Friday, April 29, 2011

Strict Constructionist

I live with a child who is a stickler for the rules. This would be super great, if only it were MY rules he is so insistent on following. But the rules Boo must follow, and which he insists we ALL follow, originate in his own mind. They are often things that seem so random or arbitrary or illogical to the rest of us, but for Boo, they seem to be something he NEEDS in order to cope with the world and keep himself on an even keel. Regulated, as we sometimes call it. Some examples of Boo rules are, only one sound may be happening at a time. For example, if he is watching a movie, I can't have the radio on in the next room. Bananas must remain whole or they are inedible. If one breaks, or heaven forbid you cut it, he becomes very distressed and refuses to eat that one, or any others. Only one food may be offered/eaten at a time. The route we drive both to and from Mammo's house must be exactly the same each time. There are a myriad of such rules that we must pay attention to.

You can imagine how someone who insists on strict adherence to order and sameness can be challenging to live with. Sometimes life just throws you a curve ball, and there is nothing you can do but adjust how you hold your mitt. This is very hard to teach a child with autism. Recently, the county began working on resurfacing the highway between our house and Mammo's house. The appearance of orange cones and strange signs along the road was uncomfortable for Boo, and he needed me to talk it through a lot so that he could feel safe and comfortable. Then the cones moved to the middle of the road, and we were required to drive only on the left lane. That was very difficult to come to terms with, but he finally did. Low and behold, just a few days later, the right lane had been ground off and they began work on the left lane. Aside from this being highly annoying to ME since there is no way to drive down the highway without cars in front of you spraying rocks up on your windshield, it was very disturbing to Boo, who had only recently dealt with the idea that we were only driving on the left lane, and now we are only driving on the right. Not to mention, the westbound traffic has these rules, but the eastbound traffic does not. Boo does not like this construction zone, or it's cones, and especially not its strange and (to him) confusing rules. When he feels distressed, he shows it by talking about what's bothering him. A lot. Incessantly! So there has been a lot of talk about cones, and workers.

Today as we entered the highway, a large dump truck entered also, but it proceeded to drive down the forbidden side of the road toward the construction workers. This sent Boo into a tizzy! That truck was NOT supposed to be on THAT side of the road! It took me a while to convince him that the truck was driven by one of the workers and that it was ok. It was crazy windy here today, and several of the orange cones had been blown over onto their sides, pointing into our driving lane. This also upset the boy, as the perfect row of identical cones set up at regular intervals was disrupted by the occasional fallen cone. He asked me what happened and I told him the wind blew them over. He lamented, "But I didn't WANT that to happen!" Soon he spotted a workman up ahead and he concluded that the worker was going to pick up the cones, so it would be ok.

Then, something magical happened! We passed by a big machine that was grinding up the road and he asked me what it was. I told him "that's a paving machine." Now, in the strictest sense, I was not correct, since this machine was grinding off the old pavement, not laying down new. But it was the first thing that came to my mind. And oh, was Boo excited! He announced, "YEAH, JUST LIKE BESSIE!" (Bessie is the name of the paving machine in the movie Cars) He began asking me "what is the name of that machine? What is the name of the machine that's on the real earth? (meaning, the real one, as opposed to the one on tv) I told him I didn't know and asked what he supposed the name of the machine was, and he answered "Bessie." He was so excited about Bessie that he forgot all about his concerns over the construction zone. It's the little things, ya know?

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