Menopausal mom to 2 young adult sons (one with ASD, ADHD, tic/seizure disorders and the other with attitude).

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

"Who's On First in Riley World"
Episode 3: Communication Breakdown

When I wrote the first “Who’s on First in Riley World” post I had not anticipated having to write follow-up “episodes” quite so often. This past month has brought about a significant change in Riley World. Having someone who is new to autism working with R adds a whole new dimension, of epic proportions. This is not to say that things haven’t gone well…all things considered, they have.

When Riley first started to speak it took us a number of years before we were able to figure out the limitations of his communication. In order to avoid possible meltdowns (especially in those early years) we learned to anticipate his wants/needs (at times to a fault) and over the years have gotten better at reading Riley. On the flip side R has gotten better at reading us. Now Riley has always been somewhat of a pleaser.  He wants to cooperate and do what is asked of him if he can. Lately we have been able to reaffirm Riley’s keen ability to pick up on certain cues (no matter how subtle) and his ability to appear more knowledgeable/aware than he realistically is in a lot of situations...a double-edged sword so-to-speak.

It was very apparent the other day when I was trying to question R about his first day back to school after being at home for 2 weeks. I was struggling with how to pose my questions so as not to give away any “clues or hints” to possible answers. R looked at me. I looked at him. I asked. He answered. I asked again. He replied with a different answer. I paused to think. He looked at me. I could see the wheels turning; what does she want me to say?  Well either that or he was thinking to himself why the hell is she asking me all these questions! Pretty sure it was the latter. Oish.

So week one ended with a Friday afternoon community outing with a couple of other students and their SEAs (Special Education Assistants). They have gone to a variety of different activities and bus to/from the local Rec Centre together. R called me and after our usual hellos the conversation went like this:

R:         The bus is late.
Me:       Where are you?
R:         I don’t know.  The bus is gone.
Me:       Are you with BW?  (I hear talking in the background)
R:         Yes. Will you come get me?
Me:       Where are you? (more talking/prompting)
R:         I’m at Memorial. (name of the Rec Centre)
Me:       Can you give the phone to BW please?  (Yup…got it right this time.  :) 
Before giving R an answer, I wanted to confirm with BW that they indeed wanted me to pick them up as R will jump at the chance to be picked up early.)
BW gets on the phone. They missed their bus; were going to wait and catch the next bus back to school with the others; wanted to let me know they would be late. Great. No problem. I arrived at the school in plenty of time. After ~15 minutes I decided to call R on his cell. Thankfully he picked up. Again our hellos then:

Me:       Where are you?
R:         I’m in the village.
Me:       (Thinking to myself...OK, they are halfway back. I could hear a discussion going on in the background.)
Are you taking the bus back to school?  (Again not wanting to suggest picking them up before confirming with BW)
R:         YES!  (Answers very enthusiastically)
Me:       (That's a good sign. He answered YES immediately and enthusiastically so they must be taking the bus back. Better check again.)
Are you waiting to take the bus back to school?
R:         YES! (Again...very enthusiastically)
Me:      OK. I’m at the back of the school. Should I wait for you at the back of the school or in the classroom?
R:         At the back!  (Again…answers with enthusiasm)
Me:       OK.  See you when you get here.
R:         OK. Bye! (Imagine a sing-songy <== it that a word?!?, happy as a clam voice here)

Another 10 minutes or so go by and I see one of the SEAs rushing into the parking lot. After a brief conversation with her, I headed off to pick up R and BW at the bus stop. Rather than continue this painful monologue, here is what I came up with. Fact: while waiting for the second bus back to school the SEAs were discussing having parents come to pick them up at the bus stop as it was getting later and later. Assumption: this discussion happened while I was on the phone with R which would explain the sudden enthusiasm in his voice. Fact: BW had called and left a message on our home phone, unfortunately I had already left. Fact: the SEAs had it all sorted out and no one was left to their own devices.

Now your "typical" child would have probably relayed the discussion/message about being picked up while talking to their parent on the phone especially since it was more than likely happening at the exact.same.time. Further, I am going to assume R was listening to the discussion, heard "parents pick up", thought whooo-hooo mom is coming to pick me up, life is good, end of conversation. It did not matter that I asked about bussing back to school. It did not matter that I asked about where to pick him up. In fact it would not have mattered if I asked about the economic crisis in Greece. In Riley's mind he knew that I was going to be picking him up at the bus stop (even though at that point I did not) therefore all was good in Riley World. That is all. *sigh*  A whole new dimension.

I don’t know how you would be but I was and still am exhausted!!!

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