The Rolls

Aaron loves rolls – yeast rolls in particular – but nearly any kind of bread is a huge hit with him.  If we have rolls for a meal, we usually end up hiding them after we eat.  If we don’t, then Aaron will sneak into the kitchen to take the rolls a few at a time until they are all gone – usually by bedtime.  It’s so frustrating to go into the kitchen, ready to pop a roll into the microwave, only to find the empty plastic storage bag on the counter.  Aaron!!!

This morning Aaron asked if he could have some extra money since his group was going shopping, probably to Wal-Mart.  So instead of his usual 5 dollars, I gave him 7 – and some change.  But I warned him, “Aaron, do NOT go and buy a bunch of candy with that money.  You don’t need a huge bag of Skittles or several boxes of Mike and Ikes.”  Then I urged him to buy something good for lunch.  I said, “You know, Aaron, you could go to the deli and buy some real food for lunch.”  He agreed – but with Aaron I never know.

He bounded in the house this evening, holding a Wal-Mart bag that had something like a box in it.  He was very excited.  “Mom!!  You know what you said about not buying candy?  Well, I didn’t.  Instead, I bought this!!”  And out of the bag he pulled – this:

A box of rolls.  He was very pleased with himself.  Instead of buying 3 pounds of Skittles, he bought 18 rolls.  Well…………..I guess that’s O.K.   I was wondering what he had eaten for lunch since these were unopened.  He was a little evasive.  So I asked him how much the rolls cost and he told me they cost “3 dollars and something.” 

“Well, Aaron, you must have some money left,” I said.  “No,” he replied, “I don’t.”   Then I asked him what else he had bought and he pointed to the box of 18 rolls and said, “Another one of those!” 

Oh my goodness!!  THIRTY-SIX ROLLS!!!!!!!!!  But he assured me that he had shared the other box of rolls with friends and staff at his group.  He felt that he had been very wise today.  He didn’t buy candy; he didn’t buy slurpees; he didn’t buy chips.  He just bought 36 rolls. 

We ate some of the rolls for supper tonight.  He kept an eagle eye on the plate that held the rolls and made sure that he grabbed the last one that was left.  Later, as we cleaned the kitchen, we noticed that the container of rolls was missing some.  He sure can snatch and run very quickly. 

I’ve told him about other choices in the deli – a sandwich, some fruit, a salad – but leave it to Aaron to spy those rolls and forget anything that I said.  Ah, what freedom!  To have 36 rolls all his own – to eat, to share – but not to have them hidden from him.  He said the woman at the register asked him if he was having a party, and he told her no.  But to him it was a party – with 36 rolls! 

We never know what a day will hold with Aaron!

Meow

In my post yesterday, I talked about two of Aaron’s repetitive behaviors – rubbing his hands together, as well as the loud clapping.  He has other charming behaviors, as well.  One that he shares quite often is making noises with his mouth. 

Some of the noises may leave people a little puzzled when they hear them but they are not offensive.  One of those would be when he meows like a kitten.  It may be a little odd if you’re standing somewhere and hear a grown man meow, but it’s not terribly uncomfortable. 

However, Aaron’s very favorite noise is quite the opposite of the meow sound.  His noise of choice sounds like……………..well………………..my dad would have wanted me to say that it sounds like Aaron is ‘passing gas.’     Or that whoever might be standing beside him………….which is usually ME………..is passing gas. 

I become very embarrassed when Aaron makes this noise, as you can imagine.  Whether we’re walking past the Wal-Mart greeter;  walking down a store aisle;  waiting in the check-out line;   sitting in a waiting room;  eating in a restaurant;   in the theater  –  it never gets any easier for me when Aaron decides to blurt out this pleasing noise. 

“AARON!!!,”  I hiss. “Stop making that noise!!!!”    And he almost always asks, “Why?”   WHY??!!  “Because people will think that one of us is…….farting…….(sorry, Dad)……..and that’s embarrassing!”  

