Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Through the Looking Glass: Like Two Ships Passing in the Night

written by: Marj Hatzell, otherwise know on the Internets as The Domestic Goddess. 

Getting my boys to interact is like putting pantyhose on a goat, as my mother-in-law says. In terms of functioning and autism, they couldn't be further apart. Luke, who is currently ten-and-one-twelfth (That is
very important, that one twelfth, and is much different than JUST TEN) is in the higher-functioning range with a diagnosis of PDD-NOSE or Asperger's depending on the weather that day and which doctor we are seeing. Ian, who turned eight just after Christmas with very little fanfare (just the way he likes it) is considered severely-to-profoundly affected. While Luke is above grade level, attends his neighborhood elementary school and quite verbal (and reads the dictionary! FOR FUN!), Ian is largely non-verbal. When we hear a word out of Ian, it's usually, “NO.” When asked to pick something up or, “Uh-oh!” when he is throwing a glass down the stairs. Because, you know, tossing it down to the basement is an accidental. Ooookay. Sure.

They couldn't be more different even though I was due on the same day in December (count back nine months, Irish people, and you can figure it out), are two years apart and they were nearly identical in terms of development before the age of two. One day Luke began to speak. Ian never did. We'd hear a word once in a while, like “SH*T” when mommy dropped a chicken (he said it for three hours. Awesomesauce) or “Choo-choo.” while watching Thomas. For the nine millionth time. But that's it.  And Luke? Let's just say he isn't reticent. No, I think they have a term for this. Diarrhea of the mouth? Jabber Jaws? INCESSANT CHATTER ALL DAY AND NIGHT? Yeah. That.

The toughest part about raising two boys with autism (and ADHD, OCD and a variety of other acronyms) is that getting them to communicate with us is difficult enough. Adults? No problem! But other kids? Each other? Nearly impossible. They might as well be the North Pole and the South Pole. They are like two ships passing in the night. A glimmer of recognition once in a while but don't expect them to warn you about that iceberg you're about to hit. And we all know what happens when you hit an iceberg. Leo DiCaprio drowns. OH NOES!

So. Where was I? Titanic? Disaster? Oh, right! Interaction! We're basically raising two only-children. Or roommates who work different shifts. Ian obviously works nights because he's up every freaking night. But playing together? It can happen. If we orchestrate it. Look at each other? If we say, “IAN. LOOK AT LUKE.” Circles of communication? HAHAHA! You're so funny! But we try. And we'll keep trying.  A friend once gave me an awesome suggestion. She said, “Don't get them things when they ask for them. Make their sibling get it instead! Forced interaction!”  And it works. They will go to one another now if we're not readily available. So, progress. I'll take it in any form.

We know something is working. One night I was in tears talking to Luke because he was so sweet. When I went in to tuck him in, he asked me what would happen to Ian when we died. Luke was confident he'd go to college and MOVE RIGHT BACK IN, MOM. He knew he'd live on his own someday. But Ian? Grim reality. I explained the concepts of group homes, independent living situations and the like. He wasn't happy about that. He was quiet for a moment and said, “Don't worry Mom. You and Dad don't have to worry. I will take care of Ian forever. We'll be just fine.”

Yup. They sure will. 

Marj Hatzell, otherwise known as The Domestic Goddess, is a Domestic Engineer, Total Babe and SAHM to two boys with autism, ADHD, OCD and a variety of other acronyms. She was a band geek in high school, lives vicariously through computers and prefers dogs to people, which means she has STELLAR social skills.

Her writing has also been featured in  The Stir, 5 Minutes for Special Needs, Thinking Person's Guide to Autism and of course, her very own blog, thedgoddess.com.


AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.