No, not for them, silly. For us.
There’s plenty of quality stuff out there about building up the language skills of people who live with autism. But what about those of us who live with them and care for them?
Living with our son is like taking several years of foreign language in school. You become proficient – you think. Then you travel to the country where it’s spoken and you run into regional dialects and accents. Yes, you learned the formal language. But you can’t communicate with the natives.
So today Joey threw open our bedroom door at zero dark thirty. Haloed by blinding light from the hallway behind him, he said, Mom has to clean up the floor. In my understanding of his language, that means
a) I’m asking for Mom because she will be patient and tender whereas dad is a grumpy jerk and will upset me;
b) I had a bathroom accident.
Being a chivalrous kinda guy, I tried to let Mom sleep. I rolled out of bed and into the hallway, my arm flailing for a switch to swat off the light.
I endeavored to be patient and tender in my affect beyond that.
Sure enough, there was a towel on the bathroom floor. Joey will drop a towel, like a football ref throwing a penalty flag, on an “accident.” But the towel was dry. There was no accident. He’d just put it there to keep his feet warmer on this cold morning.
Joey, where is clean up the floor? (See, I’m pretty good at his language).
It’s clean up the floor for the bed? (He inflects statements as questions when responding to questions. I hope you’re taking notes).
Now my patient and tender was just about to leave the building. Had he wet the bed? He hasn’t had a bed accident in ages. Grabbing up piss soaked bedding and doing loads of laundry on a cold dark morning did not appeal. Remember, friends, this is all unfolding before I’ve had even a whiff of coffee.
But the bed was dry. The blankets were dry. What the…?
It seems that the fitted sheet hand come undone at one corner. That’s right, in his language clean up the floor is now a regional colloquialism for the bed’s unmade.
The stuff they don’t teach you in care giving school. Sigh.