In Day #112 – Lifelong Learning I commented a bit on how Tucker would watch television by staring at the reflection in the window. He would also watch television upside down on the couch. Why is this? It’s about visual stimulation.
Many children with autism like to look at things from different angles. They will get down on the floor to look at the wheels turning on a car. They will lay underneath things to see what something looks like from underneath. They will look closely at something and turn it over and over in their hands. They will look out of the corner of their eye – anything to create a bit more stimulation.
In my house it’s been one of the more challenging aspects. Why? They can be (as Tucker was) obsessed with things that drip. To be very honest, I didn’t know that this was a ‘thing’ as it was happening…but now it all makes sense. You know, that hindsight is 20/20 thing?
The first instance.
When Tucker was three (and before he was identified) I found him in the laundry room. He was the same height as the dryer (yes…always, always tall) and his back was towards me. Do you see this bottle of Tide?
This bottle of Tide was sitting on the dryer with the spout ‘down.’ I assume that is how most people would set their huge bottle of Tide?!?! Tucker was standing beside the bottle, his eyes fixated on the Tide coming out of the spout and onto the floor. It was a new container. Do you have any idea what 170 ounces of blue Tide looks like on the floor?
Like a shiny ocean. Obviously, I was trying to get myself to imagine something wonderful instead of the very real mess. I was lucky to teach college students – one of the young men in my class worked at a grocery store. He told me to buy some kitty litter, that would soak it right up. He was right, thank goodness.
That was the first instance and I figured the last, a fluke. I didn’t know why he did it – but he was three. I knew it was strange even for a three-year old…but oh well.
I chalked it up to toddler hood.
I was working part-time teaching and filled my ‘home’ time with a grant-writing business. I put Tucker down for a nap – which was generally a 90 minute ordeal that often left me black and blue – but I kept on until he was asleep. I walked out to the living room and sat down at the computer to write. Upon opening the filing cabinet drawer I noticed my files were sticking together.
Upon investigation (and smelling my fingers and files) I realized that a certain three-year old had removed the maple syrup from the bottom shelf of the refrigerator and squirted it all over my files. I slowly, but surely turned around. You know that kind of ‘turn around’ that happens in horror movies? That’s when I saw glistening sugar circles all over the couch, chair, and quilt rack.
I had worked 90 minutes to get that child to sleep, there was no way I was going to wake him and address the syrup issue. When he woke I asked him why he did that…of course he couldn’t answer.
Ian Fleming, a famous author, (he wrote some measly series about a guy named James Bond) once wrote, “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”
By this time I was getting MUCH smarter, I kept the door to the laundry room shut. I kept an extra ear out for refrigerator opening. Never trust a three-year old…moreso never trust a three-year old obsessed with watching things squirt out of bottles. It was bedtime. I had Tucker clean and in jammies. He was finishing his ice cream as I went to check on his sleeping infant sister. When I returned he had the chocolate syrup bottle in front of his face, he was intently watching the syrup comes out in a loopie loop pattern all over our light gray carpet. Awesome.
By this time – I knew it was an issue and I wasn’t about to lose to the ‘enemy.’ Anything that had any type of squirt, spout, or spigot was put far, far, far up. I knew this was something he could not resist. I knew this was something that I could not stop him from doing – so I just removed every opportunity. I knew at some point he would be old enough to recognize that it was wrong. Certainly, I had won the war.
Or had I? Read tomorrow to find out…
(Sorry…I try really hard to keep these posts between 500-800 words so they are a ‘quick read.’ Therefore, you will have to wait until tomorrow.)