Last week I spent a few days in Cincinnati for work. The night before leaving I tried to find the best words to explain to Teghan why she wouldn’t be seeing me. These days she is pretty good at guessing what we want by the keywords she recognizes, so I stressed the words she understood- like work, “night-night,” and hotel. For a moment she was interested in us going to a hotel right that minute, but otherwise the conversation didn’t seem to have much impact. Continue reading
Teghan goes through cycles of preferred word groupings. She is obsessed with words, even if she isn’t very good at stringing them together. She loves word apps and she seems to take pride in labeling things. Her pronunciation is constantly improving, and at home she effortlessly gets her point across with two or three word phrases- the first word usually being “want.”
A revolving door of language for us has been her unusual choice in words when she is angry. She yells and stomps her feet, and the tone in her voice is much like any other child vocally complaining. Except she doesn’t have the ability to express those words properly. She used to sing Old MacDonald. We would try hard not to laugh as she looked at us defiantly and screamed, “E-I-E-I-O!” as if scolding us. Just to keep things interesting, she would occasionally throw in a different song lyric. “Head, knees, toes!” was popular for a while. Continue reading
When I was in the third grade my family moved a few streets over. My parents bought a house up on a hill, surrounded by woods and next door to a pond. Down the road was a cross-country skiing business, and my new bus stop was at an apple orchard. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
In autumn there was a lot of traffic to that orchard. There were also a lot of new faces on our street as workers came up to work for the apple season. They brought their families and lived in housing at the orchard. Their children went to school with me during that brief time- and I hated it. There were so many kids that we had to have our own school bus.
That was the problem.
The regular bus picked us up sometime before 7:00. We would end up at Kellogg Elementary in time for the older kids to catch a shuttle bus to the high school. This was the time they also sent out a bus to our orchard, picking us up around 8:00. You would think I would have embraced the opportunity to sleep in; but because my older siblings needed to catch that shuttle bus, I would have to ride the 8:00 bus alone.
There was one family who lived year-round in a house next to the orchard. They were always kind to me, and I even visited their home a few times. The rest were only there for apple season. They were strangers. Most of the kids didn’t speak English, but the older boys constantly said things to me anyway. There were a couple of small boys who threw rocks at me; and a group of girls who stood in a circle, always smiling and giggling. I could tell the girls were friendly, but they had little more to offer than encouraging expressions while the boys were harassing me. Continue reading
There is such a difference between the Teghan we see at home, and the Teghan everyone else sees when we go out. I suppose it’s true of all kids. All people, actually. We are all a little truer when you find us in our home environment, surrounded by the people who know us best.
But when we go out and see others, even though there are walls to break through before you really know someone, there is also a social game that is played out to get there. You get some sense of the person through conversation and body language. And that is where it starts.
Because of this, people seldom get to know Teghan. She doesn’t conform to any social rules, and a new environment seems to trigger something in her. She is on a mission of exploration- and that exploration has nothing to do with any of the people standing around. People are not very high on her agenda, and she is much more interested in understanding the layout of her surroundings. Or maybe if there are any books that come in a group she might like to tap on. Continue reading
Teghan was less than a year old when she said her first sentences. They were, “I read a book” and “go bye bye in the car?” It was cute the way she kind of stuttered whenever she said “in the.” Then one day she just stopped saying those things.
Sometimes I wonder why she ever did say those things. I mean, she didn’t even say “mama” or “dada” until very recently. She said a few words- like “shoe.” Then she didn’t. By the time she was three years old, we didn’t really think she would ever talk.
She is five now, and her vocabulary has improved. She knows what most things around her are called, and when asked she will make an effort at verbally labeling things. Some words are clearer than others. My husband takes pictures of everything on his phone and quizzes her. It’s interesting to see what words she cannot pronounce (which are most).
Spending time with Teghan, one would be surprised at just how much vocabulary she understands. Her receptive language is far beyond her expressive language. But even so, it remains fairly basic. She understands instruction, but we are a long way from conversational concepts, consequences, or reasoning. She is getting better at determining our meaning with instruction, though. She now knows that when we ask her to open a door or turn on a light that we may be talking about a different door or light than she is used to. She is now willing to change that routine a bit, and follow more specific direction; which means that if we ask her to turn on the light in the living room, she (maybe) won’t run upstairs to turn on the hall light instead. Nothing is obvious to her; it’s just about what she has done before, so watching her work that out is encouraging. Continue reading
My kid is hilarious. I don’t care if it is mostly unintentional; it is part of her undeniable charm. She keeps things interesting. And in spite of all the stories we get hit over the head with around here on ways to cope with our autism parenting lifestyle- we also get entertained by the bizarre on a daily basis. It’s okay to laugh at it. It’s even therapeutic. God help the parents who lack a sense of humor about all this.
Sometimes Teghan is subtle in her quirks. The way she licks the window, taps on the TV, or gallops back and forth unless forcibly diverted. Sometimes she is full on crazy- running into things while screaming nonsense and giggling. Sometimes even her tantrums are funny.
When we are not in public, of course.
But at home….there are times when we have to go in the other room so she won’t see us laughing. It’s like an interpretive dance of anger playing out on our living room floor. And she doesn’t talk, so sometimes she defiantly yells things at us that are really just random letters. I know she’s angry, but it’s just too cute. We’re only human. Continue reading
In 1984, at the age of eight, I cast my first vote in a presidential election. It wasn’t voter fraud- it was my elementary school’s mock election. And why not? Reagan won in a landslide, of course. I had voted for Mondale. I didn’t feel embarrassed, or influenced by my peers. I felt mad that so many people were voting wrong. I found the actual presidential election quite disappointing, as well, but at least it came as no surprise. Actually, being an eight year old- it did still come as a bit of a surprise. Somehow I believed that all the other kids would be proven wrong once the adults had shown them the error of their ways. This is an example of how life experience makes us smarter.
I seriously doubt any of us kids knew much about politics. There was no review of the different party positions, or footage of debates. That would have been more interesting. Instead of learning about the issues, we all just cast our vote based on the information we came with that day. And where did that information come from? Our parents.
It shouldn’t be surprising that we all knew where our parents stood on the presidential race that year. But what else did we know? Kids are like sponges, and some of what they absorb is completely involuntary. Like the way I catch myself saying things my parents used to say. It’s just in me, and I can’t stop it. But in those young years when our parents knew everything, we heard the things they said and believed they were true. Their influence ran deep in us. It still runs deep. Continue reading