Alright, here we are, summer holidays. Jake and Aiden are thrilled that school is over and they are facing an endless cycle of cartoons, play time, and trips to the beach. It is my absolute favorite time of the year. And yet, we are now four whole days in, and some patterns have already become painfully clear.
One of the hardest things that my husband and I faced last summer was Jake’s constant interruptions. All of a sudden we were all home together, for the entire summer, and no one, NO ONE but Jake could speak. We would go for hours, looking at each other, trying to start conversations and giving up. We talked to him about interrupting. We tried to model conversations. We tried to walk into a different room for three minutes to quickly figure out who was grocery shopping and who was cooking dinner. Nothing worked. He followed us. It was so hard.
We were relieved in knowing that we were getting help. We had started having home visits from an energetic and encouraging family support worker. While technically out of her usual cliental, she took us on as a favor to Jake’s soon to be kindergarten teacher. She arranged for our first visits with the occupational therapist and we felt so thankful to be getting help that somehow we survived. But it was so hard.
This summer, my husband has a new iPod that he can text with. He joked with me that we can just text each other all summer so that we can communicate while in the house with Jake. As we laughed, we realized that this is an awesome idea. It doesn’t deal with the actual problem, but it may save our sanity.
Jake has learned so much this year, and the interrupting was listed right away as one of the goals we wanted to make a priority with his behaviour consultant. So they have been working on recognizing whether someone is ‘available’ for conversation. It is getting better. In the last four days, there have been many times when Jake started talking to me and asking for my attention and I responded, “I’m just not available right now, give me five minutes.” I was busy doing something like cooking on the hot stove or keeping Penny from falling off of her change table, situations not obvious to Jake yet. He has followed up with, “Mom, are you available now? Now? Now?” So it is a work in progress.
His interruptions are varied, from chants that make no sense whatsoever, but seem musical in nature to demands for attention so that he can discuss the fine points of his newest Lego creations. He mimics both music we have played and TV he has watched with great joy. To this he adds his own ideas of what is important, a request for pretzels or to create a new sports playoff bracket. None of it is bad, or really hard to deal with, the problem is just the constant nature of his verbose interruptions.
In two more days my husband joins us at home full time for summer. I am hopeful, and praying for a smoother summer for all of us than last year. Jake has learned much, and is also doing more independent play. We still have a long way to go on the interrupting, however. It’s one of the most difficult things about Jake’s autism for our family. Aiden has started repeating, “I want to talk, I want to talk, I want to talk,” until we get Jake to be quiet enough to hear what Aiden has to say. It’s cute, and heartbreaking. I want everyone in this family to be heard, to know that they are valued, and to be able to listen to each other.