling - I don't think anyone heard me.