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Seeking an effect

Eedy loves to shock. If you’ve read the other blogs, you’ll realise that one of his favourite things is to cause people to exclaim, because in those exclamations there are physical affects; a person’s voice rises; their body language changes; their facial expression alters, Eedy’s success rate is based on the level of ‘flustered’ he can evoke. All of which brings great delight to Eedy.

He’d always got a good response from his grandfather, a stern, strict, unbending man who had very little patience and no compassion for Eedy’s autism. Eedy’s favourite would be to visit him, look him up and down and ask him, ‘Are you going to die soon?’ It guaranteed success every time!

One Christmas Eedy was home with us and my mother-in-law was busy preparing the roast dinner in the kitchen. Initially Eedy just stood, rocking from side to side, watching her with interest.

“Have you ever had sex?” he asked. Mum-in-law didn’t miss a beat, “At least 3 times, Eedy, I’ve got 3 children!”

“I’ve never had sex!” he said.

“No, I don’t suppose you have. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be”

Eddy stood watching her for a while longer and then left the room.

 

Moving stairs and meltdowns

On occasion Eedy would be calm during shopping trips, and on these days, The Adults could too, begin to relax and gain a sense of normality. My sister and I found that we could actually communicate with each other, rather than the more usual 1:1 all consuming job of ‘keeping whichever child in order’.

On one such trip we ended up in Boots. This was before the era of digital photography and films from cameras needed to be developed. I explained to my sister that I was going to quickly run up the escalator to drop a film in. Both Mogs and Eedy said they wanted to come with me. The toys were also upstairs and they were both gifted at seeking out the opportunity for their aunty to buy them new toys.

As both had been particularly well behaved on this trip my guard was down. My sister and I were always ridiculously optimistic – one good day would be processed as a hopeful turn of events and the positive anticipation that this would be the way things would go.

As it had been one of these good days, I said I’d take them both up with me. So, with Eedy in front and Mogs bringing up the rear, we stepped onto the elevator. Immediately the previous calm was shattered. Mogs was too close to Eedy, Eedy was too excited, too closed in, too sensory overloaded. He showed his change in mood by beginning to push and shove his sister. I tried to keep order. Keeping them together whilst keeping them apart. Eedy got one last shove in and Mogs went flying. Her little toddler body tipped backwards and she somersaulted down a couple of steps. Instinctively I grabbed for her. You know that funny feeling where everything that happens in a split second seems also as if time has stood still? It was one of those.

I caught hold of Mogs by the arm, wrenching her back up the escalator. By this time she was screaming, one of those piercing screams that could either be pain or fear. I held her close to me patting her arm and feeling for injuries. It occurred to me that my grabbing her could have injured her and I can remember clearly hoping I’d not dislocated her arm.

In the midst of this I still had to keep close supervision of Eedy. Mogs didn’t appear hurt. Just sobbing with shock. I hugged her into me and reached out for Eedy. Thankfully he was still close.

Grinning from ear to ear, happy, excited, and totally overjoyed Eedy looked up at me, excited hand wringing showed he was thrilled with the situation. His clear communication left me in no doubt…

“Make Moggy do it again! Make Moggy do it again!”

A totally successful trip for Eedy. One he has loved to recount from that day on!

Empathy

Can people who have autism show empathy? There are lots of studies into autism differences in imagination, problems with understanding, comprehension and seeing things from another’s point of view.I supported a man in his twenties in a residential care home; he lived alongside 11 other people. The man was unable to communicate verbally – his communication was limited to one signing gesture – rapidly tapping his hand to his chin to indicate ‘yes’ ‘no’ and ‘now’; facial expressions of smiles and grimaces and rocking from side to side (the speed of which would indicate calm or agitated). This man was known for his impatience. He would become uptight if things were not in the order he required, this restlessness often over-spilling into frantic pushing into (or through) other people.

One of the ladies in the home would talk incessantly about this man, yet her chatter never appeared to stress him. She always wanted to know where he was, what he was doing and if they could do things together. The man showed little emotion towards her in return; just appearing to tolerate the constant noise of her nattering.

Over the period of a year the lady’s health rapidly deteriorated. Although she was only in her twenties she lost the skills she had and eventually even her talking stopped. She spent more time in bed, unable to talk, walk and communicate – other than the messages her eyes sent to those who knew her well. It was noted that the man would visit her room, barging in, unaware of the concept of privacy, just looking at her, whilst rocking in a calm manner from side to side.

Eventually the lady fell asleep. Her passing was peaceful.

We agreed it was best that the other people living in the home went out, so that her family could spend some final, undisturbed time with her. As the staff team sorted out the impromptu day-trip, I called the man to one side. Disregarding the assumptions of his disability I discussed with him what had happened to his friend, using straight language as to enable as much understanding as possible. I asked him if he would like to go to her room to say goodbye in person. He tapped his hand to his chin and impatiently walked to the door to get to the homes’ minibus. I figured perhaps the trip out was more important to him.

The following morning as we sat down for breakfast, the man showed no signs of grief. He seemed the same as ever. He impatiently grabbed at his cup of tea and then pushed past the person next to him to reach for the teapot. He reached further over and grabbed my cup. I was about to intervene, thinking he was going to drink the dregs left in the bottom, but something stopped me. I watched with amazement as he picked up my cup, filled both my cup and his own with tea, and then pushed the full cup back in front of me. He’d poured me a drink.

I smiled, said thank you and drank the sweetest cup of tea ever.

I have always remembered this funny, impatient and pushy man with fondness. It was only the once that I witnessed him obviously doing something for someone else and I believe this was his way of saying ‘thank you’ for treating him with respect in a difficult time. Outwardly he never showed any signs of bereavement, but in his own way he gave a clear message of gratitude.

#Autismawarenessmonth