Monday, October 11, 2010

how to smile

Most people take smiling for granted.  When your picture is being taken the photographer says, "Say cheese!".  Most of automatically repeat this silly word, eyes open, mouth upturned and belly sucked in.  However, for an Aspie, smiling for a photograph is not natural. 

Tomorrow my son has his first school photo.  I can only imagine the facial expression that will be permanently captured on film.  He will most likely look like a Caucasian kid pretending to be Asian, but not on purpose of course. 

At the age of 3, I was proudly snapping photo after photo of my darling boy.  However, he wasn't smiling so I said, "Say cheese!".  In a serious tone he responded, "What?!  Do you have cheese for me to eat?".  After an explanation that it meant smile for the photo, he wanted to know why should he smile for a photo when he wasn't really smiling in the first place?  My only explanation to try to stop the onslaught of questions that I knew were to follow was to reply that I thought he looked handsome when smiling.  However, this led to him wondering if he wasn't handsome when not smiling.  "No, no!," I quickly retorted, "You look handsome always.  But I really enjoy looking at pictures that show those beautiful teeth of yours."  "Okay", he accepted with no further questioning.  Whew!  The rest of the photos from that point on was my beautiful Aspie with an over-exaggerated smile and completely squinted eyes.  LOL

Tonight I thought it might be worth a try to practice smiling with him.  I asked him to smile for me.  The big mouth with full display of teeth and gums combined with eyes squinted so tight they appeared to be trying to dodge the equatorial sun appeared once again.  I couldn't help but giggle.

"Try like this," I said, showing him a smile only wide enough to show some teeth with eyes still open.  Next thing I know his lips are turned inward and his eyes are so wide you'd think he just spotted Bigfoot.   I giggled again.   "No, no.  Try keeping your eyes the same size as normal and open your lips just enough to show a few teeth."  He proceeded to mimic my expression but ended up with the look of a drunk hallucinating homeless man pushing a grocery cart full of trash down the street.  I laughed so hard I almost fell off the edge of his bed. 

"How about," I said in between tickling his armpits, "you just be you in the photo?  Smile how you normally smile, okay?"  He agreed this was best. 

Guess what?  I am looking forward to seeing his special smile radiating off that year book page.  I know it's going to be the brightest smile of all.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Don't believe everything you see

At this point in the game, I am considering throwing the television out the window.  I can only watch it when my son is asleep.  He takes everything literally.  So when a commercial for a new shoe insole claims it will 'save your life' my Aspie child is begging and pleading with me to buy the shoe insole.  The conversation goes something like this:

My son: Mom, you gotta get this shoe insole I saw on tv!!! (excitement coursing through body, hands flapping)
Me:  Why?
My son:  Because the commercial said, "Why suffer the rest of your life?  These shoe insoles are revolutionary!"  Then a guy held up the insole and said, "These insoles are a life saver!  I feel like I'm walking on air!". (He repeats the commercial exactly, even with same voice inflection)
Me:  You realize those don't really save lives, right?  It's a commercial.  They say all kinds of crazy things to try to get people like you and me to buy whatever they are selling, including shoe insoles.
My son:  So, they are lying?  Why would they lie to us? (Disbelief and sorrow showing through his face)
Me:  No. Technically it isn't lying.  It's using speech figuratively for the purpose of selling a product.
My son:  Huh?
Me: Go ask your dad to explain it to you.  I'm just confusing you further.

