Thursday, April 26, 2012

breaking the rules

Flexibility is not easy for a kid with autism. Tate wants rules written in stone. You do not bend them, tweak them, change them, or rewrite them. SO… last night when I chose to follow a couple of cars into town, THROUGH the “road closed” barriers, I paid. It would have been easier to go the extra two miles, using the detour, in the end. I explained over and over (as Tate protested) that the road crew had gone home for the night and the road was still in perfect condition to use. If he had better language skills I know Tate’s argument would have been “You cannot have it both ways Mom. You finally have me convinced that detour signs are not evil, and roads closing are okay. You teach me these things and then you amend it all?” See a previous post about our detour into town by clicking on this link: Under Construction 

Tate is rarely without a hat.
Tate lives in a black-and-white, rule bound world. This is typical of autism. There is no gray allowed. The few gray areas Tate can tolerate have been taught and reinforced over and over so they are also a sort of black-and-white rule. “You cannot wear your hat in the church building” was a black-and-white rule. Gray came when he did not have to take his hat off if we stopped at the church building to work or clean, and it was not a time of worship. He “wrote” a new rule he could put in his black-and-white mind then, and the gray area then became a black-and-white rule he could follow too. This way of thinking affects everything for Tate. It is why he has such a hard time learning that some words have two different meanings. Last night, someone said “I want to train for a half marathon.” Tate couldn’t identify the word “train” in that sentence, nor does he know what a marathon is. He made a comment about “a train,” thinking he was adding to the conversation. A train runs on rails and is not something you can do, in his mind. I defined the word as a verb for him, but I am not sure he ever really understood. It took several explanations before Tate understood the word “chilly” could be used as a word describing the temperature, but it is also a food. And now people can even tell him to “chill out” when asking him to calm down!

Think about what a kid like Tate goes through in a typical day. Can you imagine how hard it must be to sit in a room full of peers that seem to understand all kinds of things that you do not? Can you imagine the confusion when an adult is lecturing on a topic that you do not understand and they keep using words that have double meanings? We pass a test and we pass the salt. We haul out the trash and we walk down the hall. We keep the beat in music and we grow vegetables called beets. We would never beat a pet but it is a good thing to beat everyone else in a race. All these things are learned fairly easily by a child with a typically developing mind. They are like sponges. Autism robs a person of this flexibility and “absorbency.” Even if Tate were able to decipher all of the words and his brain had all of them defined correctly, we would still have to slow way down and let him process things at a slower pace. Tate’s processing is so slow that he gets lost in all the language if people talk very fast. I think that is why he “gives up” and just seems to stop listening sometimes. He is living in a world of language that does not make a lot of sense, and surrounded by adults that keep changing the rules on him. 

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