Saturday, October 9, 2010

Normal Kid Moments

OK, first off: I'd like to start this post by letting you all know that I'm not dead! That's right, I'm still alive and kicking (and being kicked, some days). My absence can be explained, generically, as busy-ness. More specifically, I picked up a temporary, evening job and have been assigned some additional afternoon tutoring work. I've also been reading obsessively when home, so time isn't exactly a commodity I've had a lot of. But, the temporary job ended, tutoring is only two days a week, and my life is getting a little less complex. I'm breaking my rule of "no work on the evenings" since it's a slow Saturday night and I have nothing better to do...

Some things to look forward to in the coming days:

- Dan's mental break and subsequent freak out.
- Neal suddenly threatening ridiculous things and substituting other words for cusswords so he doesn't get in trouble.
- Samantha learning a new phrase to shout at everyone... all... day... long...
- Joann stripping and playing with herself
- And much more...

So, today's update is about what I call "Normal Kid Moments." These are times when the one of the kids seems to "lose" their disability for a split second, does something completely normal, and then goes back to being themselves. Sometimes it can be the funniest thing to see, especially when it comes at an unexpected time.

To give you an example, the other day I was sitting with Joann, showing her various pictures of kids in different situations, seeing what she could identify. One of the pictures was this kid who had set up a lemonade stand. But it wasn't just any lemonade stand, it had the e backwards and some letters missing; all of the letters were misaligned. I guess that's supposed to be "cute" or something... Now Joann CAN read, when she gets focused. (She also appears to have every book about Clifford memorized and can recite it word for word.) She looks at the picture, but seems thrown off by the way lemonade is written. She zeros in on the pitcher on the table in the picture instead, and says excitedly:


"No, Joann," I say, "That's not orange juice, that's lemonade!" Suddenly, the normal goofy, blank look completely disappeared, and it was as if she was suddenly able to express a normal human emotion on her face. (Something that's difficult for many autistic kids to do. A lot of them mimic emotions and normal social interaction as they see them, and can infer how they're supposed to work, but don't truly understand them. Temple Grandin [who is autistic herself] has some very interesting things to say on the matter, and I recommend reading something by/about her if you can.) Joann's face twisted into a look of pure displeasure, she frowned and looked convincingly annoyed. She looked me straight in the eyes (up from the picture in front of her that she'd been staring at) and said "Yuck." The look held for about 2 seconds, and then disappeared, replaced by the normal vacant, slightly goofy look. She pushed the picture aside and went on to the next picture of kids playing soccer. She identified this as "space ball", something I almost didn't catch because I was still slightly shocked by her earlier denouncement of lemonade...

Another "normal kid moment" comes from our friend Neal and also involved Joann indirectly. Joann was throwing a fit again at the front of the room. I was working at a table near the back with some of the other kids, who were too distracted by Joann to focus. Neal was sitting in one of the armchairs in the corner near us, plugging his ears. Like Jordan, he doesn't like prolonged, loud noises. Since no one at my table is paying attention, I shift my focus to Neal. He's closing his eyes, looking down, obviously distressed. Suddenly, he looks up, unplugs his ears, and stares straight at me. "That pisses me off," he said. Then he went back to plugging his ears, closing his eyes, and looking down, rocking back and forth slightly.

Finally, for our last "normal kid moment", we come to Austin. You've not met him yet, but he's NEVER a problem for us... Well, almost never. It's exceedingly rare, though, to say the least. Given that I'm mostly writing about the troublesome kids in our class, you probably won't hear much about him. Anyway, one of his behaviors is continually greeting people throughout the course of the day. He'll approach someone and say "Hello! How're you!" even if he's seen them all day. It's not really annoying or bad, though, just funny. So recently he came up to me and did the usual song and dance. I looked at him and said: "I'm fine! How do you do?" something I usually don't respond with. I was hoping to see if I could get him to mix up the greetings instead of always saying "How're you?". Instead, he looked at me, and in complete seriousness said: "How do you do what?" I was a little flabbergasted, and apparently he thought I wasn't going to provide an answer, so he ran off... Note to self: some English phrases and idioms should not be used with kids who take everything literally...

More later on this week!

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