It's been a long time since I posted, but an article that Natalie posted on Facebook caught my attention. I really should post more here. I'm noticing more and more a divergence between my son and the rest of the children his age and in his class at school. The days are filled with "autistic" moments, but I don't always notice them because I'm used to them. It's just JR. Reading the article, however reminded me of yesterday's "moments."
Christmas just passed us on Sunday. JR's dad and I were very good at getting him the things he loves -- anything with numbers on it: a money bank that counts the money, a digital alarm clock, a toy mixer (you know, for baking), a calendar. All of these things have something to do with numbers. We also decided to get him something to just play with: a remote control car. I took my husband's advice and bought two so they could play together.
JR spent all day yesterday playing with his blue car. It is such a fun car that has a wheel on top of the car so it can do flips (in a way), roll on its back, spin, and do some fun tricks. JR loved making it go fast and making speeding noises to go with it. He asked several times when his dad was going to be home.
"But what time, Mom?" when I told him that Dad would be home after work.
"Can I call him?"
"Sure." JR dialed his dad's cell phone number and waited. After the conversation (with which I was pretty pleased), I asked what time his dad said he would be home. Was he still at work? Was he on his way? JR suddenly lost it. He was crying, "I can't remember. I don't understand." After a few minutes of tears and yelling, he finally asked, "Mom, can I call him back to ask?"
"As soon as you're calm." When Dad didn't answer, JR whimpered and said, "He didn't answer." (My husband later got the whimpering, sad message on his voicemail.) When Dad finally did call back, I talked to him. The dilemma was the he never told JR exactly what time (hour and minute). He just said, "I haven't left yet, I've had to fix a problem at work." You see, JR has to have specific times. We're trying to teach him that we don't always have those, but he still feels like he needs a specific time - to the minute. I told my husband to talk to JR again, and this time give him a specific time. It worked.
As we sat around the dinner table, JR and his dad discussed playing with the cars. JR looked at his dad and said, "Dad, you can have the blue car, and I can use the red one." If you remember, JR's car was the blue one - the one he'd been playing with all day. I tried very hard to tell JR that he couldn't just tell his father how they were going to play, he had to ask him if he could play with his car. I reminded him that the red car was given to his dad, and that the blue car was his. I told him, "You have to say, 'Dad, can I have a turn playing with your car?'"
JR turned to his father and said, "Dad, we can play with our cars for 5 minutes and then we can switch and I can use the red car."
I shook my head and said, "No, JR, you can't say that. You can't tell your dad how he's going to play with his toy. You have to ask him if you can." I then tried to give him another script he could say. He still failed. I wondered why he couldn't just ask and why he wasn't understanding.
Just before they began to play, the answer came. Something was wrong with the blue car. JR never said anything about it, my husband spotted a loose wire under the car. Thank goodness he is handy with things like that, and he fixed it. You see, JR couldn't tell me that something was wrong with the car; he'd forgotten that part. He only remembered that he couldn't play with the blue car for some reason and that he would need to play with the red car.
They played for a while together, having fun. Eventually, my husband let JR play with the red car. Turns out that both cars were on the same frequency, so they really couldn't race their cars at the same time. Bummer. . . it would have been a GREAT social tool for him; instead, it turned out to be a difficult moment for him to understand why they couldn't play together and how to take turns. Sharing is difficult (as you can tell). You're probably thinking that you have the answers to this one, but I assure you that you'd be surprised how your answer may not work the way you think it would. ;)
I find that I'm constantly telling JR what to say and how to say it. It's difficult. He doesn't always understand facial expressions or why I tell him the things I tell him. I only hope that one day it will come naturally to him to think about others and how they feel. That he should ask, not tell or do because that's what he thinks is right. I hope I can teach him not only by telling him but by showing him as well.