Posts tagged ‘connections’
I spend a lot of my time trying to figure out how C’s brain works, and how I can use that knowledge to be more supportive of his needs. In those rare moments when I am provided with a brief glimpse into C’s mind, I am always enchanted. One thing I can always count on is C’s entertaining way of making connections between often very disparate things. It used to be when driving in a big city C would notice the exit numbers off the highway. “That’s exit 16! Abraham Lincoln’s number!” he’d say. We’d always celebrate those connections, even if they were far from typical. Connecting the dots is one of those things therapists work on with kids with autism, and learning to tie knowledge together is big in those circles.
C’s Presidential interests have now mostly turned to President Obama, and he was very excited that one of the President’s daughters is the same age he is (again, connections). C’s big report for 2nd grade was about Barack Obama, and the Presidential “fact” he shared at the school assembly on President’s Day was that President Obama is our first African-American President. I didn’t realize he had no real idea what that meant until recently. When we stood in line at the airport a few weeks ago, C noticed the gentleman standing in front of us. As Caucasian as could be, the man was wearing a black suit. “That man looks just like Barack Obama, Mommy!!!” C said elatedly. Curious as to his response, I asked the obvious question, wondering what the connection could possibly be. C’s answer? In a tone that implied it should be as obvious as the sun, “He’s Black, Mom!”
Every once in awhile, along comes a moment that reminds me how I have adjusted my way of thinking to fit with C’s, and it stops me in my tracks for a moment. A few weeks ago I was at C’s school putting some fliers in teacher’s boxes, and I happened to hear the morning announcements that day. The announcements include a mix of thoughts on building good character, the lunch menus, and which classes had perfect attendance the day before. When I picked him up that day, he was very excited to know I had heard the announcements that morning. We talked about it the whole way home while I tried to clear up his confusion about why, even though his entire class was there that morning, they hadn’t been announced as having perfect attendance by the principal. He still doesn’t believe me that she’s talking about perfect attendance the day before, so his confusion continues.
At least a week later, driving home from school, in the middle of a conversation about what he did during P.E. class, he asked, “Did you hear the whole announcements?” Without hardly a pause, I said ‘Yes, I did, the whole thing.” And on we went with the conversation we were having prior to the question. At least he went on with it; I was busy thinking how amazing it was I no longer needed clarification for a question like that. I knew exactly what he was talking about.
Then I started wondering if I should have asked him to clarify his question. Most people wouldn’t connect the question to a discussion had many, many days prior, and how problematic will that be for him later in life? Will others understand his snippets of conversations continued long after the conversations are over? Did I miss a teachable moment? I’m quite sure there was a connection to the conversation we were having about P.E. class, I’m just not sure what it was. But knowing C like I do, I can say without doubt there was some sort of segue for him.
We’ve always been thrilled when he makes connections between things – the most memorable was when he used to connect highway exit numbers with Presidents. “There’s exit 16,” he would say, “that’s Lincoln’s number.” Making connections between things is part of routine conversation and living in the world. C’s connections have always been a bit off the beaten path, but it’s something to celebrate nonetheless. Who knows what his connection was to the conversation long before, but to him I’m sure it was perfectly sensible.
Like every parent, I recognize the importance of discussing the dangers of the world with our children. I struggle, however, with balancing the risk of an occurrence with not only the stress C will feel after a discussion about a potential dangerous situation (he is quite obsessive and worries a great deal about things), but also with him not recognizing a dangerous situation for what it is.
C doesn’t generalize well. When we tried to teach him about strangers, he asked for months if the lady at the drive through at the “M” (McDonald’s) was a stranger, and could he ask her for ketchup? We tried to explain that adults at school were always safe as therapists and evaluators are constantly coming to get him from class, but then I worried he would think the creepy guy standing at the playground fence was a safe person to approach. He views everyone in the world as a friend, and while I love that sweetness about him, I also want him to be safe.
When his teacher discussed fire safety, we wrestled with what kind of family emergency plan to make. If we teach him how to get out of his windows in the event of fire, he’ll be ringing the doorbell at our neighbor’s house at 3 a.m. simply because his room feels warm. He just doesn’t make the connections most people make, despite the fact that he is very bright. I used to joke that people who were very intellectual had no common sense (and vice versa), but I’m seeing the truth in that with my own child, and it scares me for him. It’s as if every single situation needs to be treated individually, and it makes teaching him how to respond extremely difficult.