They say that autistic kids have a hard time with ‘receptive language’ – basically their inability to understand what someone is saying and being able to respond appropriately – which I know is usually the case, but today I felt like telling all those experts to go jump in a lake.
C’mon son! If you’re going to display flashes of brilliant receptive language, don’t be a stinker about it!
J-Man: (pulling Velcro straps on shoes and trying to get them off even though it’s cold in the house and his feet were practically frozen five minutes before)
Me: Leave your shoes on, please!
J-Man: Nyeh-nyeh (which is ‘no, no’ and not the other, buzz-off kind of alternative meaning)
Me: Yes, that’s right. No, no.
J-Man: (resumes working to get shoes off, this time while looking me in the eye)
Me: (sensing a confrontation is about to start) What did I say?
J-Man: (pauses with the velcro strap in his hand, pauses a little more) Nyeh-nyeh.
Me: That’s right.
J-Man: (goes back to working to get shoes off, this time while looking me in the eye AND SMILING)
Me: LEAVE YOUR SHOES ON!
J-Man: (not bothering with ‘no, no’ anymore and deciding to go straight to laughter – but with good eye contact – and of course, all while continuing to try to get his shoes off)
Me: OK, it’s ‘time out’ for you!
J-Man: (shooting me a ‘yeah, whatever dude’ look worthy of a teenager)
Me: I told you ‘no’ and you didn’t listen so you’re going to time out.
And so begins a dilemma.
Normally, ‘time out’ is a place to put them off by themselves and away from whatever they were doing. This breaks down when communicating the concept of ‘time out’ is rather difficult, especially since we don’t really have to do it much, and there’s the whole thing that his shoes obviously have to come with him to time out, which doesn’t help me any.
We spent 20 minutes in a repetitive battle of wits, going in and out of time out and having some words. Of course, he kept staring at me, making great eye contact, and smiling deviously while reaching slowly toward his shoes. At that point, he probably didn’t even want to take his shoes off. He was just doing it to get at me.
You know, I was six kinds of pissed about this at the time, but in hindsight, you know he showed great receptive language, super eye contact, a sense of humor – albeit one I could do without, joint attention, and good social interaction. Cool! Now let’s try to do this without the time-out-worthy behavior next time…
Who won the battle of wills? Let’s call it a push. His shoes remained on, he went on to something else finally, and Mary came downstairs from her sleep-in day, greeted by me with, “Woman, behold your son! I’m going to take a shower.”