Posts tagged ‘numbers’
Someone showed C muscles recently, and tied muscles to protein. I’m not sure if he watched the weight lifters on the Olympics or if he saw a picture of Popeye, but enter the latest obsession: protein counts in food. Despite my attempts to talk to him about a balanced diet, he really only wants to eat high protein foods. It has nothing to do with cravings, or what his body needs, but rather with muscles and numbers.
This is C’s latest in a long stream of obsessions having to do with numbers. The idea of each food having a different protein content is very appealing to him. It makes sense of his world – he can compare and contrast and order. He’s starting to notice the other numbers on the labels too. Tonight he asked me what “deriby filer” is. Slow Mommy, but it took me a few minutes of questions to figure out he was talking about “dietary fiber.” Not wanting him to go overboard on that one, I again brought up the need for balance in his foods.
Perhaps I can use this latest obsession to help him both gain weight and eat foods he has feared in the past. The “failure to thrive” diagnosis that seems to follow him around like a lost puppy could maybe blossom into something resembling more than a big head atop a skinny body. If I could mock up a label for ice cream that reads “50 g protein” on it I might be in business. Or maybe I could turn macaroni and cheese into something desirable by giving it a very high protein content. Cakes, puddings and cookies? Yup, high protein. Eat all you want, kid. Rice crackers that he loves but have zero caloric value? Nope, C, low protein content, don’t eat those.
I think I might be on to something.
One of C’s favorite places to go is the post office. Years ago, we lived in a town where people took a number instead of waiting in line. C would go from person to person, asking them what number they were, checking the electronic counter on the wall, and then telling them how many numbers they had to wait. It was a town with many senior citizens, and he charmed them all as we waited in our very busy post office. Inevitably, people would ask how old he was, and then they’d ask me if I held flash cards in front of him all day. I rarely explained.
I hadn’t taken him to the post office in our new town until today. It’s kind of boring; no numbers to look at, just a long line full of cranky people. Yet he still managed to work his magic. He talked to one man about “passing first grade” and moving on to second. At one point, he whispered to me, “Those three ladies behind us are pretty ladies.” They all giggled with delight.
The highlight, however, is the post office boxes, because they have numbers and go in order. It’s a thrill to say the least, and he spent many minutes running back and forth looking for numbers, asking people their box number, and proceeding to find it for them “in case they couldn’t, Mommy.” On the way out, he asked if he could come back with me every time I went. When I answered that of course he could, his reply, edged with thrill most people reserve for moments when they win the lottery, was, “COOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLL!”
C’s obsessions (in autism-land, these are known as perseverations), range from the entertaining to the somewhat annoying. We know enough now to realize that they generally pass in time as he moves on to something else. His first was an indicator of his hyperlexia (a savant skill related to autism in which the person is obsessed with letters, words, numbers, logos and signs). He didn’t have many words yet, but we could always tell when he came across a Fisher Price toy in his travels of the playroom. That was followed by an obsession with stop signs and street lights that nearly caused me to careen off the road and have a heart attack multiple times. A screech of such pitch and shrillness caused us to revive his earlier nickname of “Pterodactyl Boy” whenever he caught glimpse of a street light in the distance. Soon after came an interest in garage doors so intense he kept up a running commentary while in the car. “Open, closed, open, open, open,” was what we heard from the back seat. No amount of redirection could distract him from the garage doors.
Some time later, he had more words but not enough to explain himself when he would repeat “Seven oh three Tope” on the way to preschool in the mornings. It was only months later, while trick-or-treating on Halloween, that I understood the sentence. We stopped at house number 703 on a nearby street, and the name “Tope” was mounted on the mailbox. Mr. Tope became our friend from afar. I considered knocking on his door and telling him of my son’s adoration, but I thought perhaps the one-sided affection might seem odd to an elderly gentleman who probably knew nothing of autism.
An obsession with plumbing pipes caused a great deal of consternation at our house. Not because we didn’t want him to be a plumber if he so desired, but rather because of the places that obsession took him. Long stretches of time spent in the bathroom (at previously mentioned terrible Montessori school) gave C three severe cases of diarrhea in as many months, followed by rotovirus in the fourth month that sent us to the emergency room. “Does diarrhea happen at the beginning of every month?” he asked.
At one point he learned the television schedule; he didn’t really watch any programs, but he knew when everything was on and what channel. “Charlie Rose is on at one o’clock on channel 8,” he told his teacher, requiring me to reassure her we didn’t plop him in front of the television for hours on end. “Sex and the City” prompted questions not about sex, but rather what city. Couple that with his asking me if we needed any condoms one day (while standing in line next to them at the pharmacy), complete with four women laughing hysterically in front of us, and one might begin to understand the potential dangers of a four year old who can read.
Currently, he is fascinated with the caller ID on the phone and who is in what place, as if it was a race Ga and Pa or Uncle T and Aunt J might win. “You’re in 15th place,” he gleefully announced to T&J today, “but if you call us back you’ll be in first place!” He is also obsessed with Galaga 88, a video game we don’t even own, but he watches videos of other people playing it on You Tube. We don’t let him watch it nearly as much as he talks about it. My distress over this includes the obvious frightening places that can take a young child, but also the fact that he can combine the words “you” and “tube” into a phrase my parents have never even heard.
His obsessions come and go and sometimes return, depending on what is going on in his life. Some we miss, and some we anxiously await their passing. I don’t particularly miss the recitation of the morning announcements and what classes had perfect attendance at his school that day, but I wasn’t ready for his uncanny ability to tell one’s age in coinage (I am a quarter, a dime, and three pennies) to disappear. Now if we could only teach him how to count cards so we could take him to Vegas.