Monday, October 15, 2007

Autism is irritating

Do you know someone who is autistic? Most people see the word "autism" and think of someone like "Rainman" from the movie with Dustin Hoffman. The character in that movie had a severe form of autism, yet could say words and express himself to some degree. There are some people with autism who do not speak at all. Then there are those with Asperger Syndrome, the "highest functioning" form of autism, who appear to be normal, but are "quirky." Maybe you knew someone in school who always put things in his or her locker exactly the same way, who didn't make eye contact, who didn't "get" jokes that were played on him or her, and maybe walked with an unusual gait. Some think even Bill Gates has Asperger Syndrome. In all forms of autism there is a common thread: repetitiveness. Let me repeat that: just kidding! For the severely autistic it could be a rocking motion. For the "high functioning" end, it could be singing a song over and over and over and over and over.

I live with an Aspie girl. She appears to be normal. She appears to be quite shy (which she is, though not all "Aspies" are shy), but fairly normal. You could not walk into a room and point to her as the one with Asperger Syndrome, as you might someone in a wheelchair, with a disability that is more noticeable. Yet, she isn't "normal." She is repetitive. And, quite frankly, there are times when that it downright irritating. Have you ever heard either "This is the song that never ends" or "This is a song that gets on everybody nerves?" These are favorites of kids bound & determined to find every last nerve any adult around them ever had. And they sing these with just that intent. My child will sing the same song, or more accurately, the same portion of a song, over & over. She does not intend to be annoying. She may also find a noise she likes to make and make that noise over & over. She does voices, too. She'll find a voice she likes and speak in that voice for weeks, but praise the Lord, she will stop momentarily when I tell her it is irritating. Some of the voices are downright funny, like her latest Australian voice where she announces, "The great hound dog went over the mountain." Most of these things, though, are just irritating. I saw a shirt once that said, "I had one last nerve, but you found it." I think I need that.

This weekend while camping, her bunkmates came to get me because Bethany would not go to sleep. She would sing, and hum, and talk to an imaginary friend she apparently created (funny since she never did that when she was younger), and brush her hair. These poor girls were trying to sleep and Bethany was not tired. Oh, yes, another typical feature of autism is the inability to get adequate sleep, or specifically to fall asleep. I asked Bethany what was wrong & she told me one of the girls was being mean. I asked what she meant by that. She said, "She keeps telling me to be quiet." Um, well, it IS almost midnight and they ARE trying to sleep, and WHY CAN'T YOU JUST BE QUIET & GO TO SLEEP???" I didn't say that, but thought it. If these things are irritants during the day, how much more so when we are tired and ready for bed. It's no wonder Natalie is always getting angry with Bethany!

Bethany does not like to be told not to do something. Okay, most kids don't like this, but she has it in her head that if I tell her not to do something, usually, she will accept that. If anyone else tells her, ESPECIALLY another child, she thinks they are being "mean." I told her that night that the other girl was NOT being mean, but trying to get to sleep. Tonight I asked her again what she was doing that night, and why she would not stop. She said, "I was humming and they told me to stop singing. I wasn't singing, I was humming." You or I would know this meant stop making the noise that is coming out of your mouth. You or I would think she was being a smart alek (is that a real word?) by saying this. But, she seriously thinks if you say to stop singing and she is humming, she does not need to stop humming. She is very specific. I tried to explain to her again tonight that they wanted her to stop making any noises. I asked how she thought they felt when they were trying to sleep and she was making all those noises. "Irritated."
"Do you think it was a good choice to keep making noises?"
"How do you think it made them feel when you said they were mean?"
She didn't know. I asked, "Do you think it hurt their feelings?"
"Maybe" (Maybe means yes, when she doesn't really want to admit yes)

Some days I feel she has made such progress, and other days I scratch my head & wonder how to get through to her or if certain concepts will ever get through to her. I scratch my head & wonder how to get through to her. I scratch my head & wonder how to get through to her.

hee-hee. I thought you might like a taste of this irritating quirky disorder we call autism!


Stephanie said...

YOU, my dear, are one serious blogger! I should've known that once you hopped on the bandwagon there'd be no slowing you down. I just spent who-knows-how-long catching up on your latest entries! So I won't try to comment specifically on each one, but I will taunt you with the fact that I found a funny typo... ;)

Chef Mama said...

You MUST tell me what typo it was so I can laugh with you! You taunting fiemb you!