When Captain Comic arrives home from school each day, the conversation goes thusly:
Mom: Hey kiddo, how was school today?
Captain Comic: 18.5.
The teachers and special ed assistants that chaperone him throughout the day keep a chart that goes to a total of 20 points. They make checkmarks in boxes for when he does well over the course of the day. When he’s inattentive or distracting (basically) the corresponding box is left blank. At the end of the day, they tally the boxes. Comments as to what his day was like are peppered throughout the chart. It works for him, especially when home is on board with the process and has conseqences for falling below a certain level. Right now, that means if he drops below 18, no down time videogame play when he arrives home. This can be unfortunate on the days when he is having difficulty, as that down time really helps him center.
Of course, another aspect of asperger’s we are working on with him is interacting and carrying on conversations appropriately. The fact that his answer for how his day was is a number tends to limit the opportunity for an appropriate ‘circle of conversation’. That is Speech Pathology jingo. It means, someone makes an opening statement, the responder responds appropriately, and then back to the opener. When he answers a number when someone asks how are you more often than anything, it makes it difficult for him to carry that conversation skill elsewhere. When he meets someone new, or we meet up with friends, etc, and they ask how he is, he doesn’t have the ‘tools’ readily available beyond a reluctantly grunted “fine” at best, because every day he comes home from school and says, “19” to mean he had a good day.
Yesterday opened with the above conversation after school. Then, per usual, I directed him to wash his hands, then, yes, he can play videogames.
He started playing a Spiderman game, and I saw he was in free play mode, or more appropriately, I asked because I couldn’t tell free play from story mode if you held a gun to my head.
My brain started clicking away, he’s not playing for points, he seems pretty open at the moment, let’s try this from a different angle.
Capt. Comic: What?
Mom: Can we have a conversation while you play?
Capt. Comic: U-Uh-(setting himself up to listen) Sure.
Mom: Can you tell me how your day was without a number?
Capt. Comic: grrrrrr
Mom: Well, what happened that it wasn’t 20?
Capt. Comic: – Language Arts was hard today.
Mom: (now we’re getting somewhere!) Was it hard to pay attention?
Capt. Comic: No. My brain was moving too fast again.
Mom: Can you tell me what it was moving too fast for?
Capt. C: We were supposed to write a paragraph on what period in History we wanted to live in and I couldn’t write down everything in my head.
Mom: (clearly identifying with him at this point regarding when I am feeling inspired and can’t get it down the way it is occurring in my head) That must have been frustrating for you.
Capt. C: (sounding relieved that someone gets him)Yes it was!
Mom: What period in History did you write about?
Capt. Comic: The 1960s.
Mom: (ok, I start to get excited that this might have something to do with Martin Luther King Day and Civil Rights, or Anything else about the amazingly turbulent decade of change and then I remember who I am asking) What about the sixties did you want to write about?
Capt. Comic: I want to live in the 1960s because that was the decade Toho Studios made the most Godzilla movies. They made a movie year after year from 1962, through 1969, minus 1963, of course….(more information than I can process about Godzilla movies anymore) and it would be neat to watch TV in black and white and to dial a rotary phone. Mom? How does a rotary phone work?
I’ll stop relaying the conversation here except to say I told him how I used to know who Gaga (my mother, his grandmother, and yes she is) was calling by the pattern of clicks she dialed. He was very excited by this.
Ahhh… progress…the bottom line is we had an extended, appropriate conversation filled with multiple ‘circles of conversation’. He only began to ‘download’ information near the end, and he stopped himself. If you’re ever in a conversation with someone and they begin to tell you more than you ever considered knowing about a given topic, you can assume they have the aspergian trait of gathering knowledge about a topic they are obsessed with and wanting to share that information as soon as they have what they perceive to be a willing ear. Because it is exciting for them, of course it is exciting for everyone else.
Captain Comic’s main area of interest (there are others but this is the biggie) is Godzilla movies.
Anyway, that conversation was a lovely moment with my son. They are few and far between, except for his bowl me over hugs. Although, those moments and conversations are increasing.
We also managed to continue that conversation into another about how he feels about transitioning to middle school next year.
Wow. That was big.