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Talker and Talking

  • Posted on January 21, 2015 at 10:00 AM

Alex gets it! He finally gets communication!

For years, Alex didn’t really understand how communication worked. Any communication that occurred was accidental. He would do or say something we could understand and interpret, and then he’d be rewarded with what he wanted or needed. But he had no apparent control over these bursts of communication.

After years of speech therapy, special education services, and intensive in-home behavioral therapy, Alex started to get the idea behind communication. Using pictures and PECS, voice output devices, hand over hand, and the occasional gesture, Alex started to communicate in a very basic fashion. Over time, he learned to show more specific wants and needs, like pulling out a food or drink he couldn’t open and setting it in front of someone who could open it. He would spell out key words using blocks or tiles with letters on them. He would even type in a few key words on a computer.

During these many years of slow progress, actual spoken words were rare. They occurred in those serendipitous moments when his frustration exceeded his tolerance without overwhelming his sensory processing abilities. During these rare moments, a word or a phrase would pop out of his mouth and we would understand. These brief successes were always a surprise—a blessing, but still not a product of controlled communication.

Now, finally, after years of trying, I have succeeded in providing Alex with a communication device. From my own perspective, this is “assisted communication,” in that Alex requires technology to access his ability to communicate. However, this is not “assisted communication” in the sense that we’re putting words in Alex’s mouth.

In an effort to teach Alex to use the device more thoroughly, we will find the words (and show him where they are) in order to say what we think he might want. Then, if it is indeed what Alex wants, he will tap the sentence and the device will say it. If it is not what Alex wants, he’ll erase it and enter in what he does want.

Alex is communicating! He communicates familiar expressions independently with his device. He communicates less familiar expressions with some adult assistance and support. He communicates and the device speaks for him!

But the wonder doesn’t stop there. Hearing the device speak what he wants or needs has helped Alex get communication so much more thoroughly than he has ever understood communication before. Not only is he using his device as a talker, he’s talking! He’ll listen to what the device says, and then he’ll say the keywords, too! He’s said more words in the last week that he’s said in the previous year!

With all the success Alex has been having with this device, we’re ready to proceed to the next step. We’re in the process of gathering as much data as possible, which the speech therapist at the clinic will use to begin the application process for a permanent device. She also said that it’s likely, since Alex is doing so well, that we will be able to borrow a device from the clinic, so that Alex can continue to access communication should the trial run out before the permanent device arrives.

Finally, finally, finally, Alex gets it!!! And we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure he can keep it!

Let the Communication Begin!

  • Posted on January 12, 2015 at 10:14 AM

Alex has his (trial) communication device!

It’s been a long road to get to this point and we’re still not all the way through this journey. Now that he has the trial device, we all have to learn how to use it effectively, including programming it and maintaining it. That’s step one.

Step two is learning how to record the data required to prove that this device is effective for Alex, thereby securing the funding for the permanent device. This begins on Wednesday.

Step three is actually gathering the data we need within the timeframe of the trial. I don’t think proving that this device works for Alex will be a problem in and of itself. He’s already successfully communicated several things using the device, both with assistance and independently. He’s communicated “go to grandma’s house,” first with assistance and then independently. He’s requested mac n’ cheese, quite adamantly. He’s also typed in a story for the device to tell him; rehashing an old Veggie Tales story. He also tried to get the device to sing the Veggie Tales theme song, but the device couldn’t properly interpret the “Veggie Taaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaales” at the end. When I saw him do that, I couldn’t help but laugh and warn him, “That’s not going to work,” but he tried anyway and the device did try, but it did not succeed.

The tablet itself is Samsung technology, bound by a bright blue bumper. It’s got a strap attached, as well as a handle, though so far Alex doesn’t like the strap. The program within the tablet is called NovaChat 10. So far, the company has been very email-on, customer service oriented. Luckily, the speech therapist has been very good at responding to these e-mails, because I haven’t been.

We still have several months of weekly trips up to Madison ahead of us as we learn to use this device and as we secure the procurement of a permanent device. Wish us luck!

Sibling Rivalry: The Legos Addition

  • Posted on February 26, 2014 at 10:00 AM

All the Legos have been in Alex’s room since we cleaned his room up and reorganized it. While the other boys will play with Legos now and then, Alex is rather compulsive about his Lego creations. He uses a lot of blocks, he’s made a lot of artworks, and he wants to keep them all—all the ones he’s finished and satisfied with—exactly how he wants them.

