I know, I’m not the first or last parent dealing with issues such as this. I fully comprehend that I am standing on the shoulders of giants here. I’d just like to talk this through with you, if you’ll let me.
Autism and The concept of Time (or at least Kate’s autism). I preface that again, to remind you that no two children with autism are alike.
If a six year-old, or a sixty year-old for that matter, asked you to give them a definition of time, what would you say?
I have no idea, either.
Google gave me this:
While those definition are lovely, they do nothing for my daughter Kate. She is currently working very hard to comprehend the concept of time as it relates to her. She will work on its relation to other people when she gets a spare moment but first things first.
Time is fluid for Kate. That’s the only way I can manage to describe it. For example, when she draws a picture of her family, our ages don’t always match what we are at present. She likes to draw herself older than her sister (which is no surprise) and she likes to draw me young like a child with her. Her father gets be ‘old’ and sometimes even gets grandparent status in her drawings, ha!
Kate also asks about her birthday, every single day. Her birthday is in May. A few years ago when she began to comprehend that a birthday was like her very own toy party, she began asking for her birthday every single day after. No matter what I tried, I could not make her understand that there would be a long passage of time between her birthdays.
We are currently working on “sleeps” (as many parents do) and it sometimes seems to work. For example, I can say:
“Kate, there are four more sleeps before we go to the zoo” at which point the teenager in her will yell ‘that’s like 84 minutes!” And scream with disapproval.
As with everything else, these things (so far) will come in time. We are fortunate that way. For now, we will patiently count sleeps, read social stories and calm the anger and anxiety that 'time' creates as best we can
If you have a child with autism, like many of you reading this do, you’ll know about social thinking programs like SuperFlex that do wonders for some kids on the spectrum. Our Kate is one of those kids. Among her struggles, is some serious faulty thinking. If you’d like to explore Superflex further, you can check it out here (this is not a sponsored post, by the way ) but for the purposes of this piece, I’ll explain some of Kate’s issues with the “The Unthinkables”.
Superflex, in my most uneducated explanation, is a program that consists of a superhero, the titular character, that spends his time working to defeat the ‘unthinkables’ which consist of a motley crew of mischief-makers that cause a person to struggle with self-regulation, social behaviours and communication difficulties. If that sounds like your child, welcome to the club.
The three unthinkables that frequently bother Kate (and subsequently, the rest of us) are called:
Rock Brain: This guy is a major pain in the ass. He gets a kid stuck on a topic, subject, rule, expectation, you name it, and it is near impossible to get him to let you be flexible in your thinking. Here’s an example:
Kate: I can’t wait for My Birthday
Me: Your Birthday is Eleven and a half months away, Kate. Could we take a few months off from talking about it everyday?
Kate: Do you want to see my Birthday list?
Me: Why don’t we wait until closer to the day.
Kate: Is it tomorrow?
Me: It’s many, many sleeps away.
Kate: So three sleeps?
Me: More like three hundred sleeps?
Kate: So should I start inviting people?
(and so on...)
Kate’s birthday is one topic that she gets majorly stuck on, but it can be seen as funny, even if somewhat exhausting.
To be fair, though, the ‘getting stuck’ part can actually be quite debilitating if it stops your child from moving on and navigating their day.
There are far less charming examples that actually cause some pretty difficult days in our home but I don’t feel like sharing that, right now. More out of laziness than concerns over privacy.
This silly unthinkable tends to play the same joke over, and over and over and over again. I cannot tell you how much Kate loves playing practical jokes (or her version of them, anyway). For example, she takes the batteries out of the remote control and she laughs every single time we fall for it. It simply never gets old for her. It does, however, get old for the rest of us.
She has a rubber pencil and a bottle of fake spilled glue and a water squirting calculator that give her so much entertainment. How do you tell her peers that she doesn't understand that it isn't funny the second, seventh or seven hundredth time?
This unthinkable is pretty obvious, I think. Energy Hare-y keeps Kate’s energy level at full tilt from morning until night. She’s busy and actually talks non-stop (even when she is alone). All the sensory input from her day comes out of her mouth and her non-stop limbs. This is why she is playing basketball. She isn’t entirely sure what the rules are, but she gets to run and jump a lot so she’s happy.
Just my two cents for what it's worth.
Happy Social Thinking!
Happy Mail to:
27 Wellington Row
Saint John, NB
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Grace and Kate's mom. (Shanell)