What I struggle with is everything around them. The piles of laundry, except from my oldest who would prefer to wear the same set of clothes every day. The cleaning, which is usually two hours of picking up before the “cleaning” can begin. The cooking, three different meals every night and my husband and I love gourmet so no, I’m not going to eat sausages. And the noise. THE NOISE! Some days I can tune out to it, other days, like today, when I have a virus that has cultivated what feels like soggy sensitive cotton wool in my eardrums, I simply cannot cope with the noise.
But don’t worry. I have a plan. I always have a plan. The plan this time, is subjecting them to intense, face-to-face, across a small table, work it out, therapy. Otherwise known as social skills speech therapy.
Boy, oh boy, I wish I’d packed my hardware store jackhammer proof earmuffs for the first session. It was loud. It was however still early January while most families were on school holidays. Thankfully, there weren’t too many other children in the pathology workshop to psychologically disturb. I mean distract.
So I coped with the session buy sitting quietly in the parent corner chair out of the way. The boys however, didn’t really cope too well at all. The biggest challenge you can give an Aspie is placing them opposite each other where there are constant opportunities to make incidental eye contact. Eye contact is hard. Eye contact whilst communicating logically and calmly is very hard. Eye contact whilst playing a board game, with rules, and winners, and losers, and cheating brothers, and taking turns and using inside voices, well that’s just near impossible.
We usually do activities and conversations side by side, it’s much less stressful. In real life though, board tables don’t work side by side, and using your outside voice inside, isn’t going to win too many friends either. That’s why we do therapy.
Props: A board game and a stuffed toy frog.
Therapist: “I’m now going to explain the rules to the game.”
Bailey: “How many rules are there?”
Therapist: “Not too many. Remember Bailey, I have the frog, so I get to talk and you listen, when you have the frog you can talk. Now, you each get a bingo board.”
Bailey: “Hey, it’s Toy Story, I love toy story! Oh, can I have the frog?”
Casey: “I hate Toy Story.”
Archie: “Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, I saw Toy Story on the TV!”
Therapist: “Okay, so here are the rules.”
Casey: “Yeah, but I hate Toy Story, do I have to play? I can see UNO on your shelves, can we play UNO?”
Three Aspies in Unison (outside voices): “Can we play UNO! We want to play UNO! UNO, UNO, UNO.”
Therapist (after chant has finished): “No, today we are playing bingo.”
Casey: “Toy Story bingo.”
Therapist: “Yes, it’s Toy Story bingo.”
Casey: “I hate Toy Story.”
Archie: “Hey, you’ve got Jenga Boom!”
Therapist: “Do you know how Jenga Boom works Archie?”
(Archie recites the entire television ad for Jenga Boom word for word)
Therapist: “Oh, you’ve seen the ad then?”
Archie: “Just once.”
Therapist: “Once you all have a board, then we take in turns…”
Archie: “Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, who gets to go first?”
Casey: “I want to go first!”
Bailey: “I want to go first!”
Archie (Bursts into tears): “But I want to go first!”
Therapist: “We can decide who goes first AFTER I explain the rules.”
Casey: “I know, we can do rock, paper, scissors.”
Therapist: “Yes, paper, scissors, rock is a good way to decide.”
Casey: “It’s rock, paper, scissors, not paper, scissors, rock!”
Archie: “Rock, paper, scissors, ROCK, you have scissors, I win!”
Casey: “But you always do rock, you always get to go first!”
Therapist: “The rules are that you take turns spinning….
Casey: “I hope it lands on the green one, green is my favourite colour! But I don’t want it to land on Woody, yuck, Woody.”
Archie: “I love Woody, but I wish I could fly like Buzz!”
Bailey: “Hey, have you got anything soft on your desk, I need something soft.”
Therapist: “Bailey, please sit down, please sit down, Bailey don’t touch things on my desk!”
Bailey: “Oh look, tissues, now I can make a pillow on the table and have a nap. I’m tired.”
Thirty minutes later, they finally started the game.
The forty-five minute session ended and the boys were still enthusiastically (the nice way of saying yelling and screaming) chatting between each other and even though Casey officially won the game, Bailey was very upset so they decided to give him lots of coins so he could win as well. Then Archie burst into tears so they decided on a three-way tie. If only real life could be so diplomatic.
After the session we were all exhausted. The entire car trip home was silent. We were all busy processing the last 45 minutes of communication, instruction, and noise.
The rest of the day was lovely. The boys were all talking nicely to each other. Archie found a plastic shark that could be passed around so everyone could take turns talking, that way their words wouldn’t “bump into each other”. I was enjoying an extended vocabulary of phrases that meant I didn’t need to recite “use your inside voice” like a broken record. And as for the therapist, I hope she drinks scotch, because she would have needed it!
Having three boys aged 9, 8 and 5 will always be loud. I know that. But if I can make sure that the words that are spoken are kind, helpful and loving, then eventually I’m sure the volume will sort itself out. Either that or I’ll be deaf by then anyway. As for the constant need to interject and express themselves and their opinions, that’s another session, or group of sessions, or something. I don’t really know. In the meantime, these school holidays are lot less noisy, so me, and my cottonwool ears, are very happy.