Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Autism Diaries XXXV: Crossing things off the "bother list"

According to J, only one person remains on his "bother list": his younger sister. Everyone else has been "crossed off." Her reactions to his provocations, more reliably intense and robustly satisfying than anyone else's, have been the hardest for him to give up. It's like eliminating all desserts except chocolate.

And it is, of course, a real drag for younger sister. Try not to scream when he calls you "baby," we tell her, while withholding the usual privileges from J (not answering any questions about ceiling fans until he plays 10 more games of chess) and encouraging them into separate rooms when chaperoning isn't possible.

In comparison to J's earlier, extreme, relentless and indiscriminate mischief, occasionally calling his sister "baby" (and grinning derisively and pretending that he was actually saying "maybe") is a huge improvement.

Not that all behavior problems have suddenly vanished. As a recent 10-day camping trip has reminded us, transitions, wait times, and neurotypical conversations all inspire boredom and restlessness--and Wanderlust. No longer is he locking us out of the car, rading the dessert bags before supper time, or puncturing all air mattresses except his, but an urge to run across bridges (they might collapse!) and down inclines ("because of gravity") without waiting for human obstacles to get out of his way means frequent barreling through groups of hikers on narrow trails. His greatest obsession of all has him rushing ahead of us into stores and restaurants and filming the ceiling fans with his digital camera--occasionally standing up on chairs to pull chains and adjust speeds while customers look on hushed surprise.

Indeed, more than anything else, it's that fan fandom that's now J's biggest liability in public. And on Wikipedia, where he no longer gets banned for deleting the Delete Key entry, but for repeatedly adding "Some restaurants have ceiling fans" to the Restaurant entry. Not to mention in his social interactions, where (besides hypothetical mischief and the Number 2) fans have long been a topic of extreme perseveration.

"I saw a fan; what speed do you think it was on?" he asks me for the upteenth time during some recent downtown errands, having finally earned back (via 10 games of chess at the Apple Store, which has no ceiling fans to get on film), the privilege of me answering his fan questions.

"I'm sick and tired of that question," I decide to say to him, playfully parotting back his latest response to questions like "How much longer are you going to be on the computer?"

"It's not same question!" he said. "I never asked you about this fan before."

Half an hour later we're almost home.

"I saw a fan; what speed do you think it was on?"

"I'm sick and tired of that question." This time it isn't a different fan.

"You forgot about the 4th dimension!" he shouts. Yes, it's a fan he's already asked me about many times. But never before at this particular moment in time.

1 comment:

Nancy Bea Miller said...

I can't imagine what the landscape of his mind looks like...something Dr. Seuss-like I think. With ceiling fans. ;-)