Thursday, March 21, 2013

Conversations with Ethan...

We encounter many roadblocks every day with this mysterious being that is PDD. One of them is the most vital: communication. Now, don't get me wrong; Ethan has made vast improvements since starting speech therapy about five months ago. But for a long time there, the only way he knew to communicate with us was by hitting, shrieking, kicking, throwing things, you name it. Oh, he tried to talk. We tried to help him talk, but he would get so frustrated it usually ended in tears - for Ethan and me, sometimes. He also understood everything we said and could follow directions (e.g. "Go throw your plate away, then go get your shoes from your room and bring them to Mommy."), which I think made (makes) it all the worse for him. How would you feel if you could understand what everyone was saying to you, but you were unable to respond? I'd imagine that's how aphasia patients feel after suffering a stroke that damages the language center of the brain. Sort of like when the doctor asks you the name of the object you throw garbage into (a trash can) and you call it a brick. Only, Ethan knows it's called a trash can, but to him it's "the Yucky." And yes, I think of it that way in my mind when I hear him say it - like "Yucky" has a capital "Y" and is now a proper noun. Because Mommy always told him when he was little that trash is yucky...get it? So when I tell him to throw something away in the trash can, he waffles and dawdles, and finally when I'm about to lose patience after telling him the 8th time, he'll tell me: "Ohhhh...I wanna say 'bye-bye trash can, have a good gonna say 'I told you to throw it in the Yucky!'" Then once it dawns on me that his brilliant little spectrum brain fuels that compulsion to hear that one particular word or phrase which will then allow him to perform said task, I realize what I've done wrong and have to say: "You're right, Ethan, I'm sorry; please throw your napkin in the Yucky," at which point he will joyfully run to the trash can in the kitchen, stomp on the step to raise the lid, and throw his napkin away, then clap his hands and say "Yaaaay, I did it, Mommy, thank you! You put the napkin in the Yucky with Ethan!" He also mixes up his pronouns; refers to himself in the third person, first person, and as a completely different person...sometimes all in the same sentence.

These are some of the stranger conversations I've had with my son.

(Today, when I picked Ethan up from school.)
 Me: Did you have fun at school today, buddy?!
Ethan: Ohhh...I want Ethan to go back to school.
Me: Well, you will go back in 2 weeks; you're on Spring break, you're on vacation!
Ethan: Ohhh...I wanna say "bye-bye vacation, have a good day." I want Mommy to be happy!
Me: I am happy, buddy! Let's go home and show Daddy and Baby Brother your Easter goodies from your egg hunt!
Ethan: Um...okay. I wanna watch (he means "listen" here) Judas Priest in the green car. I wanna say "Go, green car, go."

(During a particularly cranky bedtime in which I had just told Ethan to stop messing around and get ready for bed.) 
Ethan: Ohhh, I want Mommy to be happy!
Husband: Mommy's happy, buddy, but she's right: it's bedtime. You need to calm down and let Mommy change your diaper so we can get you in bed.
Ethan: Bye-bye Mommy change your diaper, have a good day!
Me: Ethan, I've had enough. Lie down and let me put your diaper on, now.
Ethan: Oh, I want Mommy to be gone! I want Daddy change your diaper!

(During one of Alex's diaper changes. I should probably mention that Ethan has a fascination with watching me change Alex, but he expects there to be poop every time.)
Ethan: Baby Brother really poo-pooed. Big poops, whoa!
Me: Nope, no poop, just pee!
Ethan: ...I wanna say "Baby Brother really pooped!"
Me: I know, buddy, but he didn't poop, he just peed a lot.
Ethan: Ohhh, bye bye, pee, have a good day!

Given examples like the one above, I'm sure you can imagine that some of these conversations with Ethan make us laugh. In fact, a good number of them do. However, as I said before, there are moments of frustration. For Ethan, for me, for my husband. Sometimes these moments of frustration overwhelm me and burgeon into sheer anguish. Will my son ever say something simple to me like, "I don't want to watch that. I want to watch such-and-such" or will he ask me a simple question like, "Mommy, can I go play outside?" instead of "I want Ethan to go outside!" in that drone that lacks any real inflection.

Because what I want more than anything in this world is to talk to my son. I want to have him ask me questions that other almost-4-year-olds ask their moms. I want him to ask me why the sky is blue, or why his favorite TV show isn't on today, or what's for dinner, or - yes - even the dreaded "Where do babies come from?" I want to see the inquisitiveness on his beautiful little face while he listens to my explanations. I want to see another question formulating in his brilliant little brain before I've even finished answering the first one. I want to know that these things are possible for him, for us. So every day, sometimes several times a day, when I get frustrated or sad and think that I can't take it anymore, I try to remind myself of how far he's come in these last five months. What will he be like in another five months? Another year? Two years? When he's ten, thirteen, eighteen?

I continue to hope and pray, because at this point, that's all I can do. And I continue to love my son...because how on earth could I not?! Just look at him!


  1. Hey, Pal! I had no idea your son has PDD. Those conversations sound really cute. It sounds like you're doing a great job with him.

  2. Thanks for sharing that Marissa! This is great to share w/parent who have children who do not have PDD, because it gets them to understand our children who have communication problems. I think if awareness is created more, maybe parents can talk to their kids about how to interact with children who are on the spectrum; not only to create tolerance but to make it possible for all kids in all walks of life to get along and be friends. I felt your frustration w/my son, and all his little quirky ways he communicated w/me, along w/the tantrums, but trust me when I say it will get better! My son and I now talk about all sorts of things, although he doesn't ask me why the sky is blue because evidently he already knows! :P Awesome work sissy!

  3. Oh the interesting conversations that ASD brings! ;)
    Love them all!

    I have to tell you, I'm super impressed with these conversations too...worlds ahead of where Shaun was at that age. I know it's frustrating when you think of where he probably should be...I do the same, its hard not to...but he's doing amazing :)

    (Oh, and Shaun has a fascination with poop too! Ha! Silly boys!)