But Aaron doesn’t respond to social situations like you and I do.  His filters, the few that he has, are way off base.  Aaron receives some sort of satisfaction from making this noise, just like the clapping, but he is not embarrassed by it.  Not at all.  Ever. 

He came home from his group one day and told me, “Mom, I was standing in the line at Wal-Mart and I made the meow noise.  Then this lady looked at me funny.”  

Well, yes, Aaron I’ve told you many times that no one else makes these noises and that when you do, people think it’s strange, and so they will stare at you – which is why you need to stop making the noises……………on and on and on.

His reply:  “But Mom, isn’t the meow noise better for me to make than the farting noise?” 

Well, when you put it that way…………….

CLAP!!!

Individuals with autism often exhibit repetitive actions that may be very unusual to the average person.  Sometimes these behaviors are calming to the one with autism, or they may result from stimulation.

Sometimes these behaviors are NOT calming to the individuals who live with these autistic persons.

Sometimes these behaviors cause the people living with the autistic individual to become stimulated and begin their own repetitive behaviors. 

Let me explain.  Aaron, when he is telling about something that excites him, will bend over at his waist a little and rub his hands together.  This behavior is a little funny and is not annoying.  Aaron also loves to clap.  These claps can be ear splitting.  I am sure that he must have the loudest claps of anyone ever living on planet Earth.  This behavior is not funny and is beyond annoying.  Aaron has clapped since he was very little.  His very little claps were cute and we assumed were just the behavior of a very little toddler person.   He never outgrew the clapping, and now his large claps are not cute as they come from this large grown man. 

As we walk into a store I will automatically remind Aaron not to clap.  He can usually stop himself from clapping during these times when he is out in public, but sometimes I may be in another part of the store and I will hear the familiar CLAP.  I roll my eyes and imagine what everyone around him must be thinking. 

So the repetitive behaviors that WE have developed as we live with Aaron are to repeat over and over:  “Aaron, do not clap in the store.”    “Aaron, do not clap while we’re eating.”   “Aaron, do not clap during the movie.”    “Aaron, do not clap during the ball game.”     “Aaron, DO NOT CLAP WHEN YOU’RE SITTING RIGHT BESIDE ME.”   Notice our stimulation in the last phrase.   

We had our small group Bible study over last night.  Aaron was upstairs in his room, playing a game on his computer.  He claps a lot when he plays a game.  We’re very used to it and hardly notice.  Gary was teaching and every little bit we’d hear the familiar clap.  “And so we see in these verses………..CLAP………….that Jesus was reminding us to………….CLAP…………..remember that in this life…………..CLAP…………..we are to strive to be peacemakers…………..CLAP.”   And so it went.

Later, after everyone had left, one friend remained behind and visited with us awhile.  We were talking and there it was………..CLAP……….and our friend paused and asked, “What is that?”  And we told her that was just Aaron, clapping, like only Aaron claps.  Our friend understands Aaron and accepted the explanation as being a very natural thing.  And for us and for Aaron, it is.

Several years ago Aaron broke his wrist.  He had to have surgery to have pins inserted, so he had the cast on for weeks.  We were sorry about the pain and the discomfort for him – but I have to say, the quietness was a gift!  Even Aaron laughed when we talked about how now he couldn’t clap.  I would never want Aaron to break his wrist again, but I must admit that on some days the thought of a cast sure is appealing. 

Do I hear a round of applause? 

Do You Work Here?

Yesterday evening I decided to make a quick (I hoped!) trip to Big Lots.  Gary and Andrew were going to join friends for supper and a Wichita Wings soccer game; Andrea went to a friend’s house; and so it was Mom and Aaron time.  He was very excited at the prospect of shopping and then going to Burger King – his choice – to get anything that had bacon on it. 

As we were winding up our shopping at Big Lots, we walked toward the cash registers where it was getting pretty crowded in those narrow aisles.  Aaron was barreling through in front of me, with me watching him closely to be sure he didn’t overstep his bounds as he often does in a crowd.  There he was, with his eyes big as he looked for something else I might let him buy and with his watch pushed halfway up his arm – and a woman looked right at him.  Their eyes met and she asked him, “Do you work here?” 

