Thursday, December 6, 2012

Who's on First?



Tate's not sure if he likes
Snoopy or not.
Tate is very interested in Santa this year. He is insisting we all write letters to the man in red. He has asked his teachers to write letters, as well. They are so cooperative and have been playing right along. Tate can be VERY persuasive. I keep reminding Tate that Santa is just pretend and Tate doesn’t argue but I am not sure he “gets it.” So, this evening I had a long talk with Tate and Sydney about things that are real and things that are pretend. I had written a Bible lesson a couple of years ago called “God is Real” and tonight we went over the lesson together. First we talked about people we know. They are real. Then we talked, at length, about the real people of the Bible who did incredible things. We mentioned David and the giant Goliath, Noah and his huge boat, and Jonah in the belly of the whale. I made sure Tate and Sydney understood the Bible stories are true. Then we talked about some fictional characters like the three little pigs and the big bad wolf. We talked about dragons and unicorns and other pretend beings. I had created an activity so the kids could circle the “real” things and cross off the things that were not. Tate circled the word “God” and the image representing Jesus, as well as Noah and the ark. He crossed off the unicorn and the dragon but hesitated when he came to a fairy. He said “I’ve seen fairies on TV so they are real.” I said, “No, they are pretend just like other cartoon characters.”  Tate agreed. There was a picture of a super hero on the page and Tate looked up at me and asked “Are super heroes real?” I explained they were just pretend. (See my recent post called “Seeing Ghosts” where I explain how Tate became convinced the Green Lantern lives in our town.) The last picture was a genie on a flying carpet. Tate circled it. I said, “Tate, genies are just pretend.” He said, “Mom, you know Egypt is in the desert.” I agreed, wondering what that had to do with anything. He went on, “Genies live in Egypt.” I said, “Genies are just pretend.” He said, “Egypt is real and the desert is real and genies live there. They are real.” I can almost see the logic there. I said, "Tate. Cross off the genie" and he did comply but I don’t think he changed his belief. Haha When Tate is convinced he “knows” something then he cannot usually be persuaded to reject that belief. THAT is one of the hardest things we deal with. I've had a doctor call it "rigidity of thinking."    

It is very hard to communicate with Tate for several reasons. He doesn’t process very fast so he gets “lost” in all the language if you talk fast or long. He doesn’t understand figurative language so we have to be careful not to say anything he could misinterpret. If we really want to explain something we have to explain it slowly and systematically, using concrete thoughts. Also, he cannot be preoccupied or distracted by other things or other thoughts. He often goes around in circles and it gets comical to me. It sometimes reminds me of the old comedy routine “Who’s on first.” The following is a conversation we had yesterday: 

Me to Tate: "Do you want some milk?" Tate: "I had water." Me: "Do you want some milk with your waffle?" Tate: "I'll put this cup by the sink." Me: "Do you want me to put some milk in it?" Tate: "I drank water in this cup." Me: "But Tate, the water is all gone so now you can have milk in that cup if you want." Tate: "I need a different cup. This one had water in it." I took the cup from him and poured milk in it.  He surprised me and drank it without an argument.

Inserted below is part of a blog post from March. I believe it is from my very first post. I had documented a conversation that day and want to share it again here. If you’ve been reading my blog long, you might remember it. You can see the similarities in the two conversations and understand how hard it is to get Tate to focus on what you want him to when trying to explain something. It can be quite frustrating.

…this week, we began an organized effort to teach some figurative language. Example…Tate noticed a moth in the house and was obsessing about it. Shawn (Dad) got him a flyswatter and said “Here keep this handy.” Me: “Tate, do you know what it means to keep something handy?” Tate: “Kill that moth.” Me: “To keep something handy means to keep it close by so you can grab it. What if I said that I need to blow my nose and the Kleenex were handy?” Tate: “You can’t kill a moth with a Kleenex.” Me: “Tate, don’t think about the moth. We’re talking about the word HANDY. It means to keep something close by so you can use it.” (I inserted two more examples of ‘handy’ in a sentence.) Tate: “Will you kill that moth?”

Back to the present (2012):

This morning Tate was stuck on the subject of our trip to Tennessee next week to watch his oldest sister graduate from college. There is no changing the subject or trying to get his input on any other topic when he is stuck. Unless, of course, it would be a subject he would find even more appealing. He is often dwelling on his favorite shows or his favorite characters from his favorite shows and he cannot seem to think "around" those images in his mind. Because of this Tate learns very slowly. Can you imagine trying to learn something you were not interested in from someone you could barely hear if there was a loud video of your favorite movie playing on a headset that you had strapped to your head? I think that would be similar to what Tate deals with. How can he listen to a lecture on rocks in science class when he is replaying the "Toy Story" movie in his head and he cannot shut it off?    

I have a very dear friend who parents a child with severe autism. She inspires me to be a better parent and she is truly a hero in my book. Once she told me how brave she considered her son to be. She described HIM as a hero, dealing with things that are incredibly hard to make very small gains. I think of that often and I am so glad she gave me her perspective. It makes me think twice when I get a little frustrated that Tate will not (or cannot) focus and attend to what I would like him to. It makes me think twice when I get a little discouraged that Tate cannot remember which drawers to put his laundry away without supervision. (Yes, there ARE visual labels on his drawers.) Tate works harder to learn a little, than most of us would work to learn very complicated things. So, doing third grade math in the fifth grade is not something to be dissatisfied with, but something to celebrate. I hear often that we should not mourn the things our special kids cannot do, but take joy in the things they CAN do. Those words are truly words of wisdom. 

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