Archive for the ‘literal thinking’ Category

Asperger’s Syndrome is known as an invisible disability and generally speaking from a personal point of view there is a part of it that is. However when I look at my son sometimes I wonder how much of what he does is really invisible, how much of his disability is really invisible. Is his disability really invisible or simply misunderstood or ignored?

J has extremely high anxiety levels. He shows his anxiety via his OCD. He panics with every tiny bit of dirt that touches him or is near him, he asks us, “Do you promise I’m not dirty now,” quite literally more than 50 times a day. He washes his hands constantly, I mean constantly, he’s actually got really sore hands at the moment, his knuckles have all cracked and even started to bleed due to him washing them so often. Sometimes he just refuses to touch things or go near things because he thinks they’re dirty or “germy”. Germy is his new word, his new phobia………………and ofcourse anything at all related to school is school germy. He’s been told by someone , (I don’t know who but I’m guessing it was someone at school because it wasn’t us and he doesn’t see anyone else), that some germs can make you very ill and so he now thinks that if he gets dirty or “germy” he’ll be poorly or could even die!

Another sign that J’s anxiety levels are rising is his chewing, bouncing, flapping and random one or two word answers/sentences. He chews toys, his fingers (another reason why they get sore), clothes and the inside of his mouth. He gets a fair few mouth ulcers due to his chewing. His bouncing and flapping can be due to excitement as well as anxiety however you can usually tell which it is by assessing the situation he’s/your currently in. For example if he was bouncing and flapping down a beach it’s kinda obvious that it’s excitement………..see what I mean?  And his speech can become quite sporadic, he can  randomly say just a word or two, sometimes he’ll make a statement of some sort, again that’s completely random and often if he’s asked questions when he’s anxious he’ll give just one or 2 word answers…………usually yes or no.  Ofcourse when those anxiety levels boil over J often has violent outbursts. :(

J has a social disability. For J, as a 6 yr old child this means he struggles in social situations. He doesn’t have any friends at school, although he’ll play with whoever will play his games with him at playtime. He doesn’t understand why other kids don’t want to play his game everyday, he doesn’t understand that with friendship there has to be give and take and sometimes he has to play the games of others and sometimes he’s going to lose. He came home from school last week on 2 separate occasions with minor injuries that other children had done (a whole other post!), and said that another child had accidentally punched him etc because he doesn’t understand that it’s wrong for someone to do that. He does however understand that he can’t hit back because it’s against the school rules to hit back. He just quite simply doesn’t understand how to “act” in and respond to some social situations.

J has a communication disability. I think the level of his communication disability is often misunderstood. J has excellent language skills, he uses words in his speech that children his age usually wouldn’t use, words that older children or even adults would use. He understands what most “big words” mean, for example at 3 he told his preschool teachers that they were ignorant because they didn’t listen to him. He can read almost everything that’s put in front of him, (provided it’s of interest to him). However J is incredibly literal, he doesn’t understand sarcasm, metaphors or at times even the words that are said to him and interprets them in his own way. This is the same with the written word, the school rules are a good example of this. One of the school rules that are written down and displayed throughout the school states once you are outside you must stay outside. So the majority of children would tell someone if they need to go in to go to the toilet or to get a tissue for example or they would just go in and then return to the playground but not J. If he needs the toilet and is already outside he won’t go back inside, instead he’ll hold it in and wait until he comes home or until the next playtime (if he remembers before he goes outside), because the rules say once outside, stay outside! When people say things to him or make suggestions to him he takes them as instructions, things he has to do. For example if a teacher suggests he try eating his apple peel rather than throwing it away, his understanding of that was I can’t eat apple at school anymore because I have to eat the peel and I don’t like it, so I simply can’t eat it anymore! He’s extremely fearful of getting into trouble at school and getting “told off” by his teachers and so he struggles to tell them if he doesn’t like something or if he can’t do something etc and due to this fear and lack of trust in his teachers, he releases those fears when he gets home. He tells us that he had to do something (handwriting is a biggy!) even though it hurt his hands or he didn’t know what he was supposed to do and when we ask him if he told his teacher this, he responds with “I couldn’t, I just had to do it or I’ll get in trouble!”

J also has difficulty at times processing what has been said to him. Often if something isn’t said directly to him, he doesn’t understand that he is being spoken to and may need instructions etc repeated. Often if there is alot of other things going on around him he struggles to focus on what is being said to him because unlike you or I, he can’t automatically block everything else out and focus on just that one person speaking.

I could go on and on. The point I’m trying to make is yes, Asperger’s Syndrome is a hidden disability but invisible? I don’t think it’s an invisible disability, some of his difficulties are hard to spot, hidden even but alot of his difficulties and how he displays them are so visible it shocks me that people (and I’m directing this at schools, you know those people who are supposed to educate our children!) can be so blind to them. So I’m left asking is it really an invisible disability or are Aspie needs just ignored and misunderstood?

