Literally

Children on the autistic spectrum can often take words literally. Now most of this can be put down to the confusing nature of language. Why do we make it so difficult. Often English doesn’t even seem like my second language. It did take me three attempts to pass my English exam.

It is something we noticed with our son at an early age. I can clearly remember one time when naughty dad had eaten all the smarties. When our son quizzed the suspect I remember saying

“Must have been the dinosaur in the kitchen”

Five minutes later our son is ransacking the kitchen in a desperate dinosaur hunt.

Another time I remember saying “and Pigs might Fly”. A few weeks later at nursery our son began telling the other kids that pigs could fly. And given a lot of the kids realised how much he knew about animals – they all started believing it to. So if you ever hear someone like Coyote Peterson or Chris Packham talking about flying pigs on their nature shows – then you probably know who to blame. Sorry

We had to become more careful in what we said. We tried to make sure if a joke was told or any colloquial language used that we immediately pointed what had been done and why. Explaining that words can have different meanings. We also tried to stress the importance of not only hearing the words but also trying to listen for how things have been said. We worked on his body language recognition skills. One game which helped was watching the TV with the volume turned off and trying to guess which people were happy or sad or angry or being serious.

To this day he still quite often takes words literally. It’s a worry going forward into senior school. But he is learning. He now frequently asks “is that real” or “is that true” to try and confirm meaning and last week….. He was using my iPad in another room. He kept shouting that it wasn’t working properly. Me being a lazy sod I was trying to shout instructions back rather than going to look at it. After several minutes he shouted that it was still not working. Without thinking I replied “just flush it down the toilet”. Few seconds later the toilet flushed. I have never ran so fast. Fortunately I found a laughing son saying “got you there dad”. Happy Days….

Bridges

Sunday seems such a long time ago. I just love the quayside area of Newcastle. Yes it’s built up. Some of the architecture is 18th century housing modern wine bars, restaurants, fast food joints and pubs. But it just seems to work and dovetail together.

But the highlight for me are the bridges over the River Tyne. All so different and just stunning.

Too often people look towards the famous Tyne Bridge and forget to look in the other direction.

Son was really brave and made it into the football stadium. He enjoyed the full Mr Men display from his dad. He even got animated with the pompous and bumbling referee (without prompting). For anyone who follows English Football – Mike Dean is infamous. Yes it ended up with my team losing again but that misses the point. It was one of those days where our son ventured into a world which is not his and rather enjoyed it.

Monday Monday Monday

Monday finishes off with a visit from Santa. It’s about the only event the village has. Raising money for charity. Raising smiles with children. Sorry for the poor photo.

However we never get a dull day.

Nice dog walk completed. Return of the strange yellow thing. Coffee made. Laptop opened. Work commenced. PHONE RINGS.

As Captain Jack Sparrow would say – “Bugger”

So ten minutes after opening the laptop I’m on the way to meet our son at the hospital. Accident at school and a hurt hand. Few x-rays and it’s a visit to the fracture clinic tomorrow.

Back home for some needed TLC for our son. Work day has turned into a marathon movie day. Can we get through the complete Pirates of the Caribbean series in one day. It’s odd watching the movies having now seen Johnny Depp live – playing guitar.

Lord knows when I’m going to get some work done. Maybe a few all night sessions. But in the scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. Now back to Captain Jack and the third movie.

Mr Men

This is the best the weather has managed since the strange yellow disk appeared yesterday morning. A brief thinning of the clouds then the darkness descends and it just rains and rains and rain. This is not good for the soul. Another thing which is not good for the soul is football.

I have taken a punt and bought two tickets for my teams next match on Sunday. It’s a bit of a lottery taking our son to a game. He would really enjoy it if it was just the two of us in the crowd. Unfortunately it will be 52000 in the crowd. We turn up at the stadium and see how he feels. If he shakes his head we scrap the football and head towards the river so he can do some Pokemon Go hunting. However sometimes he’s ok to give it a go and when he gets inside the stadium he enjoys the atmosphere. Never been able to pinpoint why we get the different reactions. So fingers crossed for Sunday.

