Tuesday, December 20, 2011


These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.

-T.S. Eliot

It is funny how much we rely on the ability to communicate. Our "typical" three year old was having a difficult time falling asleep 2 nights ago. Tossing. Turning. Cranky. I went in the room and, perhaps in a slightly exacerbated voice, asked “What’s wrong with you.” He grabbed at his right ear and responded “My ear hurts.” And just like that – the question was answered. A little Motrin and a doctor visit later, we have an infected ear (or two) and some antibiotics. Other than the question and answer, we had no warning. No fever, no sluggishness, no loss of appetite. He was otherwise his terrible twoish self. In other words, if he did not tell us we would not have known.

Cue a light blue puzzle piece.

I have a new definition for Autism:

Autism: (n.) A cruel guessing game in the style of twenty questions, where no answers are ever given to the questions – so there is almost no way of ever knowing if the guesser is even close to the correct answer. Often used to torture parents.

Fortunately, those of us on this life-long reality show of Autism, are blessed with people who have made their life’s purpose to discover the Rosetta Stone of Autism communication, which can help us translate the non-verbal cues we see.

We are in the midst of a truly enlightening breakthrough. Our Little Man lives his life in a near constant state of high anxiety. Sad to say for a six year old, I know. It is something that has been so difficult for us to figure out, given his severe communication impairments. But, thanks to those who have experienced children like our Little Man, we are coming to grips with what it is and how to best help him deal with it.

For a long time, our Little Man had no problem getting on the school bus. We had a nice little morning routine, which would, most days, end with him skipping to the bus with mom. Then, we hit a rough patch. At the start of this school year, after a few rough nights of sleep (post on sleep to follow later), he was vehemently opposed to getting on the bus. We had no idea why. It was like a switch flipped. He had more difficulty sleeping. He was slow to get out of bed. He would refuse to get out of his pajamas. More then once we had to cancel the bus and more than once we had to take him back off the bus since he would strongly refuse to allow the seat belt to be buckled.

Yesterday, I “won” the battle of the wills and was able to get the seatbelt on him. But what did I win? I got a crying young child to sit against his will on a bus he did not want to be on. Congratulations, right? As I walked off the bus, I questioned it all – my parenting, our lifestyle, the school, the bus, etc. To what end?

Thankfully, we do not live in an Autism vacuum and, ours is a road that is too well traveled these days. There are so many great parents, teachers, therapists, blogs and other resources to consult. From that came a simple suggestion- prepare a checklist of what he can expect in the morning – Wake up, Bathroom, Get Dressed, Breakfast, Brush Teeth, Put on Coat, Get on the Bus. We are not (yet) big chart people, but we needed to try something short of Benadryl.

Since this post is getting long in the tooth, I will cut to the chase. It worked BEAUTIFULLY. When we first introduced the chart this morning, he saw the bus was the last thing, and immediately said “No.” But we gave him a pen, and as he completed the tasks, he put an “x” in the box. The morning ended with him skipping hand in hand with mom to the school bus.

And all was right with the world!

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