“I wish I wasn’t so clever,” said DS1 on the way home from school.
“Why’s that?” I asked, intrigued.
“Then I wouldn’t have to do this boring research for the NHS.”
You may recall that towards the end of the last school year, DS1 finally received a visit from an occupational therapist. The idea being she would identify his needs from an OT point of view and create a programme for the school and us to follow, to help him improve his motor skills and help him with his sensory processing.
In order to get his buy in, and so that he didn’t worry about why he was being singled out – and taken out of class when no one else was – we told him that, because he was a genius, the NHS wanted to conduct some research into how various exercises affected the brain.
Last week, he was called in for Round 2.
“What did you have to do?” I asked.
“Nothing really. Just bounce up and down on a ball.”
Good to see all our hard-earned taxes are going to good use.
Then he started to whimper.
“What’s up?” I enquired.
“I had to miss theme,” he complained.
Oh, no. This is his favourite lesson.
“And it was Henry VIII.”
Double, oh no (or words of a similar meaning). He was absolutely gutted.
“But you’re doing a good thing by helping the NHS,” I said. “And you know all about Henry VIII anyway.”
I’m not sure this was the issue, though. It had meant he had missed the opportunity to show off his knowledge in class. And he wouldn’t let it lie.
“It’s not fair,” he wittered.
The following day, he cheerfully informed me that the day’s theme lesson had covered Henry VIII’s wives.
“And I put my hand up for every question,” he said, proudly.
“Well done, mate… Were you the only one or were there others who knew the answers?”
“Well, Olive did. Obviously!”
“Is she a genius as well?” I asked.
“Well, she’s only a genius in theme, whereas I am a genius in everything,” he declared, without the slightest touch of irony.
His self-awareness, aside from the genius bit, continues to gather pace.
We were chatting, again, about how autism affects behaviour, and how, in his case, he doesn’t feel the cold as much as other people – because his brain just doesn’t register temperature in the same way as, say, I do.
He can be shivering, teeth chattering – but he still won’t put a jumper on. Likewise, he’s been known to wear extra layers when the sun is beating down.
“That must have been why I put ‘too cold’ in the quiz,” he said.
“You know, in the Match of the Day magazine, when it asked if you’d rather be too cold or too hot.”
The young person’s football mag had run an either/or-type interview with some Brazilian who plays for West Ham, or was it Wolves – no matter – and invited its avid readers to join in.
“Oh, yes,” I remembered. “You went for ‘too cold’ didn’t you.” I repeated.
As well as an increasing self-awareness, he is also demonstrating a better understanding of other people’s feelings.
Having been stuck indoors all day – his den still filling the dining room and the house slowly drowning in flotsam and jetsam (not sure that’s possible, but you know what I mean) – I felt the need to get out of the house.
“Shall we go out for tea?” I asked, fully expecting a big fat ‘No!’
“Oh,” I said, shocked, not really having thought about where we would go.
“How about the tapas place?” I suggested.
“The cafe near Waitrose?”
Oh. Again, I wasn’t expecting that. The best I’d hoped for was the drive-thru at a fast-food burger dispenser – negating any need to get out of the car and interact on his part.
“Do you want to see if mum wants to come as well?”
He ran off to find her. Where was the obligatory, ‘You do it’?
The wife was at the time curled up on the sofa, suffering with the girl equivalent of man flu (a cold), so I was expecting an unfavourable response on her part.
He came running back. “She says OK…” There was a pause. “But I don’t think she really wants to come,” he articulated.
Wow. Not only had he gone to see her face to face, rather than shouting down the stairs, he had actually deciphered the reticence in her answer and realised that her response may not have been what she really wanted to do.
Deciphering these every day kind of human nuances is often beyond him.
Still, the wife, bless her, dragged herself out. The fact that the boy actually wanted to go and eat in a restaurant was novelty enough to persuade her – and an opportunity we had to take advantage of, because you never know when it may happen again.
Fully expecting it to be a bit of a nightmare, it turned out to be an unmitigated triumph.
The place he had chosen is usually busy and can be a bit of a cavernous noise fest. Very much the opposite of the tapas place, which, although he seems to enjoy it on the rare occasions we can force him through the door, he prefers to avoid – unless, interestingly, at least one of his friends accompanies us.
“Is it not too noisy in here?” I asked.
“So do you find it less noisy than the tapas place?”
Weird. Then it struck me. It was a different type of noise. The tapas place is a bit more compact, the tables are closer together, and maybe the noise there is just a different pitch – one that is alien to his sensitive hearing and, consequently, sets him on edge.
Whereas where we were now, the noise – which to me was an unwanted din of kids, chatter and dogs (yes, dogs) – didn’t faze him at all. We had plenty of space between the next table and ours, and perhaps the noise just drifted upwards and didn’t register on the DS1 scale.
“So you would prefer to come here, in future, then?”
Maybe we had found our go-out-to-eat place? Shame the food is crap.
Anyway, whatever the reason, he was brilliant company – chatting away about all sorts, including prospective secondary schools, with enthusiasm.
His manners let him down, though.
A waitress came over, clutching a beaker with some liquid sloshing in it.
“Would you like some milkshake,” she asked DS1.
“NO!” he dismissed her.
She don’t like you
He may have become more empathetic to people’s feelings, but the art of the white lie still escapes him.
The wife was picking him up from the grandparents, where he is ‘forced’ to go after school on Mondays.
“You’re early,” he yelled with glee, throwing his arms around her. “Come on, let’s go.”
“In a minute,” the wife said, being polite. “I want to talk to Nana and Grandpa first.”
“You don’t want to,’ he stated clearly, before adding a touch too loudly: “You don’t even like them.”
“I do like them,” she assured him.
“You don’t,” he reiterated.
The wife quickly dragged him away before further discussions could be entered into, leaving a rather querying look on the faces of my parents.