This question really flustered him.  He just looked at her – and then nicely told her no.  He turned toward me…………and laughed.  He laughed as if she had just told a very funny joke.  To Aaron it really was a very funny joke.  He took a few steps back in my direction and said (loudly), “That was a crazy thing for her to ask!  I don’t work here!!!”  

It WAS all too funny at that point.  She was looking at him and I think realization had set in on her face as she smiled.  Aaron was still laughing his deep laugh of disbelief, and I was telling him to hush.  I knew that he might have other comments to loudly make about this woman who thought he worked there.  I was happy when Aaron noticed the fake fire places as we stood in line and so got his mind on something else other than the crazy woman who thought he worked there.

Later, as he and I watched West Virginia play football, he started laughing again.  “Mom, that was really DUMB for that woman to think I worked there!”  So I told him that it was a compliment, that she must have thought he looked responsible, and so forth.  I’m not sure he bought that.  Black and white, factual Aaron will continue to think that this woman was crazy and that it was dumb for her to think that he worked there.  I wonder if she’s thinking the same thing? 

Trash Cans

Aaron has certain ways in which he organizes and categorizes things.  Unfortunately, this process often involves trash cans.  I say unfortunately because we’ve ended up with lots of trash cans here and there over the years. 

Let’s see – he has a trash can for his mulch that he uses outside.  He has, at times, had three trash cans outside – at the same time.  One was for little sticks; one was for little round seeds that fell from the Golden Rain Tree where he sat; and one was for the mulch that he broke into tiny pieces.  There he sat, with three trash cans perched around him.  Quite a sight for the neighbors, let me tell you. 

In addition to his mulch trash can, he also has his two couponing trash cans that I pictured in the Couponing blog.  Only Aaron knows why he takes some of the strips of paper as he cuts coupons and snips them into very small pieces that go in one trash can, and then takes other strips of paper and cuts them larger to go into the other container. 

Then there is the trash can in his room.  The other day, Aaron saw an unopened video that I had just received in the mail the day before.  He loves opening videos for us.  He uses his Swiss Army knife to cut open the plastic and then removes the sticky strip on the video.  When he saw the video on the counter, he eagerly asked if he could open it for me.  When I said yes, he turned and with great purpose he clomped up the stairs to his room and soon returned with his knife:

And of course, with his trash can.  The plastic wrap and sticky strip from the video cannot go into the kitchen trash can.  Do not ask me why.  These items cannot go into the mulch trash can, of course, and certainly not into his tiny-cut couponing trash can or into his larger-cut couponing trash can.  Video plastic wrap and sticky strip only go into his bedroom trash can. 

Aaron performed his mission of opening the video and depositing the plastic and the sticky strip into the appropriate trash can, and then carrying the trash can and knife back up to his room.  Another job done Aaron’s way.  Another glimpse into his interesting mind. 

Whiskey Sirloins

Aaron is very fascinated with alcohol – the kind you drink.  I guess it’s because we don’t drink and anything that we DON’T do holds special fascination for Aaron.  Check out my blog from our trip in Sept. – the Yo-Ho-Ho blog. 

Anyway, lately he’s seen the Applebees commercial on television for their new entree – the Double Barrel Whiskey Sirloins.  He doesn’t care that they are Double, or that they are Barrel, or that they are Sirloins.  He ONLY cares that they contain Whiskey. 

Last night as we watched some football…………..btw, the team I was voting for lost………………..the interesting Applebees commercial came on.   Aaron perked right up.  He listened intently.

“MOM!!!!  Does that meat have Whiskey Beer on it?!!”

Whiskey Beer? 

So I discussed how you can marinade meat in alcohol to tenderize it, or use alcohol in the sauce on top, and how when you cook something in alcohol, the alcohol all evaporates.  None of which he was particularly interested in.