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I’m wondering is it possible to worry yourself sick?

J has had a rough time recently, he’s had to deal with everything that been happening at home, (although he doesn’t know the full story, he’s still had to deal with it), but he’s also had to deal with his biggest anxiety………. SCHOOL!

We had a great weekend last week and both bedtimes lasted for less than an hour…………….the Sunday night happened and every bedtime since then has been pretty hard going.

This has been a tough week for him at school. Monday he went to his first proper planned assembly/worship. Not only was this a huge thing but even before going there he had to deal with a big change……….. Every morning J has been dropped off at the school’s reception and taken through to his classroom, on Monday he had leave 1/2 an hour earlier so putting his morning routine out and then he had to go into school through another entrance, straight from the playground into the classroom. Now I know to alot of parents this might not seem like a big deal but parents of ASD children will know this was huge………..really HUGE and alot of change all at once for him to deal with.  He seemed to deal with it “ok” but by bedtime he was showing signs that he wasn’t “dealing with it” quite as well as I’d thought.

Then on Wednesday he went in early again this time to have some one on one time with his teacher whilst the rest of the school were in assembly. Again he went in early, and through the door he usually exits school. However this time he had been promised that he wouldn’t have to go to assembly…………………………the first thing he reveals to me when I pick him up that afternoon is “And I did have to go to assembly so you and Mrs H lied to me!” He wasn’t happy about it! What had actually happened was he and his teacher had taken his class to assembly, where he had sat with them for a few minutes and then once they were all settled J and his teacher returned to the classroom for their 1:1 time. Ofcourse he wasn’t happy, he had been promised that he wouldn’t have to go to assembly and then he had been taken to assembly, despite not having to stay ……………. I can see why he thinks we lied. *sigh*.

When I picked him up from school on Wednesday we were also informed that his teacher would not be in school the following morning and that J would have a supply teacher for his 2 hrs at school. Sometimes I wonder what some people must think I mean when I say he needs to have prior notice of changes. Ok, so I know some can’t be helped, people get sick etc but she was going on a course. I just don’t understand why they couldn’t have said something earlier in the week, instead we had almost no notice. J had a really tough bedtime and then morning. Yesterday he had a huge meltdown claiming to be dirty (which is part OCD and a huge part a way of showing his anxiety), he had tears, yelling, constant asking if he or the things he touched were dirty and then refused to touch anything, he sat on the bottom step with his hands in the air. (In fact, thinking about it, his “dirty” quirk has been a little overboard all week!)  A few times before leaving for school he asked “what if the supply teacher doesn’t know that I’m not having lunch at school and doesn’t let me come home?” and “What if the supply teacher makes  me do something that I can’t do?” and …………..well you get the picture.

Today it’s the schools Jubilee Party. This should be a fun thing but for a kid on the spectrum it can be hell! His first panic was clothes…………. the children have been asked to wear red, white and blue…………. J’s first response, “but my school uniform isn’t red!” (he wears a blue jumper and a white t-shirt) and then “I can’t wear my clothes, I have to wear my school uniform!” after we tried to explain he could were whatever clothes he wanted to school just for one day. After several conversations we gave up and told him he could just wear his school uniform and red boxers ;) One problem solved, we thought. Next worry was food. The party will be after lunch and there will be sandwiches and ice lollies…………. J’s response “But I don’t like ice lollies and we have to eat them Mrs H said everyone will be having them!” And “What if they have dirty hands when they make the sandwiches? They’ll (the school) get cross with me if I don’t eat them!”  Convinced his teacher to tell him he doesn’t have to eat anything if he doesn’t want to. I thought problem 2 was solved, now I’m not so sure. Next problem, “What if it’s too loud or if someone touches me?” …………………. ok the issues regarding today have gone on and on this week.

However last night he suddenly became ill. Coughing and saying his head hurt. He was awake several times through the night and then up at extra early this morning but just seemed very lethargic and lay on the sofa for the first hour of his day. He did however mention school several times too, asking if he had to go, if he was too sick to go, if the party would make him feel “more poorly” etc etc…….So I’m wondering is he really sick or has he made himself sick with anxiety. He had a temperature and you can’t fake that ………… right? …………… I don’t know but I’m wondering. He has had a really tough week with alot of changes and alot of “stuff” so I really am wondering if he’s worried himself sick. He has made himself  sick with worry before, again over school so I just don’t know.

Anyhow as it’s the last day of this half term and most of the day is the party so I’ve decided to keep him home, hopefully he’ll relax a little over the next week and start to feel a little better.

