“Hey Sqig,” I said to my son as I was planning breakfast, “what would you say to a waffle?”
He considered the question seriously for a moment and then replied, “hello”.
Squig and I were watching Caillou this morning. Caillou is a Canadian kid’s show that teaches children that sharing is important, and teaches parents that their child is nowhere near as totally fucking annoying as he could be.
Anyway, at one point I got up from the couch and used the bathroom. When I returned a few minutes later, this was frozen on the screen:
Huh. I mean, I’m all for updating these children’s shows to make them palatable to a modern audience, but that’s a little extreme.
On the other hand, this form of conflict resolution seems considerably more efficient than any I’ve seen promoted by PBS in the past.
Hello. This is my son.
Remember those posts? Remember them like it was yesterday?
Yeah so anyway. He is seven years old.
INEXORABLE MARCH OF TIME??!!!!
In the years since I last discussed his condition on this site, we have learned that he has classical autism rather than Aspergers (as previously speculated). Autistic kids are often classified as either “high-functioning” and “low-functioning”, but Squig falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information has a rundown of common symptoms, starting with:
Children with autism typically have difficulties in:
- Verbal and nonverbal communication
- Social interactions
- Pretend play
“A fondness for bacon bordering on fervor” is not specifically mentioned as a symptom, but Squig has that as well.
Squig is a strict pragmatist when it comes to language, and will only use it to make requests (“I want video”) or observations (“that is a dog”). He will respond to questions so long as there is a concrete answer. But he does not trade in linguistic abstraction. Ask him how he is feeling, or how his day went, and he will reply with “fine”–not because he has processed your question and formulated a response, but because he recognizes this as an acceptable answer. As with his father, he is adept at getting by without a clue as to what he is saying.
You cannot hold a conversation with Squig, But that does not preclude communication. Our most meaningful interactions are physical: wrestling, tickling, swimming, rolling skating. He is way into dancing right now.
“Difficulty with pretend play” may not seem like a big deal, and has certainly saved us a fortune in action figures, but actually has some profound ramifications. After all, the “point” of play is to practice skills. And so, as with many autistic children, Squig has difficulty learning via imitation. You can’t teach him to brush his teeth by showing him how you brush your own, you have to put the toothbrush in his hand, guide the brush to his teeth, make his do the strokes, and so forth. To get him through any complex task (and just about every non-instinctual task that people do is complex, it turns out), we use a process called chaining. Chaining involves the breaking down of a task into discrete steps, and linking them together. Rather than teach him to “brush his teeth”, we taught him to (a) get his toothbrush and then (b) turn on the water and then (c) wet the bristles and then …
In the autism community, chaining is everywhere.
Squig’s impairments are social and not cognitive. His math skills are fine, for instance. His reading level is ridiculous. He’s currently attending a public school, with a mix of special education services and regular classroom integration, but we expect to move him to a specialized school next year.
Here he is on the first day of Kindergarten:
(And because everyone asks, this is his lunchpail:
Totally awesome, I know. Though I am deeply disturbed that all of the animals on the lunchbox have associated vocalizations except for the alligator, which instead has a noise associated with an action. This seriously bothers me. WHY NO DOCTOR I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE HIS AUTISM CAME FROM!)
During a recent meeting with my son’s support team in which we were charting out his plan for the coming years, we took a moment to inventory his strengths and challenges. Number one on the list of his advantages was “charisma”.
Squig has an easygoing manner that people find endearing. His joie de vivre is infectious. Other kids are drawn to him. Like all young seven-year-old boys he has moments of defiance and aggression and omg will you stop running in the kitchen for just one second will you STOP?!! But on the balance he is just the most delightful kid to be around.
And, as a result, people will really go to bat for him. Whenever we encounter obstacles, some indefatigable member of Squig’s support team will tuck him under her arm and run into whatever endzone we are currently striving for, knocking opponents left and right. They will totally sweep the ice as he glides down the curling sheet toward a developmental house (wanted to include a sports analogy for my Canadian readers as well).
