Portraits of Autism #2

I'm sitting in the waiting room at the autism centre again, facing the door, so I can see people coming in and out, chatting with the teachers in the hallway. I've got my paper pad and pencil again. I've always got some paper and pens, either for me or for Max. There's not much point bringing my laptop as I don't have the access code for their wireless. So I write the old fashioned way. A child comes in. He has a piece of paper too. In his other hand he's got an origami boat. He sits down and proceeds to fold the piece of paper, trying to reproduce the boat. But the paper is too small and badly cut. So he walks up to me and puts his hand out to my pad. His father catches up to him and stops him from grabbing the paper. Many dads here today, no mums apart from me. There's another couple of men in the waiting room with me. They're chatting about the latest they've read on the internet regarding what may or may not cause autism.

I offer the boy some paper. He mumbles something at me and takes it, a bit stressed. The forced interaction with me combined with the origami failure has agitated him some more. He's a nervous boy too. He moved so fast from his seat to mine that I barely saw him come. He just appeared in front of me. Now his dad's on the phone and the boy is trying to fold a triangle into the paper so he can cut it to a square. He folds too fast and the paper tears. In frustration he tears it up in small pieces, and in a flash, he's by me again. I give him another piece, silently. But now he's getting too agitated. I'm tempted to get up and help, but this is something he wants to do himself, and he's had enough of me with my talking.

His dad wants him to stop trying now. He's anticipating a meltdown.There's a bit of violent shaking on the chair, but no head banging, and whining rather than screaming. This is good. The arms flay and he rocks the chair. The whining gets high pitched. But it only takes a few seconds of his Dad repeating the same thing loud and clear and the boy hands him the piece of paper and stands up to go to his class. That's very good. The dad seems calm about it, so I guess they've been at this stage for a while now.

This boy is just a couple of years older than Max, I think. He's very attractive and intelligent looking. He's tall and slim, with shiny dark hair and vivacious brown eyes. He'll make a handsome man one day. He moves fast, faster than the norm, but gracefully. He was rocking on his chair slightly when he was concentrating - but that's not unusual in a ten year old child. He mumbles a lot when he talks to me, so I don't know if he's verbal or not. For all I know he can read and write. But he could also not be able to say more than a few words.

When he comes to me, he convinces me with his eyes that I really need to give me a piece of paper. I know I should make him say it properly, with words, and then make him say thank you, because that's how he'll learn to communicate, and he needs to learn. But I can't bring myself to do it. He's a person. He wants me to give him paper and he wants to tell me with his eyes. For now, I must be the paper giver, not the teacher. But I should have been the teacher. His eyes won't get him what he needs when he's an adult. 

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Marylin said...

I really like these portraits of autism you're doing. Really help me to think about what Max might be like when he's older, which is a good thing! x

Sandrine said...

Thanks Marylin. I come across such a lot of kids with different personalities at the centre I take Max to. I'd really like to come up with a group of portraits that gives a richer and more accurate image of autism! Also Jean at Planet Outreach has just posted something about her son's development over the last year - I found that really helpful for thinking about the future.

Looking for Blue Sky said...

This is a great idea for raising awareness about the amazing diversity in the autism world. I was one of those parents who assumed that my child could not possibly have aspergers because he was nothing like the only aspie kid I had ever met.

Sandrine said...

We were also terribly ignorant about autism - thinking our son couldn't be on the spectrum because he was so loving and cuddly!!! And a lot of people we meet now just don't know anything about it either. It seems to be assumed that it's our job to get our kids to be more like the rest of the world, so that the rest of the world doesn't have to get to know what they're like! This has to change.

Anonymous said...

Gosh what a moving post. I haven't read any others in this series, but if they're half as beautifull written i'll be reading them all. Thank you for a wonderful post. x


Sandrine said...

Thanks! I'm going to try to post on every friday from now on.

Rachel Nixon said...

Beautiful post- I shall be looking through your blog now for more portraits of autism.....my DD is autistic & I blog about it too

Rachel :)

Sandrine said...

Thanks Rachel - I'll be trying to post one every friday. I've just found your blog too and love it!

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