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Yin and Yang

Justin's First Digital Pics 059

The other day, I got cocky with autism.

You have to understand, when it comes to Justin and any kind of outing, I usually visually map the event in my mind, try to anticipate any hurdles that might come my way (yes, I’m a planner if that has not yet become clear) and have a plan B, and sometimes a C. But Friday I let my guard down because it was a hair appt. for my boy, located in an establishment we’ve been going to for about ten years, where in the last few years his behavior has always been fabulous.

Once in a while he’ll try to rearrange all their DVDs for them, but sometimes they like the end result better anyway.

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The truth is I didn’t plot out all possible outcomes in part because he’s usually so good, and in part because I was debating how much more technology my youngest son was entitled to that day (we had a discussion later about what “entitled” means) so I ended up rushing a bit, and didn’t see what my eldest had clutched in his hand as we approached my SUV. I didn’t even notice until I heard a funny noise come out of him and glanced back to check on him, then saw the offending object.

There, mocking me, was his favorite toy.

Many of you might think it’s sweet that my son wanted to bring an object that brings him comfort along in the car, however I knew right away we were in trouble. You see my son is the king of “trades,” meaning that I knew immediately he’d want to leave his favorite toy there after his hair cut and go home.

Where promptly seventeen minutes later he would ask for his favorite toy.

This may not seem like such a big deal (really Kim, just get in your damn car and drive back afterwards and get it!) but that night we actually had plans (a miracle!) and frankly I just didn’t feel like dealing with it.

Bad mommy was in town.

I tried to negotiate when we got there, but summoning every ounce of his McCafferty stubbornness (yes, this is my husband’s fault) he insisted on bringing the toy into the shop. The owners managed to distract him while I ran out to the car and hid the thing, but to no avail. Once we got outside he looked in the car and said “toy” and I shook my head no. Then he took a deep breath and did something he’s done in school but never for me.

Damn if the kid didn’t string two words together and say perfectly clearly “open door.”

Of course, I did. And as I followed him into the shop and watched him angle his fave just so on the leg of a table I decided not to sweat this one. After all, this could have happened three hours away from home in a place where the proprietors might not have been excited over the prospect of an addition to their store. He could have ended up intensely frustrated at not being able to arrange his toy to his specifications, and I could have had a hell of a time getting him back to the car whose parking lot borders a busy road.

In autismland, anything and everything could have happened.

So we left without any more fanfare, my boy “eeeing” ecstatically that he’d made his mother understand what he needed, me excited that he used multiple words that anyone could have understood to get his needs met.

Really, it was worth going back for the toy, plus there’s a Wendy’s on the way home and I knew I could treat myself to a frosty.

Rewards are important.

While Justin does have a communicative device that he uses, we still want him to have some basic communication skills that people other than his parents and teachers can understand, and equally importantly, we want him to try to actually use them.

And lately, just lately, after twelve year of trying to cajole some words out of this boy, I think we may accomplish just that.

For more on my family visit my blog at

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