Apart from the atmosphere he loves watching the Mr Men show. That’s not referring to my alleged football team but my reaction to the game. Our son says it’s about getting the popcorn in and then watching his dad go through the characters in the Mr Men show.

Entering Stadium – Dad is going to watch the game MR HAPPY

Trying to find the seats – Dad always gets lost MR FORGETFUL

Start of the match – Dad very nervous MR JELLY

Few minutes into the game – team started ok MR CHEERFUL

Game starting to go downhill – team starting to struggle MR WORRY

Team now losing – team playing badly MR GRUMBLE

Team now getting hammered – Dad getting annoyed MR GRUMPY

Team clearly going to lose again – Dad getting VERY annoyed MR RUDE

Team lost – left stadium Dad needs to eat lots of food to cheer up MR GREEDY

Strange Yellow Thing

The morning started as has the last 5 days have – grey, wet and cold.

The school bus was missed yesterday morning – never a good sign. We slightly overslept, only by a few minutes but…. Sticking to the established routine is so important to our son. Routine is king. I tried to stick to the plan but just slightly quicker. It was never going to work. I could sense the tension building within him so we just went back to the usual routine. So we missed the bus. It’s not a disaster it’s only a 15 minute car journey to school. Plus it’s one less bus trip for him to deal with.

On the way back from school a very odd thing happened. The clouds parted and a strange yellow disk appeared in the sky. I don’t know what it was (remember this is Yorkshire) but it was lovely to see. With this being Yorkshire the strange yellow disk disappeared behind grey clouds thirty minutes later.

Update. Looking out into the pouring rain this morning – even too wet for the dog – I am confidently predicting the strange yellow disk has packed his bags and won’t be appearing here anytime soon.

Animals

Our son has a bond with animals. He feels so comfortable with them. As he says “they might occasionally want to eat you but they never ever try to judge you”. Our local zoo gives you the opportunity to interact with some of the animals. As long as we go early, before the crowds arrive, then he is in raptures. The looks we get as we leave just as most families are queuing up to get in.

Dad was brave on the photo above and managed to get close enough to take a picture. On encounters with snakes, tarantulas and reptiles you normally find Dad a respectful 100 yards away – with at least two walls between me and the stuff of my nightmares. A few weeks ago he got to handle a cotton snake, a bearded Chinese dragon and two tarantulas. He was just so happy. Strangely dad was hid behind a wall.

For all his confidence with these terrifying animals he does have a couple of beast fears. Strangely those two killer beasts I am really brave with and would happily stroke them. 🐄 Cows and 🐪 camels.

Testing times

Our son’s school tests kids every couple of months (most schools do the same). Speaking with some of the other parents – most of the kids are getting stressed out over them. Maybe I’m old fashioned but these kids aren’t even teenagers yet.

My frustration is not only with the amount of testing, it’s with what is being tested. We currently focus on such a limited range of skills and are so inflexible on how the tests are operated. Not all kids are suited to the current testing environment.

I was talking to one parent whose child has really struggled to reach the set expected performance levels. However this child is brilliant. I’ve seen her paintings and cartoon sketches. Unfortunately we don’t have a test environment which allows her to demonstrate this brilliance. No government targets for painting.

Our son astounds me with his knowledge and understanding of history. He is scheduled to do a school test which is about the Battle of Hastings. He has a forensic knowledge in the area. Last night he spent two minutes explaining details of Bishop Odo who took part in the battle. The night before he explained in detail what William did after victory including how he persecuted the north. So if we could design a test environment so he could just talk for 30 minutes about the battle and then verbally answer detailed questions – then he could demonstrate his brilliance.

Problem is the test is to write a one page essay on the battle. Without help then he has no chance. Even with help he won’t be able to shine. This can’t be right. No government targets for developing autistic kids with dyslexia.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE CAN WE GIVE ALL KIDS THE CHANCE TO SHINE

I always thought I was pretty good on history. I tried to show this off to our son.

