Autism: how do you explain …

Today I came across some notes I had written a couple of years ago, when Ian was due to spend two weeks with some people who didn’t know him.  Perhaps this would be a suitable adult centre for him to attend;  perhaps not.  How could I possibly sum up our complicated young adult in a way that would make sense?

I had no choice but to limit my notes to the few things I considered most important.  It was, after all, only a two week stint.

When I read them today, I laughed.  How terse I sound!  How anxious to impress upon them the rules we had instilled so many years ago!  And how impossible it was to encapsulate all that is Ian in less than two pages!

But I felt it was worth sharing.  It entertained me;  perhaps it will entertain you.  This is what I wrote —


“Please speak slowly and clearly to Ian.  If you speak too quickly, he will just switch off and not listen.  There is no excuse for him not listening, so please measure how you are speaking against how he is answering you.  If he’s ignoring you, try again.

If Ian repeats ANY activity or phrase more than three times, please tell him “Thank you.  That’s enough.”  For flapping his hands, picking his nose, rubbing his face, scratching his crotch, say “Hands down.” Repeat as often as is necessary.  Please do not ignore this behaviour.

Anything can be deferred with the words “Let’s do this first;  you can do that afterwards.”

Please put a cloth over Ian’s shoulder when Ian is eating – he wipes his hands on his shoulders and makes a terrible mess.  He knows and will use a cloth.  (One will be sent in with him.)

Please work on the assumption that everything Ian says has meaning in that moment, and that he understands everything.

Please do not let Ian get away with just reaching or pointing for something he wants.  He has the words!

Ian drinks a lot of water during the day.  He also uses this as a distractor, so look out for this.  As he only goes to the toilet in the morning and at night, he cannot drink all day.  Please limit him to half a cup – or less – at a time.  He uses a straw (provided).

Ian has impeccable manners.  He will say please, thank you, and excuse me (if he burps).  Please don’t give him anything without waiting for him to ask nicely or say thank you for it.

Ian MUST be given time to answer a question.

If Ian rubs his forehead and says “Oo-oo-oo”, please say “It’s okay, mummy kissed it better”.  Weird, but it works.

Ian LOVES a calculator and will bring one with him, from home.  He knows the alphabet in numbers – i.e. A=1, B=2, C=3 etc, and will type numbers into his calculator which actually spell words.  If he types in numbers, ask him “What word is that?” and he should tell you.  He can delete it really quickly, so opportunities get missed.

Ian has a delightful sense of humour.  I hope you get to see him smile, it’s a thing of beauty.  But please don’t ask him to smile – then he pulls the most awful face!”

o 0 o

Ian didn’t stay there longer than his allotted two weeks, which was sad in a way because he loved it.  There was a swing seat in the garden, and they allowed him to play on the computer as long as he wanted.  Two of Ian’s favourite things, right there!  He was popular with the staff because he was verbal – and polite – and popular with the service users because he could ‘do stuff’.  In fact, they watched Ian constantly, almost in awe.  He was like a special needs deity walking among them!  Unfortunately, it was his abilities that set him too far removed from the others, and the centre was deemed not for him.

He is happy where he is now, but he has never forgotten this other place, this little heaven with endless computer time, and a swing seat in the garden …..


One thought on “Autism: how do you explain …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s