Well…it’s happened. Tucker started reading the blog. Last night he read posts 1-4. His reaction was priceless – and justify the very reason I am writing. He was excited about helping people understand kids like him. He liked how I was telling our story. He commented, “I do wish you just would have homeschooled me so because I love being with you the most.” (Check Day #5 – The Two Way Window) Most of all though? He was stuck on the title of the blog itself. Stuck to the point of bringing it up every 10 minutes and again this morning.
366 days is wrong, it takes 365 days to make a year. I read him the sentence from that first post again, “I chose 366 days as a theme because of leap year. What a strange, explainable occurrence just like autism itself. Leap year isn’t wrong, we still ‘count’ it. But it’s just different. A child with autism isn’t wrong, just different. They have a little extra something…just like an extra day in the year.” (See Day #1)
He could not get over it.
When he opened Day #2 “‘Mom, this title is wrong too – it reads 366 days. There are 365 days in a year. This is wrong.”
When he opened Day #3 “Mom, there are 365 days in a year. I don’t understand why this title is wrong.”
When he opened Day #4 “IT STILL SAYS 366!!!”
When he opened Day #5 “I don’t get it. I even used Google on my iPad to make sure there are 365 days in a year. This says 366.”
Typical. Many children on the spectrum become so focused on something that it doesn’t matter how much explanation someone gives. At first, I verbally explained the title. Then, I read the sentence to him (after he already read it). Finally, we read it together. It didn’t matter. He was stuck on that 365/366 days.
This difficulty really stems from two things:
1. I’m ‘stuck’ on this fact.
2. I am a fact/rule follower.
Today’s blog will concentrate on being ‘stuck.’ Tomorrow’s will concentrate on being a rule follower.
Getting stuck is wonderful and it will drive a person crazy, all at the same time. These children (and adults) get stuck because something doesn’t make sense, something isn’t following what they already know. It would be like driving down the interstate, minding your own business, listening to the radio, and then BAM!!! There is…ummm….
Sorry, I had to choose something and Captain America is Tucker’s favorite.
(4th Grade Tucker with his favorite Mad Scientist, Mr. Kuhn).
So…you’re cruising down the road and there is Captain America. Everything you were thinking is now gone. You can’t concentrate. Here you were on I-80 – and now there is a super hero in front of you?!?!? WHAT?!?!?! Do you get his autograph? Do you say hello? Do you ask where the other Avengers are? Do you ask to throw his shield?
Yep, that’s how it is. He gets ‘stuck.’ Stuck on a fact, stuck on a detail, stuck on a picture, stuck on a story…stuck, stuck, stuck.
So, the real question is – how do we pull him out? How do we get him back? We use a few different strategies (as always, feel free to steal).
We try to talk it through. This is pretty obvious and what I tried to do with the 365/366 issue. It takes time and effort. Obviously it did not work…so I had to move on. Next strategy, next trick in your bag of tricks.
Change the topic, try to redirect. It’s much like offering a 3 year-old a book to play with instead of play-doh. This didn’t work either – because there were another 25 posts he could have looked at and had the same reaction.
We often set limits to conversation when he gets stuck so other people have a chance to comment. We initiate the rule of ‘Talk Time, Think Time” – I’ll cover that in a future post.
Just join the conversation. I try to do this most often – because it gives me insight. It helps me understand him. I’ll ask questions like:
Why does that bother you so much?
Why do you think there is a leap year?
Who decided there was a leap year?
Why are there 365 days in a regular year?
This shows him that I’m interested – but sometimes it will help him move on. It helps him to recognize there are SO many unanswered questions. It also helps take up his future free time because he will most certainly be Googling the answers to those questions in the near future so he can report on the status of the ‘days in a year.’
Really – the only way to help him get ‘unstuck’ is to let him do it in his own time.
All of these strategies can help…but in the end, like so many other things – it has to be him. When he is satisfied and ready to move on, that is when he will be ‘unstuck.’ That may take an hour…and it may take days…it may even take years…
For some folks that becomes a research interest and eventually their life.