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I know alot of children struggle with homework but when you throw in abit of Autism and you have a big problem………….well in the mumtoJ house you do anyway.

J has low muscle tone and really struggles with handwriting. He tires easily and complains that his hand hurts. So handwriting is quite a big issue for J. We’ve been working on that and strengthening his muscles by drawing mario characters and writing their names underneath, making playdough models of Moshi Monsters, writing in shaving foam, using theraputty and squeezy stress balls and so on. The key has been to use and do things that are interesting to him.

Until recently I wasn’t too worried about his reading and writing skills, we had previously been told by his teachers in Australia that he was a great reader and we’ve read to him since he was born, he’s always had books in his life. In fact at times when I’ve read his stories to him, he’s corrected me when I’ve missed a word out or said something different. So I wasn’t too worried I had thought “yes he struggles with his handwriting but that was because of his low muscle tone however he knows all of his letters and can read well”.

Recently his teacher here in England has told us that J is struggling with his phonics and he was sent home from school at the end of term with some homework to complete over the school holidays. He had around 20 words to read and then has to write a sentence for each word………..Over the past 2 weeks I’ve managed to get J to write 6 sentences and I have a feeling that he won’t complete his homework by Wednesday, when he returns to school. This homework has actually highlighted to me just how blind I’ve been. I’ve been shocked at how much of a struggle reading the words he’s been given has been for him. J is very literal and I hadn’t realized that this would have an impact on his ability to read words.  The first word on the list was cake. On his first attempt he said c.a.k.e, pronouncing each of the lower case letters. I asked if any of the letter had another sound……he then read it as ceaykayee, so we had a long “discussion” about how sometimes we might use one sound for some letters and the opposite for others………..third attempt (with encouragement) was caykee…….this went on for some time until he gave up saying “if you don’t say the e why does it have one?”  …………….. He’s had this problem with most of the words and there are some that he won’t even attempt to read.

Problem number 2 is failure. Failure is not an option for J, if he thinks he won’t be able to do something, he simply won’t do it. So not being able to read some of his words has meant that he has simply refused to do his homework, that way he won’t “fail”. It doesn’t matter how many times we tell him “well done”, “good try” and so on, in his head he can’t do it so he won’t do it!  And don’t even get me started on the anxiety he’s felt and expressed over the possible failure!!

Problem number 3 is that the words he has been given are of no interest to him at all. I’ve tried to make them Mario or Moshi related but it just hasn’t worked. One of his words was like so I asked him to write something that he liked. He replied with “but  we don’t do Mario at school”……….cue another “discussion” and eventually I managed to get him to write “I like Mario.” With J if something isn’t of interest to him, it’s not worth bothering with and he will make zero effort!

Problem number 4 is homework is schoolwork! And ofcourse in J’s eyes, schoolwork is something to do at school, not at home. And in J’s eyes he’s on the school holidays so why am I making him do schoolwork?!?!

If you put all of that together and add the way J feels about school…………we have a big problem! :(

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Exciting times in the MumtoJ house this week……………………………………..After just over 10 weeks of wobbling to and fro and then side to side, J has finally lost his first tooth.

When I say lost, I would like to make it clear as I had to with J, that I don’t mean that he’s actually lost it but his first tooth has fallen out! ;) Well, I have said before that he’s a literal thinker, I should have been more careful with my words………..he was quite upset with me for a few minutes when I told him that it was very exciting that he’d lost his first tooth, then reworded it and explained that I meant his tooth had fallen out…………………to then be told “Why didn’t you say that then?!?! hehehe

Just after arriving back in the UK J’s best friend back in Australia told us that he had his first wobbly tooth. J’s immediate reaction was concern. Would his friend be ok? Would his tooth fall out? Would he bleed? After a chat about how all kids have baby teeth fall out so that their grown up teeth can grow in place of them, he was ok with it. About after his friend’s news J discovered his first wobbly tooth. After the chat that we’d had, his reaction was now excitement, in fact he declared “I’ve got a wobbly tooth, that means I’m nearly grown up now!”

Every time he’s seen someone that we know, everytime, he’s asked “Did I tell *** that I’ve got a wobbly tooth” or  “Did you know I’ve got a wobbly tooth!” He’s wobbled it and wobbled it even more. He’s been abit particular with what he’s eaten, (yes even more than usual), just in case it’s hurt his tooth. And finally after 10 and abit weeks it’s finally fallen out!!!

Since it fell out this morning, he has several times asked if I can stick it back in………………with superglue! I’ve had to explain that whilst Mummy can superglue his toys back together, I can’t superglue his tooth back in because it would be poisonous to put the superglue into his mouth! Ofcourse this made him worry that he had gotten a little bit poisoned when he had put the toys into his mouth after I’d glued them, bless him! We got through that one only to be confronted with the tooth fairy!!

