Wednesday, 11 February 2015

A Puzzle A Day

CAN YOU TELL WHAT IT IS? No, I can't either.
Join the dots. Yeh, that's what I've decided Bobby's conversation is, a join the dots puzzle.

This morning he said to me that it was Internet Safety Day at school yesterday.

Then he said, in a seeming non-sequiteur (that is a phrase that I learnt at A-level and I am bloody well going to use it even though it sounds like a gardening term) - that on this game he's playing they talk about how easy the levels are, or how hard the levels are.

I am used to Bobby's conversation being a bit random, but in this case I asked a question.

"What has the game you're playing got to do with the fact that it was Internet Safety Day yesterday?"

"Because they don't talk about people, they talk about how hard or easy the levels are."

"Ah. I see, so you're telling me (or doing your best to convince me) that the game your playing is safe?"

"Yup." ('flap flap flap' because I actually got it).

When we talk about 'theory of mind' (knowing what's in another person's head), it's not a case of you have it or you don't. There are levels of understanding. Bobby for instance does realise that he needs to tell you stuff that you don't already know about him and his thoughts. What he doesn't quite get is that you can't follow his train of thought, so he misses bits. You just get the stations in between - or the dots.

Actually, quite a few neurotypical people do this as well. When chatting with two friends I can think of, I feel like I'm watching catch-up TV and I've missed the first episode. I feel like saying (and I sometimes do) 'Hold on, go back, rewind...'

My mum has this habit of only realising that you don't know what she's talking about at last minute. This was a standing joke when we were younger. So she'd say: "It's good. The dinner." Obviously myself and my two brothers never let this lie and would mimic it back, because parents can't get away with anything.

The trouble is that when it's hard work to follow someone, you tend to switch off.

I'd like to have the join the dots conversation with Bobby, but I don't want him to feel too self-conscious about his chat, or have to think about it too hard, because he's doing pretty well at conversation. I think the only way is to gently ask him what the link is each time he does it, so he learns to join the dots for other people.

I might tell him that people are stupid like that. They can't read your mind.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Is She Really Going Out With Him?

SPECTRUMITE mum is wondering whether she really should have graciously covered Spectrumite's Son's coolness (or rather general apathy) towards romance by buying his girlfriend a Valentine's card and a tin of sweeties.
HAPPY COUPLE: Bob & loyal Afton

Still, I felt the need to help him out after he scrawled 'love Bobby' in last year's card to her and received in return a giant handmade venture with personalised poetry inside. It wasn't quite worthy of a Shakespearean sonnet but it wasn't far off.

I have until now considered it an achievement that an autistic boy of 11 has had a girlfriend for four years.

But recently I've realised that I need to take two important facts into consideration:

1) The achievement is actually hers, for hanging on for dear life to the relationship without a huge amount of encouragement from Romeo.
2) To say that you're 'going out' with someone in primary school generally means that you're on nodding terms with them.

Still, this bodes well for the future. All he needs to do is find a wife who doesn't mind whether he notices he's married or not.

Alec's love affair, if you're wondering, remains firmly with the biscuit tin, which never lets him down.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Tell Me Why... I Don't Like Tuesdays!

STITCH IN TIME: We can't avoid arguments all the time, 
but autistic kids have to learn how to make amends
SPECTRUMITE Mum (that's me, that is) is feeling very happy that she caught up on her sleep recently. This meant that when Bobby kicked off at school yesterday, I felt pretty calm about it. I had plenty of resources at my disposal and thus resisted the urge to kick the library door down and shout 'WHAT ON EARTH HAVE YOU BEEN DOING?'
Believe me, this is not a method that reaps many rewards.

Following on from a previous post, the reason Bobby kicked off at school could have been:

1) That it was a Tuesday. You know how Bob Geldof felt about Mondays? Well that's what Bobby feels about Tuesdays. I don't know why, he just does.

2) He had a break using his Nintendo DS and felt that he was rushed and had lost some material on it. This triggered a massive storm in a teacup during which he insulted Saint M'lanie (his teaching assistant).

3) Undercurrents of hormonal disturbance caused by incoming - red alert! - puberty!

4) Undercurrents of imminent secondary school panic/horror.

5) All of the above

6) He just felt moody

It helps very much that school doesn't greet me with an e-fit poster of Bobby posted on the front door reading 'Wanted for crimes against the curriculum'.

As usual it's just a case of letting me know that there's been a bit of an allhellbreakloose moment. The more we chat about what to do next, the better our ideas become.

School never gets me on the defensive by a 'this is what YOUR son is doing, whatcha gonna do about it?' style attack. It is more a case of, we all love Bobby, Bobby's not been living up to his usual high standards, how can we help? This is much more productive.

I decide to pop over to school at lunch, since Bobby refuses to come to the phone.

One thing I'm not going to do is to tell him (tempted that I am) is that if he'd not had autism, he would no longer be wearing the head boy sweatshirt this week, having kicked off like that.

That would not be helpful. He is autistic. That's the point.

One of AuKids' most useful advisors is Dr Heather MacKenzie, who is really good at helping kids to develop executive functioning by asking them what they think rather than telling them what to do. Since being on her SPARK course, I use her techniques a lot.

Bobby knows full well he's messed up. By the time I've arrived, he's already apologised to one teacher. A guilty, very sorry looking state meets my eyes. Or rather, won't meet my eyes. Bobby's ready to blow, but I can tell it won't be anger but tears. The fact that I'm here at all is embarrassing enough.

We both know he caused a scene so the question I ask Bobby is 'How are you going to put it right?' He suggests apologising to the entire world. I suggest that one or two people might be enough. I think he may have hurt some people by his words I tell him. "What you mean like injured?"

"Words can hurt people by making them feel sad inside, even if you don't mean them."

That's news to him. Once they're out, they're gone as far as he's concerned.

Another technique I'm working on is a visual way of making him change his mood, by imagining that he's a Lego man who can change heads. He loves the Lego Movie so this could work although I've only tried it once or twice. I'm trying to help him get over his bad moods more quickly this way.

Part of the problem is that he writes off Tuesdays. The minute something bad happens on a Tuesday, it confirms his worst suspicions.

On a friend's advice, I show him something reeeeeeeally good that I've found out about Tuesdays - all new video games are released in America on a Tuesday.

"So Tuesdays aren't all bad then?!"

Phew. That's one problem solved. We can't always stop ourselves from doing the wrong thing, but it does help if we know what to do once we've messed up.