Ben entered stage left. Alex wasn’t there and Ben had a go at the Legos. That would have been fine, as long as he used blocks Alex hadn’t already used. But Ben was on an American flag kick late last week and Alex had a completed structure that included two American flags. Ben tore apart the structure to get the American flags and carried them downstairs without Mark or me realizing quite what he’d done. (We innocently assumed Ben had made his own.)

When Alex got home from his outing, he went upstairs and saw the destruction. He was rather upset. When he came downstairs and found Ben playing with the American flags he’d made, he went ballistic.

This is where effective communication skills would come in handy. We didn’t know those were Alex’s American flags. We didn’t even know, at first, that Alex was upset about the American flags. All we knew was that Alex and Ben were going at each other and since Alex “started it,” he wasn’t the one we most empathized with. He couldn’t tell us what was wrong and we didn’t know. But Alex’s behavior was strange—he refused to go in to his room and he couldn’t leave Ben alone if they were in the same room. Alex ended up hiding out in Willy’s room, sulking. But he couldn’t tell us what had upset him.

Eventually, I realized that Ben’s American flag Lego creations were a bit suspicious considering Alex’s behavior. So, I checked on Alex’s structures and saw the damage. I took the flags from Ben, gave them to Alex, and escorted Alex upstairs. Together, we fixed the damage and won’t be the last time.

Poverty Among Friends

  • Posted on July 22, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Lately, I’ve been looking for commonalities. Often, in discussing the issues of autism, Asperger’s, and other disabilities among cohorts, one of the complaints frequently aired is the apathy of people outside of these cohorts. It seems people without direct, familiar contact with a person with a disability are not likely to be interested in discussing disabilities, especially not a particular disability.

I don’t presume to know how these cohorts broach the subject, but lately I have tried to discuss the issues of interest to me with a variety of people of different backgrounds, interests, and stations. One of the ways I found to successfully broach the subjects I am interested in is by easing into the conversation through a subject of mutual interest. (More on this project in the next post.)

Despite the optimistic reports, we live in an economy that is still reeling—at least at the individual level—from the aftermath of our recession. It’s true that painful examples of poverty have always been among us. But now that pain is more common as people who are used to being able to find good-paying jobs no longer can. I can think of at least a dozen people who are experiencing that pain through direct, in-person connections. That number goes up exponentially when I add various sources of internet connections.

People are feeling the pain of poverty. People who did not grow up in poverty are experiencing it for the first time as adults. People are feeling the pain of job loss and the inability to find a suitable replacement job.

This is a feeling that is more common among people with disabilities than the average population. This is a connecting point that makes a natural bridge for conversation.

A lot of people know someone or have been someone or are someone who has lost a good-paying job in favor of either nothing or something that pays significantly less than they’re used to. This issue means something to them. When you then turn that issue just a little bit and express the chronic state of employment in relationship to disability, then you open eyes, you open minds, and you open hearts.

I know the pain of poverty. I know what it is to aspire to sufficiency, and have it seem out of reach. I know what it is to aspire to prosperity, and have it seem a lost dream. I know the power of compassion, empathy, and understanding. If we understand and empathize with the experiences of others, then we can express our own experiences in a way that bridges the gulfs between us. In the process, we discover those gulfs were merely a step away.

A Step Towards Communication

  • Posted on May 13, 2013 at 10:00 AM

I was recently required to fill out a multi-page questionnaire about Alex’s communication skills. I took a quick look at this document, put it back, and made arrangements to fill it out with the help of school staff. That’s been done.

I arrived during the lunch hour (which lasts significantly less than an hour, but we still took an hour, so I got to say “Hi!” to Alex) to sit down with Alex’s teacher and go over the questionnaire page by page. The issue, which I found difficult to explain, was that the words they used to elicit information left significant room for interpretation.

So, our process consisted of:

  1. Reading the question aloud.
  2. Agreeing on what the question probably means.
  3. Applying the question to our observations of Alex.
  4. Agreeing on an appropriate answer.

This process stimulated some interesting insights about Alex’s means of communication. Without having been asked the questions and forced to articulate a response, I probably wouldn’t have volunteered some of the answers they were looking for.

Some of the things that we could readily agree on were:

  1. Alex’s expressive communication skills are limited to readily tangible wants and needs.
  2. Alex’s receptive communication skills are unknown: We don’t know how much Alex understands or how sophisticated his comprehension is.
  3. Alex tries to communicate in ways we don’t understand and seeks ways to make himself understood, yet he also gives in to frustration or gives up and we don’t always recognize his attempts to communicate.
  4. Successful communication is limited to a select group of people who know Alex well enough to “listen” in the ways that he can communicate, but even then much of the time there is a failure to communicate and “listen” successfully.