To be fair, they would do this for anyone in their care–people who work with special needs children are the most beneficent and indefatigable you will ever meet. But, even so, Squig has amassed an impressive cheering section. He is well loved.
Yesterday was Squig’s birthday. I asked him what he wanted and he said, “Fritos”. I asked what else he wanted and he said, “Itsy Bitsy Spider”. Kiddo, you got it.
Sunday afternoon I took Squig to Skate King.
I need not describe the venue to anyone raised in this area, as they already have a perfect mental picture of the joint throbbing in their forebrain. (It looks pretty much exactly as you remember it by the way, minus the Tempest machine.) For the rest: SK is a roller rink which, in the 70’s and 80’s, was thee place for get-togethers of all kinds: birthdays, school functions, funerals, etc. Judging from yesterday’s crowd its popularity remains largely undiminished, even if its webpage has not been updated since its creation in ’73.
This was my first time at SK since … well, let’s put it this way: the last time I was there, “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood was in the top 40. I am not just picking a arbitrary song to represent the early eighties, but actually recall this being played at a school-sponsored “Skate Party” I attended. I distinctly remember the horrified expression on the faces of parents, when the music was interrupted by spraying noises and all the seventh-graders in the rink joined Frankie in yelling “Come!!” (True story.)
Squig, on the other hands, had never worn roller skate before. If you are a parent and have not yet put your child on wheels, you need to do so immediately because it is high-larious. I seriously could not stop laughing at my only begotten son. It was as if his legs ended into two tiny terriers that were just running around and round in circles, completely independent of one another.
By the end of the hour he could stand by himself long enough for a picture to be taken, so long as he did not move or respirate or blink.
(I do not know why he looks like a level 3 lich in this photo.)
Squig was not alone in his roller-ineptitude; Skate King is like the Large Hadron Collider, with nine-year-olds in the role of particles. Imagine a live production of America’s Funniest Home Videos and you are 80% there.
Anyway, we had a good time. Well I did, at least. It was refreshing to find a place in Seattle where you can sing along to Katy Perry’s “Fireworks” at the top of your lungs without having to defend your knowledge of the lyrics.
H., my first cousin once removed (it took us 20 minutes and Wikipedia to figure that out), wanted to make movies over the Thanksgiving holiday. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to document my only skill: the speed reading of Green Eggs & Ham.
That’s Squiggle next to me. The toddler is yet another relation, one who decided to spend the day wearing her new pink bicycle helmet.
H. is behind the camera, but makes a guest appearance as Enormous Nose Mothership. And yes, the video is flipped for some reason. Talk to the director.
I spent Halloween this year as I have many others: sugar-high and wide awake in bed, staring at the ceiling until 4 AM, and vowing to rid the world of the evil geniuses behind Banana Laffy Taffy. That stuff seriously needs to stop existing. The first nation to weaponize Banana Laffy Taffy will have its boot on the throat of the world.
Prior to that we were at the home of our friends on Capitol Hill, as has become our tradition in recent years (2008, 2007). They live in the epicenter of a three block area that kind of goes nuts for the holiday, giving out obscene amounts of candy, larding their homes with decorations, and even setting up special attractions such as “Haunted House!” and “Dude Dismembering Other Dude with a Chainsaw on the Front Lawn!” (Protip if you decide to do DDODwaCotFL: using a real chainsaw makes for great sound effects, but also leaves your entire home cloaked in a incapacitating cloud of gasoline fumes. That’s still less toxic than Twizzlers, admittedly.)
Squiggle went as a fireman.
I wanted to dress as something that would go along with his outfit, but– okay if we were talking in person, this is the moment where I would shout “not a dalmatian!” because you’d be opening your mouth to say “dalmatian” and I only wear my dalmatian costume to Special Conventions, thanks.
I considered going as a burning building, but I was worried people would get the wrong idea (although it probably would have been fine, so long as I wasn’t clutching toy airplanes in my hands). Then I considered going as a “In Case of Emergency Break Glass” box. Then I realized that it was 5:43 PM on October 31st and we were late for our friend’s house.
