Never say to your autistic child: “Can you pass me a brick wall so I can bang my head against it.”

Taking it literally, DS1 pushed my head into the wall. “There you go,” he said.

I won’t make that mistake again.

While taking the meaning of an expression or an instruction literally is a common autistic trait, DS1 usually grasps the concept rather than taking it at face value – unless trying to be funny or because it suits.

The wife relayed just such an example the other day: Having given DS1 an example sentence for the word ‘practice’ for his homework (or ‘independent learning‘, as it is now known): “Picking your nose and eating it is a disgusting practice.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” he replied, “because you don’t eat your nose.”

True. He did have a point, but I got the impression that this may have been a case of straw, camel and a back breaking, as far as this particular homework session was going.

“God, this is TORTURE,” she screamed via mobile technology.

Literal comprehension can also manifest itself when he has done something he shouldn’t have.

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned an incident where he had pushed a friend into a wall and then denied that he had so.

After allowing a decent amount of time for the dust to settle, we arranged an intervention.

With DS1 in the same room as the victim of his shove, I asked Bridget to tell me exactly what had happened.

It transpired she had been dancing around and encroached into DS1’s personal space, he had reacted by pushing her away, causing her to stumble and hit her head on a wall. Thankfully she was unhurt, but naturally shaken and upset.

While she was retelling the incident to me, DS1 stood open-mouthed staring directly at me.

“Do you remember pushing Bridget… or laying your hands on her?” I asked him.

“Yes.” This was the first time he had admitted this.

“Now, you may not have meant to push her into the wall or to hurt her, but you did. So even if it is an accident you need to say ‘sorry’.”

“But she was here,” he pointed to a spot on the floor, then sidestepped a good couple of metres, “and the wall was here,” he gestured – meaning that he had not intended to push her into the wall, hence the denial that he done so.

Yes, he had pushed her, but not into the wall, therefore he hadn’t done what he had been accused of.

“Yes, but after you pushed her, she stumbled and fell into the wall,” I said.

He looked non-plussed.

“Did you push her because she was too close to you?”

“Yes.”

“OK, but pushing isn’t the way to deal with it. Next time, ask the person to step back or step back yourself.”

There was no obvious response. I could only hope he was taking this on board.

“Right,” I said, realising this was as much acknowledgment we were going to get at this stage. “Please can you say ‘sorry’ to Bridget?”

He shook his head. This was too much for him.

“Well, at least give her a hug to show you are sorry.”

He made to run away, laughing. Hugging a girl – no way!

“OK, give her a high five then.”

This seemed acceptable. Bridet approached him, hand held up expectantly.

DS1 lent in and headbutted it.

Gently, not maliciously – using his head is just his chosen method of completing the high-five action when it’s not completely on his terms.

Something to work on at a later date, I feel.

Life’s a chore

The value of Match Attax continues. Further interaction with his grandparents has occurred, motivated, of course, by the carrot of two packs of football cards.

He didn’t even run away or lock himself in the bathroom. This time he sat with them (unaccompanied by me) in the lounge taking them through all the new cards he had acquired during the week, much to their confusion it must be said. Still, at least he was engaging with and talking to them, even answering some Match Attax-related questions.

Now, the wife and I are tapping into this Match Attax motivation for our mutual benefit. Determined to acquire a Mega Tin (containing 12 packs and two limited editions, ladies and gentlemen), DS1 was disconcerted to find that he was a few quid short of being able to buy one.

Given the problems we have with doing homework… although, last week’s efforts did produce much amusement, culminating in one of the best sentences DS1 has ever constructed. Needing to use the word ‘excellent’, he wrote: “The following results are excellent: Spurs 2 Bayern Munich 7, Brighton 3 Spurs 0 and Colchester 0 Spurs 0.” 

It brought a tear to my eye.

Anyway, I‘ve digressed – given the problems we have with doing homework, I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: “If you’ve done all your homework by the time I come back from football,” I said. “I’ll buy you a Mega Tin.”

Apparently, it was an offer he could refuse.

Instead, he settled for a counter-offer from the wife: complete a number of chores that will teach him skills he will need in adulthood to earn extra money (i.e. these were things that would be useful for him, appealing to his desire to be grown up – while we get those chores we hate doing done and he learns how to become more independent by stealth). The list contained the jobs that we would normally do, e.g. unloading dishwasher, sweeping floors, making dinner and not those he should be doing anyway, like tidying up after himself, doing his teeth etc.

Here is where the logic leaves me lost. Do your homework, which you have to do anyway, and be rewarded with a fully paid for tin or do some chores to earn the shortfall in cash so that you can buy one yourself – and then do your homework the following day. Which would you choose? The chores, obviously.

While I watched Chelsea batter Newcastle 1-0, the wife kept me abreast of progress.

Together with DS1 she drew up a spreadsheet (the wife loves a spreadsheet) of tasks to be completed each week and the reward value attached to each.

He even named the chart, ‘My Money Chores’.

“He is running around madly doing chores,” she informed me.

She then sent me a picture of the dinner he had prepared. It looked scrumptious.

“I’ll look forward to eating that,” I replied.

“If there’s any left – he’s on his third helping now!”

Oh.

She added: “He really wanted to go out and look for Match Attax, so I said ‘Can I trust you to make the sausage part of Sausage Surprise now and we can do the pasta later when we come back?’”

He thought about it carefully and then said: “No, I don’t think you can. I’d better do that bit now, too.”

Ashes to ashes

Although the wife had said to him that keeping his room tidy should happen as a matter of course and was not on his list of chores that earn cash, on this occasion she did include clearing up his room because it is currently an absolute tip – his clothes housed in the floordrobe rather than the wardrobe.

But this proved a step too far. Apparently, each item on the floor, whether it be pants, a bouncy ball or a Match Attax card was in a specific place. Looking at the mess, I find that hard to believe.

Even DS1 grinned when challenged on this, but nevertheless it was important for him for everything to be where it was. He knew not why, it just was.

This decision, however, left him a £1 short. “OK, you can clean the fireplace then,” suggested the wife. This, too, was an absolute mess. One of those jobs that’s needed doing for the best part of two years probably.

Still, he embraced the task manfully. Despite uttering, “This must be illegal” every time he shoveled some ash into the rubbish bag, it is now the cleanest it has ever been.

Why is it all the good ideas occur when I’m not there, yet as soon as I’m back the person who comes up with them, has more patience with him and generally handles him better, is shunned in favour of, in his words, a “fat faced grump”?

(It’s not everyday, you receive an email – well, it is now – entitled, “What’s playing next, Fat Faced Grump?” It appears he has changed my user name on Netflix.)

We can only hope this desire to help ‘Team House’ continues. We tried this chore reward system once before a couple of years back, but at that time he reasoned his base pocket money was sufficient for his needs.

Long live the Match Attax obsession.

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