Tonight he’s wrapped it in a piece of kitchen roll and put it in a cup so that the tooth fairy will see it. He didn’t put it under his pillow because he didn’t want the tooth fairy to go too close to him or touch him, so Daddy came up with the cup idea (Well done Daddy!). We’ve had a very long chat about the tooth fairy, in fact we had several very long chats about the tooth fairy. You see at Christmas J really didn’t want Santa to come into our house and to begin with he had some concerns about the tooth fairy. Soooo the agreement we finally came up with is, the tooth fairy leaves a coin (he told us it had better be a £2 coin! lol) and will also leave his first tooth because it’s special. He has a special pot to keepsake his first tooth in but every other tooth that falls out, he will get a coin for and the tooth fairy will take the tooth to keep it in a special secret place.

Here’s hoping the tooth fairy doesn’t make a noise when she goes into his room tonight eh? ;)

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J, like other people with Autism/Aspergers is a literal thinker.  He occasionally gets jokes (but very rarely and they usually have to be explained to him before he gets them),  and he doesn’t understand metaphors and sarcasm. At times this is funny and has made us laugh but at times his lack of understanding has fuelled his anxieties and has caused him, (and us) alot of stress usually resulting in an aggressive meltdown or lots of tears, both of which can be very challenging!

I’ve written posts in the past about J’s literal thinking (you can read a couple of these posts here and here).  I’ve gotten better at watching what I say, (whoops slipped up there ;) hehe), but I still slip up at least once each and everyday. Sometimes the way he thinks makes me giggle, other times I get cross with myself for not thinking before I speak.

Just the other day whilst arguing trying to negotiate with him I made the mistake of saying “Sometimes you think the whole world revolves around you but……” and was interrupted by J who yelled at me “NO I DON’T! THAT’S JUST STUPID THE WORLD REVOLVES AROUND THE SUN NOT ME!”……….Smart kid? Yep he sure it, Smart Alec? Yes sometimes, Literal Thinker? Always!

Alot of people would think that his literal thinking isn’t really a problem but for J it can cause huge problems. For example, last year at whilst at school, for the first 3 terms he didn’t use the toilet at school,  instead he “held it in” and was bursting to go once he got home. This also resulted in lots of tummy aches as you can imagine.  The reason for this………….well it all comes back to his literal thinking. His teacher on a few occasions questioned him as to why he hadn’t gone to the toilet when she had told him to, he got a little upset by this and declared that he had………He had been told to go to the toilet and to wash his hands, so he had gone into the toilets and washed his hands. He had done EXACTLY as he had been told to do, but ofcourse this meant that he hadn’t actually used the toilet. (Using the toilet whilst at school is something that he still struggles with)

Something else he has difficulty with is his literal interpretation of rules………….For example one of the rules at his school this year is “Stay outside once you are outside”, J interpretation of this is once outside at breaktimes he can only come inside when the bell goes or his teacher tells him to. So if he does decide that he needs to use the toilet, he won’t because he can’t come in to do so, or if he gets “dirty” he can’t go and wash his hands because he can’t go back inside to do so.  One of the rules at his previous school was “No Shouting and when inside use your inside voice” so when he hurt himself whilst playing undercover, despite needing help he wouldn’t yell for help because it was against the rules. Instead he got upset when he came home that day because not only had he hurt himself but nobody had listened to him when he said, (in his inside voice), that he had hurt himself.

At times J also has difficulty understanding TV programs and separating what is real and what isn’t………for example during an episode of one of his favourite cartoons one of the characters was struck by lightening and became a ghost………… it was typical old school cartoon, (you know like Tom and Jerry, Sylvester and Tweetie etc), however J’s interpretation of this was, “if I go out when it’s thundering and lightning I’ll die because the lightening will get me”…………..you see the problem?

Then there’s jokes………. A friend recently told me a simple joke that I then told J……..”What’s green and sharp?”……”A blade of Grass!”………… Ofcourse we’ve had to explain this to J because his initial reaction was “Is grass sharp? I didn’t know it was sharp!” After a full on explanation he now gets the joke and he relays it to us …………….all the time! (‘Cus he’s so proud that he knows a funny joke now)

Why have I written this post? Well I just wanted to highlight J’s literal thinking. This week someone from J’s school told me that all children J’s age are literal………………I work with children and I know that to some extent alot of children J’s age are literal……………but not  as literal as J! His literal thinking (along with alot of his other quirks and struggles) is very misunderstood. Most people we’ve encountered don’t seem to understand just how literal he is. He lives in a very black and white world…………..There is no grey!

So please use your words carefully and think before you speak. Please try to remember your words may be understood EXACTLY as you say them.

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