We also agreed that the ideal situation is to provide Alex with a means to communicate that can be expanded to communicate more complex thoughts and feelings. This means a system that is limited to expressing wants and needs would be inadequate, even if it were able to help Alex communicate wants and needs more clearly and more universally.

Furthermore, we agreed that the ideal situation would use Alex’s strengths to his advantage. The primary implication here is that Alex excels, in a seemingly intuitive sort of way, in the use of touch technologies. He uses iPads and SmartBoards at school and a Kindle Fire at home, and he’s able to figure out their capabilities more quickly and in more depth than most of the adults around him.

Not only did this process take us a step closer to getting Alex the professional help he needs to be paired with the right technological assistive communication device/program, it also helped his teacher and I better understand what Alex is doing now to communicate with us. Hopefully, this insight will help us to reduce the frustrations and failures and increase the success and depth of communication with the skills Alex already has.

Ironically, it started with a questionnaire that, due to its seeming ambiguity, could be described as an example of poor communication (based on my standards as a professional writer).

Hope to Talk

  • Posted on April 16, 2013 at 6:36 PM

I read about what’s available on the East Coast of the US. I read about what’s available on the West Coast of the US. People in these population centers tend to make it sound like certain kinds of resources are readily available to help people with disabilities. Living in the Midwest, I know there are a lot of resources available in other parts of the country that aren’t readily available here. And we’re not alone. A lot of the resources that are available in some “centralized” areas are not available just a few states away.

This is not to say that these resources don’t exist. Sometimes they really don’t, but sometimes they do. They’re just hard to find. When you find them, they have long, long waiting lists. But it’s better to finally find them and to wait than to have no hope at all. I know, because I’ve finally found and connected with a resource that may empower Alex to communicate using technological assistance.

I’ve read about how more and more people with autism are being hooked up with technological devices that help them communicate effectively. I’ve worked with the local school district for years to help Alex take advantage of these opportunities. We haven’t found the right fit and we don’t have the expertise we need to get the match.

Now, I’ve finally found the local place that has the resources and expertise to get that match. At least, that’s the hope. I admit it could have happened earlier. I dropped the ball. I didn’t understand back during that IEP that kicked off this school year that I was the one who was supposed to act. They all made it sound like it was something that would be done through the school district. Maybe that was just wishful thinking. I don’t know.

Then, with all the busyness and chaos of this year, this issue fell through the cracks of what was necessary and what was urgent. Even now, I had to sneak it in between preparations for another MRI, not to mention the other urgent and/or necessary tasks of this week.

Yet, looking ahead to the appointment we’ll have months from now, I can’t help but feel hopeful. Having read so much of others’ success with technologically assisted communication, I’ve long believed that would be the key for Alex. He loves technology and is more adept with manipulating technology than I would expect. When it comes to the new touch-based technologies, he’s much better at it than I am!

Not only is he ready to access the technology, we also know that communicative intent is definitely there, but the means to make that connection with others is not. A technological device could be the bridge between where we are and where we could be. This could be the key that unlocks Alex’s ability to communicate. As much as we don’t want to wait, it’s definitely an outcome worth waiting for. I just wish the resources weren’t so difficult to find and that the centers that provide those resources weren’t so overwhelmed in the vast populations between the East and West Coasts.

Aggression: Understanding Alex

  • Posted on April 8, 2013 at 10:05 AM

Kathleen and Kim wrote a post for The Autism Channel about aggression. I followed it with an initial post of my own about my son Ben. Now, I want to focus on Alex.

Alex is a more difficult “puzzle” to solve when it comes to aggression. For those who’ve been following along with my family for a while, you may remember that Alex used to be a very happy, contented child, who was also rather oblivious to his surroundings. When Willy and Alex were little and would “compete” over the same stuff, Alex refused to compete. If Willy took a toy from Alex, then Alex was content without it or would simply get something else. If we tried to give it back to him, he’d often simply set it aside and Willy would claim it. The only thing Alex was ever particular about was VeggieTales videos—which ones to watch, which parts to watch, ect. (He was also particular about touch, sound, and people, but not things.) Alex was genuinely, consistently happy.

At first, Ben’s birth changed little. Willy soon outgrew the toys that captured Alex’s interest. They veered further apart developmentally. Meanwhile, Ben was slowly catching up to Alex. At some point, Ben’s and Alex’s interests overlapped and there was once again “competition.” Ben would take from Alex and Alex would turn to something else.

