I had quite the busy week…or so it felt that way to me. When Monday and Tuesday rolled around I started to jot down certain points I wanted to make. As Wednesday came and went I didn’t feel enthused about the points I originally jotted down. Sure I could talk about watching several films this week for class (which were all over the 2hr mark but provided insight to the term “ensemble”). I could talk about the stress of taking midterms and quizzes while trying to find motivation to continue writing my novel. As important as all of these things are in my life, I found myself wanting to write about something else. Thursday night the idea hit me: I need to share the parental telekinesis I have with my son who has autism.
As a parent raising a non-verbal child (who is capable of speaking only after being prompted; and struggles to draw connections between words) diagnosed with autism, I find myself pulling out my invisible crystal ball and trying to decipher what his screams (his primary source of communication) mean.
I recall riding him around in his stroller when he was two years old as my family and I travelled on an extended trip. If we were in the mall he generally stayed quiet and seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself. He’d play with his older brother and give my husband and I signals that he was hungry (which usually consisted of him pointing or standing up in the stroller when he saw a person with food or juice in their hands). Those signals were easy to understand. The hard part was returning home from our short journey, pushing the stroller near the door and hearing a scream that at times sounds like a whistle being blown. I thought “what does he want?” The first time I assumed he was just irritated about being seated in the stroller for so long. But soon his screams became compulsive. Every time we’d return home he’d scream right at the foot of the door. One day as my family and I headed down the hallway leading to my apartment, my son in his stroller, I dug deep in search for my parent psychic hotline and thought, “what if I let him out of the stroller prior to entering the house?”
From that day forward I was able to read what he wanted – he wants to walk tall and independently like his brother. He knows that the journey to the mall or grocery store is long and doesn’t mind sitting in the stroller or cart. However once he gets home he wants to immediately do what the big kids do.
Currently he takes the school bus to summer school and at first he would enter the bus quietly. Then I noticed that he didn’t want me to hold his hand once the bus stopped – he wanted to climb the stairs without my or his brother’s help. Soon after, I noticed he would reach the top of the stairs and scream for about 5 seconds, then proceed quietly to his seat and allow the bus attendant to strap on his seat belt. I was baffled and from the look on the poor attendant’s face I could see she was baffled too. But after two days of this behavior my motherly telekinesis kicked in and I put all the pieces to the puzzle together: “she attempts to hold his hand to lead him to his seat – he wants to do this himself. That’s what his scream is communicating.”
So now once the bus arrives he goes up the steps on his own. He gets to the top of the landing and stares in the direction of the attendant (never looking her in the eye) for a second or two. She smiles but doesn’t touch. He walks to his seat with a smile and she makes sure he is safely seated. My son, the driver, the bus attendant and I are all relieved.
I love having the parental psychic channel readily available so that I can read my son’s mind when he can’t articulate what he wants. I know he and I have a long way to go before he can decipher the connection between words and how they are used to express his needs. Until then, I plan to keep my crystal ball in tow.
Now if I could only do this with my wonderful husband!
See you next week: 7/29/11