Decisions decisions decisions

chatting at the beach

For the first ten years of Archie’s life I probably made pretty much every decision for him. Until he was about 5 he had really no concept of having a choice and would treat every suggestion as a command. To complicate matters further it took until he was about 10 before he had a functional yes and no. By this I mean it took that long until he had a way to communicate yes and no and an understanding of the concept of yes and no, in other words an understanding of what yes and no actually means. It’s hard to imagine not understanding the words, but they’re abstract and for a long time Archie didn’t. The upshot of this was that we couldn’t have simple ‘do you want  to go to the park’ type conversations because Archie had no way of saying yes, or indeed no.

Gradually we developed a simple way of offering choices; ‘would you like this or this – using a picture or symbol to offer the choice’. If Archie wanted neither option then we would start a guessing game. It was slow, frustrating and often resulted in no resolution. Once an understanding of yes and no developed it made running through options easier but we were still limited to me having to think of various options while hoping to stumble on an acceptable one. Archie’s choices were limited to my imagination and he struggled to communicate a choice without me first offering it.

The talker has made all this much easier, and this improved communication has resulted in less frustration and Archie being able to have more agency over his life. We had a fine example of this this week. I booked a surf for today as soon as I realised that Archie had a non-pupil day at school. It seemed ideal, his brothers  would be at school and it would occupy the first day of the half term. Except last weekend he went down with a really grotty cold. He’s been insisting on going to school but has been coughing and spluttering all week and really didn’t seem to be 100% fit to be dunked in the sea in February. In the past this would have been problematic. If I had said something was happening it had to happen, or a massive meltdown would result. There was no way to negotiate an alternative or even explore what Archie actually wanted to happen. I had to try and guess. And, as might be expected, frequently guessed wrong. The talker has made all this easy. By Wednesday when he was still spluttering everywhere I reminded him he was booked in to surf on Friday, but asked him whether he wanted to go given his cold. Different day came the reply.  I was able to check ‘do you want to surf on Friday?’ no. So I asked when. Sunday. Okay Sunday, but he clarified further. Downham Saturday surfing Sunday.  He wants to surf the Sunday after he’s been to respite on the Saturday. And all decided without a meltdown or me having to tie myself in knots trying to guess what he might want to happen.  The day pinpointed all I have to do now is keep an eye on the surf forecast. If it’s forecast to be flat we’ll use the talker to renegotiate.

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Happy birthday dad

It was Richard’s birthday this week. He’s a nightmare to buy for, all he ever wants is chess books (yawn).  However, he did have a fantastic surprise this year. Staff at Archie’s school turned one of his pieces of artwork into a card. Apparently he did all the work himself, copying from an adult demonstration. A long way from the scribble we had for so many years. I’m pretty impressed with how well he’s written his name as well.

The picture is recognisable I think; Plymouth Hoe – and a fab representation of Smeaton’s Tower (as an aside Archie loves a trip up Smeaton’s Tower but gives me the heebie jeebies when we visit  by pressing flat against the lighthouse glass and leaning over the railings at the top).

cardinside card

Pegs

The sun showed its face briefly this week, and Archie appeared talker in hand, very excited; washing help. I’ll admit I was confused, and at first thought that maybe he had spilt something. Upstairs. Nope I was still confused. A 1, 2 followed by a jabbing point out the window clarified it for me, Archie was  telling me that our next door neighbours had hung their washing out on the roof terrace (1,2 representing the 2nd floor).

I was faster today when he appeared with a pegs upstairs. And he was delighted, and joined me by the roof terrace door to watch the neighbour’s sheets, grinning from ear to ear. I have always struggled to understand the obsession with washing lines, but it’s been there for many years.

Slightly more conventionally Archie seems to have suddenly turned very teenage in his interests, although maybe a couple of decades out of date.  After hearing a CD in the car he has been playing The Stone Roses pretty much non-stop. Yesterday I found him playing Waterfall on the iPad and iPod simultaneously.