Then, one summer, from seemingly nowhere, a switch was flipped. Alex started asserting himself. We encouraged this, because we had become quite concerned about how easily Alex could be taken advantage of without adult oversight and interference. A little assertiveness would be a good thing for Alex. Except, with Ben and Alex both having very limited verbal and social skills, this battle of assertiveness escalated rather quickly. At first, Ben was always the aggressor. The strife between them continued to escalate despite our interference and Alex “figured out” that aggression could help him get his way. Now, they both act aggressively when they want the same thing. They can go from being completely uninterested in each other to full-scale battle in a few seconds, skipping all the steps in-between.

We’ve developed strategies—mostly separating them and ensuring we have two of any highly desirable items, like Kindles—that reduce these incidents. Though they’re both still significantly delayed, Ben has surpassed Alex in language and social skills development. So, unless he’s having a bad day, Ben is usually able to avoid instigating incidents. Unfortunately, Alex is intentionally (or so it seems) instigating incidents, and not only with Ben.

Several months ago, Alex took up pinching—seemingly as a pastime. Even though we are people who understand that behavior=communication, we’re stumped as to what Alex is trying to communicate. Sometimes the message is obvious: You’re bugging me, get away. But sometimes it’s not: Like when he “greets” me by grabbing the underside of my arm and pinching me with his whole hand. I’m not the only target, but at home I seem to get the brunt of the “happy pinching,” meaning him pinching me when he’s happy and smiling as if in greeting. He’ll even echo “stop, no pinching.” It doesn’t seem as if he understands the words, but as if that’s the response he’s trying to get and he’s happy to have gotten it.

It’s not just happening at home, either. He’ll pinch anyone, from people who are helping him to random strangers. In the last few months, he’s added biting. If he can’t pinch, he’ll try to bite. I’m at a loss of what to do with this. I’ve worked with the school, but they don’t seem to be making any progress either. We don’t know what Alex is trying to communicate, nor do we really understand the function(s) of the behaviors. The only resource in our area that we haven’t tried that I’m aware of involves signing my child over to CPS, which is not going to happen. Ever.

I look back on the Alex we used to know, who was always happy, always peaceable, always so easy to please. It’s not that I really thought that could last, but… Aggression can escalate and become an even bigger problem than it already is, especially with puberty, and that’s exactly where Alex is right now—starting down the path of puberty. I fear if we can’t solve this problem soon, then it’s going to get worse, possibly much worse.

The lack of support is a big problem, but what’s worse is the lack of understanding and the tendency to place blame. Nothing is simple, certainly not aggression.

Aggression: Understanding Ben

  • Posted on April 5, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Kathleen and Kim wrote a post for The Autism Channel about aggression. I recommend reading the post. I also want to share some of my reactions, based on our experiences with aggression in our children, so please take a moment to hear a little about what we’ve been going through lately, which will help you understand why I found this post to be so important.

Ben is probably the easiest to explain. At the end of last year, he was having a very rough time in school. There was too much going on in his classroom and he couldn’t handle it. So, he “acted out” aggressively against staff and classmates. He brought his frustration and his behaviors home, too. Ben was predominantly non-verbal at this time, so “acting out” was one of the few ways he could communicate. Along with the aggression, he also covered his ears, pushed things away, and demonstrated other non-cooperative behaviors. Then, after several meetings, we decided to isolate him in a classroom of his own, away from all the overstimulation, and his behaviors improved dramatically.

At the time, the school he was in was not properly equipped for Ben’s needs, so the school system decided to place him with another teacher at another school—particularly with a teacher who was trained in “behaviors.” What we didn’t know at the time, what had not been fully explained, was that she was trained to work with children with behavioral problems, i.e. children who are emotionally disturbed or present other psychological needs that result in undesirable behaviors. In short, these children “act out” with undesirable behaviors that serve a different purpose and are not primarily a replacement for communication deficits. Please note, my point is not that these children are somehow inferior to Ben—all children deserve to have their needs met and many different kinds of children have many different kinds of needs and all of those needs are valid and worth meeting. My point, instead, is that, unbeknownst to me at the time, prior to Ben this teacher had only worked with one child with autism. And I think we all know what people say about knowing one child with autism. Neither her training nor her experience prepared this teacher to work with Ben.