“So Mom – can I order Double Barrel Whiskey Sirloins the next time I go to Applebees?” 

There is his bottom line.  He would actually waver from his usual Biggest Hamburger on the menu choice or Chicken Tenders that he triple checks to see if they are boneless before ordering choice……..in order to have a little taste of the forbidden whiskey. 

Guess where he’ll want to go eat the next time we give him a choice? 

The Lab

I took Aaron to the lab on Saturday morning for his routine 6-month bloodwork in preparation for his upcoming Epilepsy appointment.  Aaron and another patient were called back to the lab at the same time, so we waited for the technician to finish with the other person.  I have to keep an eagle eye on Aaron because he always will find something to pick up, push, pull, open…………..and he isn’t supposed to be messing with any of it.  For instance, he immediately eyed the phone on the wall right beside where he was sitting.  I just told him right away to not even think about picking it up and dialing.  Aaron just smiled.  I know him so well. 

Next his eyes moved over to the table beside him, full of vials and tubes and that wonderful plastic, stretchy tourniquet that Aaron loves to play with.  Again, my warning was issued and so he resisted that urge to pick something up. 

As I stood there watching him, my mind went back to those many years ago when we first started down this path of Epilepsy.  He was in a German hospital for nearly a week and had all kinds of tests performed.  Gary and I both marveled at Aaron’s composure and strength.  He wasn’t terribly afraid of all the needles and procedures.  We had a harder time fighting our emotions than he did!  Spinal tap, scans, EEGs, bloodwork, etc. – he was amazingly calm. 

I soon learned, as I watched Aaron go through all this, that his natural curiosity took over his fear and discomfort.  He had always been, from a baby, very curious about the world around him.  He loved figuring out how things worked.  Sometimes he got in trouble because he would handle things or take things apart that he shouldn’t, but we knew that he was being curious, not destructive.  And so he wanted to watch the techs draw his blood, for instance.  The procedure fascinated him instead of scaring him. 

When he was dismissed from the German hospital, we took him to our military clinic and began the long process there of going on seizure meds and adjusting the doses.  This involved lots of bloodwork so that his levels could be tested.  We walked in one morning, still new to this, and the technician tried to make Aaron turn his face away.  He assumed that Aaron would freak out if he watched it.  However, what made Aaron cry was that fact that they would NOT let him watch.  I intervened and told them to let Aaron watch.  They were skeptical but finally listened to me, and sure enough, Aaron was fine.  That was the routine from then on – me assuring the techs that Aaron wanted to watch, them being doubtful, and then them being amazed at how well Aaron did when he was able to observe himself being stuck with a needle. 

Aaron has never minded anything that he’s had to endure.  The most upset I’ve ever seen him was when he had hernia surgery and wasn’t allowed to wear underwear.  He kept asking to have it returned – so funny!  The first thing he groggily said after he woke up from surgery was, “Can I have my underwear now?”  HaHa!

He thinks MRIs are awesome – he thankfully doesn’t remember the time he had a huge seizure inside of one.  I’ll never forget it!  He loves EEGs – staying up for the sleep deprivation is fun because we watch movies and then all those wires hooked to his head are way cool!  He loved being in the hospital for five days for his video EEG several years ago.  All the attention was right down his alley! 

I’m thankful that God has gifted him with this fearless attitude.  It sure has helped us adjust, too.  My mother heart hurts enough sometimes as I’ve watched all he has to go through.  If he resisted or screamed and cried it would be so awful.  I hurt for parents who do have to see that.  I watched Aaron’s face when the technician came in and prepped him, then stuck the needle in his arm.  His mouth flinched and that was it.  My heart ached, but soon he was thumping down the hall of the clinic with me and asking if I was sure we couldn’t go to Best Buy, could he get something to eat, could he have his keyboard back, and, “Mom!  I love that kleenex holder they have where the kleenex comes out the man’s nose!!” 

Gotta love Aaron.