On a recent night, as Aaron and I watched a video and he ate his tortilla chips, I looked over to see that he had perched a bowl on the ottoman in front of him. Without even asking, I knew what that bowl was for. Aaron has multiple bowls for multiple uses, all over the house. Later, after our video was finished and he had cleaned up his area, I looked inside his bowl that he had brought into the kitchen. Can you see what’s inside the bowl?
Very, very tiny crumbs are in the bottom of that bowl. When Aaron is eating crumbly chips, he likes to have a bowl in which he tries to ensure that the crumbs fall. It’s easy for me to want to fuss at him for taking a whole bowl for such a few crumbs, but I know that my fussing will not change his bowl habit. He will find a bowl to use, even if he must hide it under his blanket so that I don’t nag him about it. Yes, he has done that. So I just let it go…let him keep his bowl for such a seemingly silly use…and thank the Lord for my dishwasher!
Those little crumbs are a perfect picture of an aspect of Aaron that can be both humorous and maddening. And as always, it’s up to me to decide which it will be.
So often, persons with autism fixate on what to the rest of us would be such insignificant matters. Like those small crumbs, we would tend to just brush such matters away without a second thought . But not Aaron! Not at ALL Aaron!
Take the word, “of.” Yes, “of.”
Did you realize that there is a movie entitled, “Battle: Los Angeles?” And that there is another movie entitled, “Battle Of Los Angeles?”
Aaron watched these two movies a few weeks ago, so Gary and I became ever so aware…once again, because the same thing happened the LAST time he watched those movies…of the importance of the word, “of.”
“Mom!” Aaron would say as he bound into the kitchen. “I’m watching Battle: Los Angeles! Not the one that has the “Of!” And off he would go in some long tale of the latest alien doings in “Battle: Los Angeles.”
Then later: “Mom, did you know that in Battle Of Los Angeles…not the one I’m watching right now – the one that has the ‘of’…” And another long story would follow.
And yet again: “Mom, in Battle of Los Angeles…the ‘of’ one…”
It was of upmost importance that he…and we…and anyone else listening…be clear on whether he was talking about the ‘of’ one or the non-‘of’ one.
Are we clear?!
Such a small matter, but huge to Aaron.
Dinner plates done right are also of utmost importance to Aaron. A few evenings ago, at supper, Aaron had a barbecued rib on his plate. He ate the rib, then tolerated us putting some cucumbers and ranch dip on that plate. He ate the cucumbers and dip, then stood up and opened the cabinet door, and took out another plate. We had asked him if he wanted another rib, and he said he did, but he didn’t say another word about what we knew was bothering him. He would NOT put his second rib where cucumbers and dip had been, so a new plate was in order. With his rib on a clean plate, he was happy.
Meals can be interesting with multiple plates, bowls of various sizes, two or more forks, a spoon and a knife no matter what we’re eating, and always more than one napkin. May as well not fight it!
Life for Aaron is crammed full of these little crumbs. Like the old children’s story of the Princess and the Pea, where the princess felt that little pea under all those mattresses, Aaron does feel the weight of all these matters that to us are very small and silly.
Therein lies the problem, though. They are not small and silly to Aaron. If we don’t understand that, then we will feel the weight of Aaron’s anger and frustration. He can’t necessarily verbalize what he is feeling, or even understand it himself, but the issues are huge to him and not to be swept under a rug, so to speak.
Aaron’s life has a certain order to it, and he needs those around him to be on the same page with him. However, most of us are not only on a different page, we’re in a whole different book! So we’re always having to be aware of what matters most to Aaron, and when, and why, and how…if at all possible. Notice I said that we must be aware of what matters…not even understand it…but at least to be aware. And to place the importance on it that Aaron does.
So there may be more bowls to wash, or plates or silverware. There may be more undue emphasis on minor little words like ‘of.’ More questions to answer, explanations to wade through, and endless stories and comparisons to endure.
But each little crumb collected in that bowl is a part of the puzzle that is Aaron. Each sigh that escapes our lips…each roll of our eyes behind his back…each scratch of our head…is just part of the process of piecing together all that is Aaron.
Along with all that, though, is plenty of laughter and lots of smiles…and a view of our world that is anything but small.