Despite this, it went fine at first. She is a good teacher, and she cares very deeply for all her students, and she’s quite capable of putting up with what most of her students dish out. Also, it should be noted, that in those first few months Ben’s environment was very much what we’d been told to expect—most of the time he had the room to himself, and when he didn’t he had a space he could go to that he associated with being “his.” Unfortunately, the school and staff didn’t really understand Ben’s needs. Seeing the success of the strategies we recommended for Ben, including this special space, and facing an increased need from more of the teacher’s other students (who are pulled out of regular education classrooms when their behavior requires it) who now needed to be in “Ben’s” classroom, the staff started sharing “Ben’s” space with other students.

Now, if you’re a parent of a child with autism, particularly a child with strong sensory needs who is easily overstimulated, one who also has minimal social and communicative skills, I bet you can guess where this is going. Once the other children began “encroaching on Ben’s space,” the behaviors started up again. Again, after many meetings, we concluded it would be necessary to isolate him during his academic periods, thus re-establishing the environment Ben was supposed to have in the first place (as far as I understood things. This school and this teacher were supposed to understand and be able to meet Ben’s needs all along, which was the whole reason I agreed for him to be moved to a new school! Yet, for several months, that was not what happened. In short, for two years in a row, we’ve had to go through similar processes to “figure out” Ben’s needs based on Ben’s behaviors, because when Ben’s needs are not met he “acts out” with aggressive behaviors.

Ben is not a bad kid. He’s stubborn and strong willed, but that’s not bad. Ben is also working within social and communication deficits, so he doesn’t know how to express himself in constructive, non-violent ways. He doesn’t know how to say “get away from me” or “leave me alone” or “that’s too much noise” or “this place is way too busy for me to concentrate,” let alone the more polite versions of these phrases. He can either endure it—but he’s a mite bit too stubborn and strong-willed for that. Or he can express himself physically.

I don’t say this to excuse his behavior, but merely to explain them. Ben can’t change things for himself. So, we have to adapt to Ben’s needs. If we succeed, then Ben’s behavior decrease, which allows us the opportunity to discover additional unmet needs. If we keep it up, then the behaviors will be eliminated because he doesn’t need them anymore. This would be especially true if we took the opportunity of the “good times” to develop his social and communication skills to the point that he has alternatives to aggression.

Ben is one example of aggression in a child with autism. Ben’s is a fairly straightforward case, meaning the mechanics of the behavior and the purposes of the behavior are fairly simple. This does not, however, mean it’s an easy situation. It’s not. Ben has only a limited number of effective behaviors to work with to express all of his frustrations and distresses and stressors and needs. Figuring out Ben’s needs and how to meet those needs is a process involving a lot of trial and error, and this process also relies heavily on the understanding of the adults around him. It’s a long process, but with a good prospective outcome. But Ben is only one example. I have two more children who struggle with aggression, which I’ll discuss next week.

For now, check out the post over at The Autism Channel. It’s worth reading!

The Inner Narrative

  • Posted on October 12, 2012 at 8:00 AM

I have this quirk, though I’m not sure how much this particular quirk is shared by others. I live most of my life in my own head. I’m surrounded by stimulation. Most of it is mundane and easy to navigate, so I can go about my business on auto-pilot. Inside, however, there’s a narrative going on that is quite removed from what my external body is experiencing. It’s like an advanced form of daydreaming, and I have been told that it goes along quite well with my life as a writer. I have heard other kinds of artists share similar experiences.

Maintaining a semblance of outward normalcy while keeping this inner narrative inside is a skill I learned in school. Teachers repeat things. I would guess that over two thirds of my class time (before college) was “wasted” with repeated information. I realize that most people learn better this way. But, for me, repeating information orally doesn’t really work. Either I got it the first time or I won’t get it at all. Repeating it—unless I didn’t actually hear it—doesn’t increase the chances of my consuming the information. So all this repetition left me bored

To alleviate that boredom my brain entertained itself, which it was inclined to do anyway. I learned that if I maintained the appearance of paying attention, then I’d be left to ignore the repetitions. If I slipped—smiling at something that amused me while the teacher was being serious, for example—then I would be called upon to participate. Blah. I must admit, however, that I didn’t really perfect this technique until the eighth grade—and the memory of that incident still makes me smile. Just in case anyone is under the impression that I don’t have a mischievous side.

I’m quite familiar with my own inner narrative, and I’ve adapted this skill so that I can continue my narrative while living out my rather mundane (relative to that narrative) existence.