In the end I decided to go as Sexy Technical Writer. All I had to do is wear my work clothes.
We took Squig trick-or-treating for about an hour, threw him in bed, and then manned the battlestations for the remainder of the evening. Overall we had somewhere in the vicinity of 1500 visitors, as evidenced by this photo in which you can make out nothing whatsoever:
Lots of witches this year, perhaps to compensate for Christine O’Donnell’s loss. Lots of Iron Men. Lots of pre- and post-adolescent girls with kitty ears and whisker facepaint. In fact, the latter was in such abundance that I’m going declare “cat” to be “not even a costume anymore”. Halloween Cat Costume joins the ranks of Christmas Target Gift Card as the hallmark of someone who’s not even trying.
Fortunately, there was no shortage of unMAZING costumes as well. This was my favorite:
Here is an eyeball. And a board game.
This girl had both a beautiful costume and a comical series of mishaps while on our porch. She accidentally dumped out some of her candy, and then accidentally dumped out the rest of her candy while bending over to retrieve the previously dumped candy, and the whole debacle culminated in her ripping off her own arm after ensnaring a claw in a giant artificial spider web. Imagine The Little Mermaid as directed by Lars von Trier.
I dislike the trend of young girls dressing as sluts for Halloween. That said, I am perfectly fine with them dressing as S.L.U.T.s.
Here is Shaun White. And his snowboard.
These kids showed up on the porch and I said “are you John F. Kennedy and Jackie O?” and they said “yes”.
That happened exactly one time, by the way: where I thought (but wasn’t sure) I knew who a youngster was supposed to be, and hazarded a guess, and was right. Every other time I’d be like, “are you Harmony from the Bugaloos?” and the kid would roll her eyes and deign to inform me that, no, she was some tertiary character from book 9 of a 21 novel fantasy/anime/horror/romance series for young adults that I had never heard of, after which I would promptly die of old age.
Wait. I take that back. There were a few other kids dressed in recognizable (to me) outfits:
This group played “Let’s Get Physical” on a Walkman the size of a briefcase and performed a jazzercise routine for our benefit. We gave them all the remaining candy and some wine coolers.
All and all another successful year, if success is measured by the number of candy wrappers I pulled out of my jacket pocket during a work meeting the following morning. (Seriously, I was like a magician producing scarves.) And if I start now, I can probably complete that burning building costume in time for Thanksgiving. Good times.
I glanced up from my laptop to find my five-year-old son standing nearby, gripping a bottle of Elmer’s glue. He had removed the cap and was holding the container upside down, watching, fascinated, as the viscous white substance drooled into a ever-growing pool on the kitchen floor.
“What are you doing?!” I barked. “Put that down!”
He jumped, startled, and then hastily complied. After dropping the bottle–still uncapped, still upended–into the utility drawer from whence it had come, he slammed the drawer shut and took two steps backwards, thus positioning himself in the center of the pool. His socks began soaking up yet more glue, adding to the astonishing quantity already smeared on his shirt and hands.
“Nooo, arrgh!” I yelled, sprinting to the drawer. By the time I had jerked it open an entire corner had become an impromptu lagoon, swamping ballpoint pens, rubber bands, pads of Post-It notes, and unused gift cards. I grabbed a handful of paper towels and thrust them into the morass; a moment later, when I withdrew the wad, half of the contents of the drawer came with it.
Now thoroughly exasperated, I turned to find the kid, already writing a legendary harangue in my head. He was few feet away, nonchalantly drinking orange juice. Just as my eyes settled on him, the plastic cup suddenly slipped from his grasp. It hit the floor and spun as it rebounded, splashing juice everywhere.
Yes: he’d managed to drop the cup despite having hands coated in glue.
Occasionally parenthood offers moments of religious awe, when the anger and frustration melt away and are replaced by reverence, a profound appreciation for the primal forces of chaos so poorly contained within your progeny.
Children are a marvel, like the aurora borealis with scissors.