Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ah socially awkward moments. "Motor boat" anyone?

Remember the comedy series from about ten years ago called 'Kids Say the Darnest Things'?  Bill Cosby hosted it and it was modeled after Art Linkletter's show back in the 50's and 60's.  It was funny.  Everyone loves a 4 year old that "connects the dots" in a new and unique way or simply tells it like it is.  Shoot, half of my Facebook updates are the things that my kids say to me.  My favorite still remains the day that my 5 year old (now almost 10) had an epiphany from the back seat as we were driving along saying "Hey Dad, I can read my own mind!"  "Congrats", I thought, "you're sentient".  Sweet.  Just 2 weeks back I asked my 6 year old Torin what he wanted to be when he grew up.  Without hesitation he stated "a zipper."  Duh, I thought.  Who wouldn't want to be a zipper?  Tough to make a living as a zipper though.  Come to think of it, I should refer him to my blog entry from a few weeks back about my son needing a good career counselor.

Of course parents with kids on the spectrum are always wanting our kids to talk.  In fact, we look for any way to hear their voice.  I often wonder what connections Mitchell is making.  We don't hear much.  That's beginning to change but it has taken soooo long.  Thank goodness for the intensive therapy and the autism waiver funds that were made available to us.  I also have 2 nuerotypical sons that keep my bucket full of good one liners.  I thank my lucky starts for that.   But as my mom used to say "be careful what you ask for" because their voice doesn't always show up at the right time.  Ain't that the truth.

Just the facts ma'am
The trick is learning how to get through those awkward moments and even celebrate them.  Granted, I wasn't celebrating with the ~50 year old female clerk at the department store when my son Mitchell clearly stated "she has a mustache".  It didn't help he pointed at her while he said it either. That left nothing to doubt as to whom he was referring to.  She did have a mustache.  I could see the thought process on the others around us.  Mitchel has always been 'just facts'.  Joe Friday would be proud.  Although I was embarassed, I couldn't help but be glad that I was hearing his voice.  The thought also occured to me that there is probably a sizable market for low priced facial hair bleach.
Social nuance is tough for lots of people irrespective of whether they're on the autism spectrum.  I travel a good bit for my job and I often need to just swallow hard and jump in to situations with prospects or clients.  How many people do you know that are terrible with names?  Mine is Paul by the way...

It's not just thinking about the speaking aspects of social interactions.  What about the "doing" part?  Actions speak louder than words don't they?  I must admit that there are times when I wish I had the proverbial "sheppards hook" to pull him out of situations.  It isn't uncommon for my son to walk down the aisle at the grocery store and touch all the glass bottles.  That's bothersome enough because I don't want to pay for 20 jars of pickles.  It gives him the stimulus he needs.  It's a bit more problematic, though, when there is a lady pondering the dozen pickle options only to have my son walk by and run his hand along her back side and keep right on going.  "Sorry about that" I sheepishly say.  We bust out of aisle 7.  Funny thing is, pickles tastes better now and I can't help laughing when I eat one. 

While in the intensive therapy program, we focused a good bit on greetings and initial engagement with friends and strangers.  We made progress.  But, there is room for improvement.  As a word of warning, woman need to be on their A game when they enter the Braun house.  My son doesn't hesitate to hug and he's now of a height that his face lands right in your chest.  On multiple occasions he's hugged woman and gotten a little too gregarious.  If it's happened to you, you know what I mean.  The infamous "motor boat". Sorry, no video clip on You Tube for that.

What's so awesome about this is that my son has helped me empathize with the situations of others.  I'm more patient now with other people's children, especially in public.  That is a true gift that autism has given me.  It's made me a better person.  It has also helped me learn to laugh off some of the crazy situations we find ourselves in.  I've learned to loosen up a bit (my wife we argue I didn't necessarily need to loosen up any more).  Either way, his view of the world and how he interacts with it is unique to him.  I love it.  He makes me smile.


  1. Your wife isn't the only one who would argue you don't need to loosen up any more, but we like you just the way you are ;-)