I’ve written before about how Aaron likes to go sit in the mulch, or beside the mulch, in our flower beds. He breaks the mulch into little pieces and watches as it drops into his special mulch trash can. He will fill the can to the brim, which takes weeks, and then we’ll pour it out somewhere – and he’ll begin anew to fill the can with his broken mulch. He has performed this ritual for many years, using leaves, sticks, grass, or mulch.
At times, neighbors or passers-by have asked him what he’s doing. Some have said that they thought he was pulling weeds. They must think we have tons of weeds, in one area at a time! From these questions, Aaron has gathered that this activity of his must be unusual……or odd…….or just plain weird. We know that his “playing in the mulch” or “being in the mulch”, as he calls it, is an autistic trait. This ritual, this routine, relaxes Aaron. It calms him when he is frustrated and overwhelmed. He has asked us, though, if he is strange for “playing in the mulch.” We assure him that this is not being strange, but that he is doing something he enjoys and that is relaxing to him.
When he was a student at the Day School here, his teacher called one day and asked if Aaron could go to the padded room that they had when he was frustrated. This was a room where a student who was out of control could safely go and vent for as long as it took until he was spent and settled down. They could curse, yell, bang on the walls, etc. I found this idea, at least for Aaron, to be very disturbing. I told the teacher that we didn’t encourage cursing, yelling, hitting, etc. So I told him that if he had a container for Aaron, or that we would provide one, and then let Aaron sit outside the back door of the class room in the grass and leaves, that Aaron would calm down during those times that he was escalating. Sure enough, they tried this and it worked.
I know that when people drive by and see this adult young man sitting beside our flower beds, picking in the mulch, that they find it very strange. We’ve grown accustomed to people finding our Aaron a little strange, a little unusual, a lot loud……….and that’s OK. I know that Aaron is also doing something else out there in the mulch. He shared with us years ago that when he sits in the mulch, he’s making up stories in his head. Most of his stories match his fantasy computer games. His favorite story to make up in his mind involves……….are you ready?…………Jazz Jack Rabbit. Yes, Jazz Jack Rabbit was a very favorite, very old, game of Aaron’s when he was a kid. Aaron asked me once if I wanted to hear his made-up Jazz Jack Rabbit story and I made the mistake of saying yes. It was a long story………….a very, very, very, very long story…………and it involved Aaron following me around the house as he told it in every excruciating detail. I had to keep moving……….or I would have fallen asleep. His monotone voice……..the fantasy story………..on and on and on……..my eyes are getting heavy even now.
“Aaron, when you’re making up those wonderful stories, you’re being creative.”
And he answered, “Well, when I was doing that creative about Jazz Jack Rabbit……….” and he proceeded to tell me something about the angle of his never-ending Jazz Jack Rabbit story.
Aaron was “doing that creative.” I love his language…………well, most of the time………….and the way he really is very creative without even trying to be that way. And he will continue to “do that creative” out in the mulch, I’d say, for as long as he’s able to get himself up and down onto the ground.