 This is the scenario that happens any time the tv is unleashed.  Cartoon network commercials caused even more confusion.  Dolls magically sparkled and danced on their own while young girls giggled and proclaimed their love.  Tonka trucks roared to life, drove themselves over mountains and through swamps narrowly escaping monsters.  Every 10 minutes my Aspie came roaring into the room bouncing wildly while excitedly explaining the amazing new toy that he absolutely had to have.  The first few times he actually did get the toys, he was very disappointed that they didn't do exactly the same things as shown on the commercials.  He would whine and complain and leave the toy lying in the corner untouched.  I soon learned to explain to him at the toy store exactly what each toy was capable of and the limitations. Every time he holds up a toy begging to bring it home with him I take a few minutes to ask questions such as, 'What do you think this toy does?  What do you plan on doing with it?', and to explain what it can and cannot do.  This has helped us greatly in choosing toys that he will find actual pleasure in.  I also learned to replace the Cartoon Network with National Geographic science shows, commercial-free PBS, and G rated movies.  This has decreased the amount of time his brain spends pondering the super power abilities of toys.

Do I really want to throw out the tv?  No.  It's the one thing I can turn on to finally allow my brain to power down at the end of the day.  Most days my brain is over-worked desperately needing a respite.  It would be nice though if I could turn it on for a half hour while the sun is up to take a break.  However, on the bright side at least I get more things accomplished during the day now.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

different pool, same teacher

Today my 6 year old Aspie son had his first swim lesson in a different pool than he's used to.  Since the weather is getting colder, his swim teacher suggested we move the lessons indoors.  I had a feeling this change of routine was going to cause an emotional meltdown.  Well, mom is always right, unfortunately.  After 3 episodes of sobbing and 2 episodes of extreme anxiety that the pool was deeper than the 3 1/2 feet painted along the edge, he finally calmed down enough to perform the skills his teacher asked of him. 

It's amazing seeing the transformation of his swimming ability over the past two years.  He's completed Level 1 group swimming lessons four times in the past 2 years.  Every time he received a completion certificate with notes like, "Good job!  Need to keep practicing skills.  Recommend repeating course."   At the time, we had no idea he had Asperger's Syndrome.  We knew he was 'different' than other kids but didn't ever put the pieces of the puzzle together, so to speak.  As a matter of fact, it was only about a month ago we found out. 

Anyway, after the last group lesson I pleaded with every swim coach in the building to please give him private lessons.  One finally agreed.  I think she felt sorry for us but honestly I don't care what her reason was behind finally agreeing.  I'm just thankful she said yes.  Since starting private lessons he's gone from refusing to put his head underwater to diving under the water to retrieve toys off the bottom of the pool.  He still cannot coordinate his movements to swim effectively and is still quite fearful.  However, considering he spent every group swimming lesson crying and convinced he was going to drown if he put even his chin in the water to now eagerly going under for 10 seconds at a time is HUGE.  For all parents with an Aspie child, I highly recommend skipping group lessons and going straight for one on one.  You will save lots of money, time, and kid tears by getting a private swim teacher.  Of course, your child will probably cry at first but with a patient and understanding swim coach that understands your child's uniqueness, your child can go far. 

I am glad we chose swimming as his sport.  His physical therapist said he has the muscle development of a 3 year old child instead of the 6 year old that he is.  The water makes moving around easier for him while still giving him an excellent work out.  My Aspie tires easily out of the water, but in the water he can last for a whole hour.  He is able to build confidence (which he is severely lacking), exercise his muscles, and learn a valuable life-saving skill all at once.  He tried karate a few times but was so uncoordinated and exhausted by the end of it he ended up in tears.  I think once he gets older and increases his endurance I will allow him to try karate again.  But for now, swimming is the best choice for my son.

I took him for pizza after swimming.  Pizza is one of his few favorite foods that he will eagerly ingest.  He had another episode of vomiting immediately after eating.  We spent a good 15 minutes in the restroom.  Sometimes I wonder if the workers and patrons wonder what the heck we are doing in there for so long but have to tell myself it doesn't matter what they think.  And ya know, it doesn't. 

He vomits at least once a day--usually more.  From what I've read this is a common problem with many Aspie children.  I have yet to find any solution or suggestions for helping him overcome vomiting.  I wish we could find a solution as it is very distressing for him and me.  I always remain calm on the outside but on the inside I'm wincing and wishing I had a magic pill or spell or magic anything to help him.