Here’s the thing: I have three children and I know two of them are “like me” in this regard, except that neither of them has yet learned to internalize this narrative. Both Willy and Ben are as I was when I was little—sharing their inner narrative orally with anyone who will listen, whether the timing is appropriate or not. So much so that they have trouble turning it off. I can relate—I still have trouble turning it off, especially when I’m trying to fall asleep.

Then, there’s Alex. Alex is my dear boy, my conundrum. While I’m not fond of the puzzle piece as a symbol of autism, Alex is the child of mine that gives the most credence to its validity. Nobody really “gets” Alex. It’s not that we haven’t made connections with him. But there’s a part of Alex—a big part—that continues to be out of our reach. Without the communication component in place to a greater degree than it is, Alex cannot share his inner narrative with us. And, because words are something of a “foreign language” to Alex, I’m not even sure talking would empower him to share that narrative—his narrative may very well be experienced in a totally different form.

I think about Alex and puzzle pieces. It seems to me that Alex has a “language” all his own and that to communicate with us requires translation. He struggles to translate for us and we struggle to translate for ourselves. But it’s more than just the language, it’s like he has a culture all his own, too. And this is rather easy to explain: We consume language and culture by absorbing what is around us, and it shapes and influences who we become. I’m not an American because I was born an American; I’m an American because I’ve lived my entire life as an American. But Alex doesn’t absorb language and culture the same way, so he hasn’t been shaped and influenced the same way.

The question, then, is how do we bridge the gap? How do we learn to communicate with him, to share who we are with him, and to help him share who he is with us? How do we help him to his internal narrative?

Suspended

  • Posted on May 7, 2012 at 4:03 PM

My grad school class is on Tuesdays this term.  That means that Tuesday is a really bad day to throw me a curveball.  So, of course, last Tuesday I was not particularly pleased to get a call from my son’s teacher, asking me to please come pick him up.  Apparently, Ben had been behaving badly and they refused to send him home on the bus.

So, I went to the school to get Ben.  The naughty Ben transformed into squealing, wiggling, joyful Ben as soon as he saw me.  I learned that Ben had been pinching and (I think) trying to bite his peers, and that these behaviors were worse than they’d been.  While we do see some of the aggression they saw at home, what we saw that day wasn’t any different from usual.

The next morning was a bit rough, because the bus arrived while Ben was engrossed in the computer.  This abrupt transition was unpleasant, but I managed to get him on the bus.  Later, after I fell asleep (after a night of mostly not sleeping), I got another call.  I had to go pick Ben up again.  Same bad behaviors, same transformation, same typical day at home (despite the change in schedule).

That alone was enough to make me worry and wary, but there’s more.  Not only did I have to take Ben home, but Ben wasn’t allowed back until we had a meeting.  They didn’t use the word “suspended,” but it certainly felt like my son was being suspended.

So, Ben spent the last hour or so of Tuesday, half of Wednesday, and all of Thursday and Friday out of school.  (We had our meeting Friday afternoon.  Today is his first day back.)

I’ll tell you about the meeting in another post, but first I want to share my worries and my wariness.

First, we have a child who, while verbal, cannot effectively use language to communicate novel ideas.  If something is wrong in a particular environment, the only way he can communicate that is through his behaviors.  His verbal and written communication skills simply are not adequate to tell us something that isn’t a part of his carefully developed rote lexicon.  For example, Ben can tell us he wants ice cream, but he can’t tell us that he’s overwhelmed.  Ben can tell us he wants to go outside (to play, though he doesn’t say that part), but he can’t tell us if he’s being abused.  To communicate these more complex issues, all he can do is act out.

Second, Ben’s school has been undergoing a lot of staff changes lately.  There are a lot of new people in that building, and I’m not even sure how many there are.  This means there are people who are not tried-and-true working with my son.

Third, there have been a lot (at least, from my perspective it seems like a lot) of stories in the news about kids, particularly kids without effective communication skills, being abused in school.

So, I bet you see where I’m going with this.  You know that perseverating thing that autists tend to do—I do that, too.  My mind comes to a logical possibility and gets stuck, especially if it’s really bad or really good.  For those who might not have gone to the same place I did, let’s do the “math”:

1 (Ben doesn’t want to go to school.) + 1 (New people.) + 1 (Opportunity for abuse.) = 3 (Momma bear has claws, and teeth when necessary, and if someone is abusing my son I’m going to tear them apart!)

Half of Wednesday, all of Thursday, and half of Friday were spent perseverating on my mental arithmetic.  Now, I kept telling myself there were other possibilities, but my mind kept going back to this possibility.  Luckily, I was wrong.  Sometimes I just love being wrong!