Aaron likes me to help him get his bed ready at night. He almost always makes his bed in the morning, but at night he wants me to assist him in making sure that all the covers are pulled up just right. Then the last thing we do is to cover all the covers with his animal print soft blanket that he got for Christmas. He loves lots of covers, summer or winter, that’s for sure.
Last night he and I were going through this bedtime routine. I made sure his long body pillow was centered where it was supposed to be…..that his sheet was pulled up……then his heavy corduroy cover – a bedspread, actually, that his Granny got him many years ago – was tugged into place………then his soft brown blanket had to be adjusted…….and next we shifted and rearranged his pretty red, white, and blue quilted cover that is rarely seen, unfortunately.
That was when Aaron paused and said, “Look, Mom.”
I looked down, expecting to see a spider or an ant or something crawling. You can see how my summertime mind works. But I saw nothing. So there stood Aaron and I, staring down at his bed. He was looking at what he knew was there, while I was looking at who-knows-what.
I looked over at Aaron and then he pointed as he said, “A wrinkle.”
Oh, yes. There it was……an offending wrinkle. Aaron will not tolerate a wrinkle in his covers. Not a single one. So I gave the cover a little tug and the wrinkle disappeared…….and Aaron and I happily proceeded on with our task. The bed was soon made to his specifications and all was well.
Isn’t it something, I’ve thought since last night, that Aaron notices something as mundane and unimportant as a wrinkle in his covers and yet so many important things in life seem to be oblivious to him? We go in a store and I know to remind Aaron not to whistle…….or make his farting noise with his mouth……and to keep his hand out of his pocket, because he just scratches himself in a most embarrassing manner…….oh, and don’t clap, Aaron! Those are a few things I tell Aaron. Other matters come up as we go along, believe me.
Now to me, these are major wrinkles, but not to Aaron. Why don’t these annoying traits bother Aaron as much as a wrinkle in his covers? And why does he love to whack us on our rear end? He does that to the staff and other clients at Paradigm. Or give us a robust slap on our back? Or a pinch, or treat our bodies like they are drums. These are major wrinkles to us, but not to Aaron. I sure wish they were wrinkles to him, but they’re just not…….and we can’t make that happen.
Why does he say obnoxious and even offensive things to people? When questioned about it, he nearly always says that he was just trying to have fun. So once again, we explain the concept of fun………and remind him over and over that his idea of fun is not usually anyone else’s idea of fun. Does he really not get it or is he just stubborn?
Individuals with autism have a very difficult time relating to others. Aaron doesn’t have filters, so he’ll say or do whatever comes to his mind at the moment. Some behaviors are repetitive, and others occur at the time he may see something or someone. We know to be observant when we’re out with Aaron as we try to intercept inappropriate behaviors.
Aaron, don’t stare at the woman in the wheelchair. Aaron, don’t say a word about that person’s unusual hair. Aaron, not a peep about his tattoos. Aaron, quit staring at her piercings. Aaron, do not say shut-up under your breath when we pass that fussing child. Aaron, don’t pull the box of cereal out of that huge display. I was too late on that one. I can still hear the sound of those falling cereal boxes in Wal-Mart.
These are wrinkles, Aaron!! Don’t you see them??!!
Nope. He doesn’t see these life wrinkles at all. It’s our job to keep teaching and to keep reminding and to keep damage at a minimum. And often to keep a red face, depending on what he said or how offensive or embarrassing he was.
At other times he’s funny. Even when he’s not so funny, or when others are staring at him the way I tell him not to stare at people, I can smile and hold my head up high………..or try to walk away fast from the situation, with Aaron lumbering along quickly behind me. HaHa! We sure are a sight to see sometimes.
A word here, a tug there, some instruction in the hopes that it will stick, and another wrinkle is gone…….only to return, I know. But we have to keep the wrinkles smoothed out so that Aaron’s life…..and OURS…..is tolerable.
“Look, Mom. A wrinkle!”
I know Aaron. Believe me, I know.