Thursday, August 19, 2010

Connect Four

I took C.S. to meet a new therapist today—his second, we’re therapist dating right now. To get started, they played Connect Four. Meanwhile the therapist asked questions, C.S. answered and I eavesdropped from the waiting room.

Therapist: “Who do you like to play games with most?”
C.S.: “My Mom,” (I smiled) “but she’s better than me.”

It happens, I had played Connect Four with him recently and I didn’t let him win. I wanted to show him how I could predict where he would play a chip just as he could make a prediction about the moves I would be most likely to make to win. I beat him to teach him because C.S. does not make good predictions and has trouble taking the perspective of others but he loves gaming … so if he’s going to give these skills a go, he’d do it to win.

The therapist let him win … four times in a row. After all, he wasn’t interested in teaching lessons yet, he just wanted to talk and get to know him. After the first win, C.S. was thrilled, what kid wouldn’t be. After the second win, I overheard C.S. celebrate and then excitedly explain how he had won, how he had made a prediction. (Great to hear that my earlier lesson may have sunk in a little bit.) The third time he won, he reassured the therapist, “I’m just really good at games. My Mom says so.” By the fourth time, although C.S. was still just as excited about his win, he suggested they play a different game.

Therapist: “Why? Don’t you want to play anymore?”
C.S.: “I want to keep playing but maybe we should try a different game. I’m just really good at this one.”
Therapist: “You are. So why don’t we play one more time.”
C.S.: “I don’t want you to get upset, because you’re not winning.”

That’s my sweet boy. And that’s a hard to understand aspect of his PDD. Even though 1) he has trouble discerning plain fact from fantasy much less the not-so-subtle, slight-of-hand as being allowed to win, 2) he has trouble reading expressions, and 3) he does not take the perspective of others, and yet 4) he consistently displays remarkable empathy.

Eventually I’ll make all these connections make sense. Until then, the wonderful way C.S. not only looks out for his friends and family but also is quick to champion them is something I truly love about my overly-sensitive, rule-oriented son. He just can’t stand for anyone to be sad. More than once he has turned out to be the unexpected silver-lining to someone’s dark cloud.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Super Sitter

In the past 10 years, my husband and I have had far too few dates. And in all this time, we have only taken two overnight trips without the children. The biggest reason for this is sitters. There are only a few teens I would trust with my high-management kids. Not any 13-year-old+ will do here. Add to this, we have only one family-member in state and she is just not going to watch my children (that’s another story). So, more often than not, we've done without and just stayed at home.

But this summer, my friends have introduced me to the rare pleasure of the Super Sitter. My own personal version of a true Super Hero, these are young college age women who are studying language, nutrition, psychology, etc. and who not only have experience with special needs children but also hope to work with them in the future. Not only do they drive, but they come home from college eager to work and gain a little more experience while they earn some money.

When I handed my children off to one of the two Super Sitters I met this summer, I experienced a rare treat. She spoke my particular parenting dialect, the one full of words like transition, GF/CF, etc. She was completely understanding when I explained, he has sensory issues. When Super Sarah responded that she also kept a gluten-free diet, C.S. nearly exploded, “you do!?!?!,” and even though he had just met her minutes before, he couldn’t help but give her a huge hug on the spot, he was so immensely thankful and obviously felt and immediate connection with her. It was all I could do to keep from doing the same.

Monday, August 2, 2010

What he says is lovely...

C.S. says "lovely" as in, "isn't the light lovely right now" and it was. He said this over the weekend when we were watching a romantic harbor sunset. But what was more, I knew he had chosen this word that is unusual for eight-year olds like himself not to feign some other voice/accent he had gleaned from TV but because the light looked like love to him. His exactness with this word made the moment even more beautiful to me. It stripped the postcard perfect scene of any cliché and added his own sincerely quirky meaning.

I know his personal definition of lovely because sometimes when I wake him up in the morning, he'll open his eyes and find me marveling at the sight of him — he really is a beautiful boy. On a couple of occasions he has told me, "you look lovely." This is not a compliment. He says it as a declaration, an observation. I understand that his intention is to say "you are looking lovingly at me." But let me tell you, what a wonderful thing this is to hear and it usually precedes one of those rare moments when he really looks at me, deep into my eyes and I get to drink him in. These are lovely mornings.

He often has a poetic interpretation of the things he notices. This weekend, noticing my tan, he said "your feet have become the color of honey." Upon being introduced to friends of friends, he said of the woman, "her eyes are big and they glisten when you speak."

When you realize how many things he notices and the poetic turn in them, it is hard to understand how he completely misses social nuances. But knowing this, I also know how sincere these compliments are because they are not ingratiating at all. They are simply his observations. I am lucky to hear his lovely phrases so often. I marvel at his poetry. And I realize, this wonderful individual vision is something most likely afforded him through his autism.

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