Sunday, February 25, 2007

Reasons for Actions

Billy Ray has been busy lately. As I wrote here he is changing. I am not sure whether it is his improved medical health or maybe the exit from puberty but in some ways we have the Billy Ray we knew before his seizures at 14 years old.

As stated before my son is my best teacher. As I have been working with him more because of his recovery and our lack of support staff, I see even more clearly how focused he is and that almost everything he does has a purpose.

Presently, he has lots of energy and a desire to be busy. He loves to do housekeeping things, probably from doing things together since he was a toddler. His intolerance of clutter these days is actually increasing since I wrote Temperamental Mismatch. Sometimes he can’t even stand to have things in drawers in dressers or the coffee table (except his own I might add). He seems to be taking over the house when we allow it.

We have created a to do list for us to work on together but it includes movie breaks for him. We put a small tv-vcr-dvd combo in my office so that I can work while he is taking a movie break. I have been working on a long overdue project. He can’t stand for me to leave it laying on my work table when we go back to working on projects together. At first, I thought it was the clutter then I realized he had a method to his madness. My worktable is a computer table that also holds the printer-fax and a monitor hooked to his old computer (which I am transferring files from). The screensaver for his old computer is his picture file. The monitor that is hooked up to it is one of those high resolution flat screen ones my husband recently inherited from his stepfather. The other day after he was agitated until I put my project away from that worktable, I looked over and saw that he was pulling the chair up to it and intently watching the pictures on the screensaver. That project would have been in his way because he had elbows on the table.

Another example of his focus or communication was his intolerance of towels placed in the dresser in the guestroom. We don’t have a linen closet in this house and very little drawer space in the bathroom. I was putting towels for the bathroom in the guestroom dresser. That dresser was one I purchased for Billy Ray several years ago because it was supposed to have drawers that he couldn’t pull out. It didn’t work well for him and he had taken to knocking furniture over at that point. I was afraid he would get hurt so we removed it to the guestroom and found some plastic bins two to a rack and bought three racks as a substitute dresser. They adapted well to him for quite a while. However, after multiple rewashing of the towels he pulled out of the now guestroom dresser and either threw on the floor or put in the hamper, we realized he wants that dresser in his bedroom again. Sometimes I think I am the slow learner. He clearly focused on the goal.

Obviously we can’t allow him to take over the house which he clearly would do. We have to set limits such as what’s in the master bedroom belongs to Mom and Dad and he may not go in there or remove anything without our permission. He is a visitor in my office and may not rearrange my papers. However, I have noticed that when my desk top gets more piles all of a sudden my garbage gets fuller. I am inspecting the garbage before it goes out and working on reducing my desktop piles. The irony of it is he’s right. He and I are both less stressed when my desk is clear. Again, he is my teacher.

Apparently Billy Ray is not the only one who has a reason for what he does. I loved the interview on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 with Amanda Baggs who experiences Autism. She had reasons for many of the things she does. Dr. Sanjay Gupta wrote of her in his blog:

“She taught me a lot over the day that I spent with her. She told me that looking into someone's eyes felt threatening, which is why she looked at me through the corner of her eye. Amanda also told me that, like many people with autism, she wanted to interact with the entire world around her. While she could read Homer, she also wanted to rub the papers across her face and smell the ink. If she saw a flag blowing in the wind, she might start to wave her hand like a flag. She rides in a wheelchair, she says, because balancing herself while walking takes up too much energy for her to also type and communicate. To an outside observer, the behaviors would seem eccentric, even bizarre. Because Amanda was able to explain them, they all of a sudden made sense. In case you were curious, there is no possible way that I was being fooled. Amanda, herself, was communicating with me through this voice-synthesis technology.”

The key to adapting seems to be finding the reason for the action. It is hard work sometimes to find it but it makes all the difference for all of us in the family environment.

Until next time,
Peggy Lou Morgan
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