“William the Conqueror brought his army to the field in October 1066”

My so called knowledge was shot down in one line…

“Dad it was the 14th and he was not at that stage William the Conqueror. He was called William Duke of Normanby or sometimes William the Bastard because his mum was unmarried. The Conqueror was first referred to in around 1120, sorry I can’t be more precise”.

Mr Jones

After the world changed I was caught out on far too many occasions by TV and film producers incorporating ‘bereavement’ into their scripts. It seemed like everything our son watched reminded him of death, So I started a vetting process which helped reduce the upset. It has been working quite well….

Last night we watched the third Indiana Jones movie. It’s a wonderful bit of escapism and I’ve seen it a few times. From what I could remember it was a safe movie. But those viewings were quite a few years before our son lost his mum. Back then my take on life was oh so different and some bits of the movie obviously didn’t register.

One scene in particular. It lasts less than a minute. Indiana and his dad are talking about his childhood. Suddenly the line “she kept her illness from me” and it’s a brief discussion about his mum dying. It felt like a dagger to the heart for me even though I’m old and grizzled. Lord knows what it felt like to someone so young. Its at times like that you wish the ground would just open up and swallow you. How could I miss that.

That is oh so typical of parenting. It’s never too easy and when do you start taking things for granted it comes back to bite you on the bottom.

Technical KO

As part of the morning pre school ritual I have to provide our son with a detailed itemised plan for my day. Yesterday’s included pruning the apple tree.

Dad I don’t want you to do that as you might hurt yourself”

I assured him that I was a ‘professional’ (ha ha) and nothing would go wrong.

Tree pruning started well until I realised that at some stage I would have to tackle the top. Carefully I assessed where to establish base camp then just opted for a full frontal assault.

Three minutes later the tree has scored a technical KO. A branch (thankfully so small it was almost a twig) decided to spear me in the corner of the eye. A little bit of blood and I set off to the accident department. Why do we always tempt fate.

On examination it was luckily diagnosed as a small cut and would be ok in a few days. The nurse went off to get some antibiotic cream. One minute later another doctor came in and gave me a rather quizzical look.

Are you the patient due to go for an enema.”

A nervous shake of the head and a realisation that actually a sore eye is not too bad really…..

No dreams

11.30pm – Finally lights out in son’s bedroom. Normally that would induce a mad scramble for my bed. But tonight I just don’t feel sleepy. Very tired yes, but frustratingly sleepy no.

12.05am – Attempt to sleep

12.40am – No sleep, no dreams. Still so tired. Bed abandoned.

12.50am – In my tired state starting to fill up with sadness. Suddenly feel very lonely.

1.10am – Only going to get more depressed if I don’t do something. My eyes glance over to the DVDs. Decision made. It’s time to watch kiddies stuff.

1.15am – Peppa Pig. Please tell me I’m not turning into a Daddy Pig.

1.30am – Ben and Holly. Found a new game – try and identify the voice actors from Peppa Pig featuring in Ben and Holly.

1.50am – Teletubbies. Annoyingly their tummy tellies are bigger than our TV.

2.10am – In The Night Garden. Scarily I remembered every single character name. Decided I want to live there.

2.30am – Hectors House. Now this is a really old one. My favourite as a kid. I’m not sure a dog walking round with a gun shouting “it’s a hunting gun” would sit well with modern TV Executives.

3.00am – Banana Splits. Can’t believe I’m laughing my head off at a letter box which is refusing to let one of the gang have a letter. Also can’t believe I haven’t woke my son up when I shouted “size of an elephant” (that won’t make any sense to you if you have never watched this)

3.30am Inspector Gadget. Why is Inspector Gadget not one of the Avengers? Thankfully this is the cartoon and not the action movie – what were they thinking of.

4.00am Paddington Bear. Made myself a marmalade sandwich to enhance the viewing experience – decided marmalade doesn’t taste great at this time of day.

4.25am Clangers. In my zonked out state I unbelievably can understand Clangers Speak.

4.40 Now I’m completely and utterly gone. As they say in kiddies tv land – time for bed…