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Father’s Day and Andy got a very special card from Jamie. The wording inside – ‘thank you for everything you do for me’. Jamie didn’t write this or have anything to do with it really, except the scribble at the bottom, but the sentiment tells us exactly what Jamie’s carers and the other staff feel about what we try to do for him. It does make you feel reassured – I always fight that guilt that my child (even though he is a grown man!) is too much for me to cope with 24/7. Actually, when I look at his card, the scribble at the bottom that Jamie has done definitely looks like ‘Andy’ – well it does to me!

Today, Jamie was very anxious, even before we left his home to drive to lunch. Half way there he started banging his head while we were driving. Now this is strange because he loves going out in his car and he loves going to lunch, so why start banging his head, when he knows that the consequences are that he doesn’t get the things he likes most? There was no trigger that we could see for his behaviour.

I pulled over into a lay-by and Jamie was getting really angry. He wanted Andy to rub the back of his head (his favourite thing!) and he also wanted Andy to hold him. But Andy will not do these things while he is banging so much, we don’t want to positively reinforce the bad behaviour, but only the good behaviour, so if he headbangs or tries to grab us, or bite, then we withdraw contact and wait it out.

It was pretty obvious that Jamie was not going to stop easily and so Andy got out of the car. I had to let him out because of the child locks. Andy walked away from the rear of the car, I got back into the driver’s seat. Weird – Jamie immediately stopped and was quiet. He watched Andy intently through the rear window. Andy came back after a while and Jamie had totally calmed down. Was he worried that Andy would go away and not gome back? Did the act of Andy getting out of the car bring him out of the cycle of headbanging? I don’t know but it certainly worked!!

We carried on, wholly prepared for Jamie being too unsettled to go to the pub for lunch, but he was pretty good really, Still fairly anxious, which we could see by the look in his face., but he ate his lunch beautifully.

Another thing that interested me was that Jamie always eats Andy’s onion rings. Every week we have the same things to eat because this is how Jamie copes with having lunch in a pub. Andy always gives Jamie his onion rings and today was no exception. But one of the rings was not a proper ring – it was half a circle, but elongated into a curved rope shape! Jamie could not recognise this as an onion ring and he refused it by pushing Andy’s fork away. Luckily he didn’t get upset though and he ate the others fine. I was surprised that the shape was enough for him to not recognise his favourite food and even more so that if he did know it was an onion ring he couldn’t accept it becase of it’s shape. The autism won out over his greediness! – interesting. I would love to know what he is thinking.

Today Jamie talked to us in his own ‘babble-speak’  all the way to lunch and most noticeably walking from the car to the pub. When he does this it is very distinct from his usual babble and has definite inflections similar to sentence structure. I wish I knew what he is saying. Sometimes this babble-speak is accompanied by really strong eye contact with Andy – but he doesn’t do it to anyone else. We are always wary and pay special attention when he does this in case anything  is wrong in his life and he is trying to tell us.

There is some research I heard about where researchers have investigated the brain areas active in people who are mute. They have found similarities between people who don’t speak and people who do speak in specific areas of the brain associated with speech. Are mute people like Jamie actually talking in their heads but not actually saying the words? I shall find out more and put a synopsis on here (and a full reference)  because Andy and I am sure that Jamie thinks he is communicating with us and he probably wonders why on earth we have no understanding of what he is telling us – aspects of Theory of Mind here!

Not a bad Father’s Day though – certainly an interesting one!

Jan Mather

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