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Express Yourself

Use my words or punch you in the face?

Choices, choices. When you have non-verbal or verbally limited kids, any sound they make that sounds remotely like a word or an attempt of a word is celebrated. "You said "ca" and are staring at the candy. Yes, you can have some". Have the whole bowl, I am freaking elated. You get used to giving positive reinforcement when they try to use language. And have a parade when they put their first two word combination together, "bite me." Love it! Say it to Daddy! Just when I had a system down, enter into the picture, two sweet, little, crack butterfly, chatter boxes. Not only do they have a running dialogue with each other all day, they engage everyone around them. They are Verbally and socially amazing. Did I hit the jackpot or is this just the beginning of the curse that my mother put on me 20 years ago?  "I hope you have a daughter just like you." At 16, I thought that idea would be just peachy, but I'm starting to imagine little double sassy pants three feet taller in their training bras and I'm anticipating the need for Xanax. And, on top of it,  I got double. Someone is going to be telling me about the power of karma very soon, indeed.

With my boys, I am used to engaging them to extract the information I need from them. If I were to ask each boy the same question, "How was school?" #1, would try to get past me, avoid eye contact, not answer the question, drop his backpack and make a bee-line to the trampoline. It is only when I grab his face or say "hello??" that he says "great" just so he can continue with whatever his mind was intent on doing before I interrupted him.  #2 the Aspy will volunteer all types of statistics and facts and talk for hours, but if I try to ask him how his day went and he knows it wasn't perfect, he disappears faster than Flash, leaving a trail of "AHHHHHHHHHH" behind him.  He only wants to talk at you because he has so much in his brain that needs to be let out. Don't ask me questions, this isn't Oprah. #3, the PDD/NOS/ODD will look me in the eye and reply "I'm not telling you." Little shit. If he did have a perfect or almost perfect day, he will give me the chart and ask for the sticker he earned. So, I am able to get the information I'm after by assessing their reactions to my question. I guess I was used to working that hard for output.

The girls are completely opposite. They express all observations, "Mommy, why are you so cranky?" or "Our room is a mess, you need to clean it mommy. "  They tell me things I know, but really don't want to hear, "Mommy, your butt is MUCH bigger than mine." Love hearing that on a Monday morning. Just wait, cherub. You won' be tiny forever. They fight authority, "Mommy, I'm not doing that. It's unfair."Excuse me? Are you talking to me? I'll show you what unfair is when I introduce Barbie to the recyclable bin. And, they would run the place if given the chance, "Mommy you want another beer? You can't have one. Get in time-out. NOW." Yes! I get 43 minutes. Score! 

 Not only will they volunteer information like #2, they will engage more than I thought was humanly possible. And, they eat more than a pissed off, starving pack of locusts. Most of their requests are "mom, I'm so hungry, give me food." You need to envision the whining and dancing. Need to put Zoo-Keeper on my resume.

The girls introduced something that wasn't in our house before they learned to talk, girl drama. The whining, hand-waving emotional expressions have me hiding laughter many times a day. When Twin R, who is usually the lead crack butterfly joined me in the garden wailing, I had to stop weeding and ask her what was wrong. She replied, "This is the worst day ever. I didn't get to go to the gym, I didn't' get to play in the garden. I don't get to do anything." And then she started to sob. Wow. She is four and none of my kids, ages six, eight and 10 were ever able to express their emotions so easily and clearly. On one hand, I felt like jumping up for joy, because she was expressing herself and using her words appropriately, but on the other hand, it was a lesson she needed to learn. I stifled the laughter and picked her up to comfort her. I explained that she had made the choice not to listen and she missed doing things she wanted to do. Next time she had the power to make better choices.

When you don't have clear lines of communication it is harder to understand the message which can cause frustration on all fronts. With the girls, the behavior disappeared once they were able to express their issues. With the boys, it is more of a slippery slope. It is sometimes hard to distinguish the behaviors that come from communication frustrations and plain ole misbehaving.  #1 gets so upset he screams and throws himself on the floor. If the trigger for his outburst was a brother, then he will try to wrestle or push him which gets him into trouble.  #2 gets so upset that he works himself into such an angry, anxiety ridden fury, that sometimes he put his hands on people and says some very nasty things. That lands him in  time-out or bed to give him the best chance of recovering. #3, has different cries for different stressors. He has three distinctive cries: fighting with a sibling, frustration with a toy, and anger against the establishment. I am not brushing my teeth, loser.  And, sometimes he cries and we're not able to figure out the cause or how to make it better. We then have to play the guessing game or leave him alone until he is able to use his words, and that depends on him.

There are times when the girls help #1 practice spontaneous language and because of them, he is more aware and willing to engage others.  #2 and #3 are fine expressing their language in a controlled setting, such as, while they are playing video games. It is when they have to identify their feelings and cope with a situation is when they have problems.

I guess I can say that we're lucky to have such a large family that offers many different opportunities for interaction. There is always someone to engage albeit good or bad. I just hope that eventually we find some plan or method that is consistently successful for all of them.

 Yes, it is a glamorous life. Thanks Sheila E.


  1. Wow, this post really highlights the differences between children on the spectrum and those not better than *anything* I have ever read. Often, when I read your accounts of your boys, I feel like I'm reading about my 2 year old, or my 4-year-old at her worst moments (when she refuses to use words to communicate and is simply hungry, tired and/or frustrated.) Isn't a miracle watching the little girls grow up and evolve *past* that stage? As far as the teenage years with them... yeah, I'm right there with ya, dreading it. I know this is a blog about kids on the spectrum but I'd love to read more about your daughters, too. :)


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