Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"It ain't over til' the fat lady sings!" at the Dr.'s Office

"It ain't over til' the fat lady sings"
Over the years, Nugget has developed some real anxieties that are a daily challenge for him. In addition, these anxieties can put a real damper on social interactions with others. I feel really bad for him since he can become totally stressed out by just a simple conversation between people if certain words, or phrases are used. We see a doctor every week to address these anxieties and so far I have been extremely pleased with the outcome.

 Today's visit proved to be more than just another visit to see the doctor. It was a first for me, both good and bad. At the beginning of each visit, I go in and talk to his doctor about progress, or lack thereof, and we plan accordingly about how to move forward. Nothing new today, we decided to proceed as planned. The doctor and I walked out together where it would be Nugget's turn to go with the doctor back to his office for a chat. As we walked out into the waiting room, Nugget was sitting at what he calls "his desk". This is the same routine, every time. He is sitting contently playing his Nintendo DSi. I decided to grab a magazine before finding a chair next to Nugget's "desk" and wait for him to finish his session. 

As I was flipping through the pages I heard, "Was that your son that was just sitting here?" with an agitated tone. I looked up to see a middle-aged, obese woman and she was not looking too happy. I immediately replied that it was, probably looking like a huge question mark. She snapped back saying, "Well, he called me fat!". I did not appreciate her tone with me, but I immediately apologized and said that my son has a little difficulty with his filter and will just say what's on his mind. I do not condone any inappropriate comments from my sons such as this, and if I had been sitting there when this happened, I would have used it as a teaching opportunity of appropriate/inappropriate comments. However, just the way she was acting towards me, I so wanted to say, "Well, some people call him autistic, but you don't see me making a scene". I kept my mouth shut. I did not want to utter the words autism and add to that stigma. Still, I did feel bad and had no right to judge her or her situation and I could completely understand why she would feel upset. I guess as a mother I just wanted to go into immediate defense-attack mode. Fortunately, she lightened up after I said I would discuss this with him. I guess that's what she wanted to hear since she just walked away.  I was sitting there trying to process what had just happened.

I could understand her, but I understand why my son had said this. He has no filter. He is still learning. I start thinking about how idioms are difficult to understand for some with ASD. I have reviewed some of these with Nugget and he thinks it is so funny how people don't just say what they mean instead of "hold your horses", or "that was a piece of cake". I was wondering if I had ever taught him "it ain't over til' the fat lady sings". Is this where he got this from? I know myself, that I would never call someone fat. It is a hurtful statement that lacks any form of justification.

 Nugget's doctor called me back into the office for a review of the session. It had obviously been a great session since Nugget immediately said, "Watch this mom!", as I walked in. He was happy and was excited to show me a magic trick that his doctor had just taught him. I was wondering when I should "drop the bomb" on what had happened earlier. I let him show me the magic trick, and added applause. You could tell he was proud of himself. Whenever he says' "Watch this, mom", I am in seventh heaven. When Nugget was around 3-5, their was no joint attention. Going to the park, he was not the child that was interested in if his mom was watching him do these amazing things. He did not seem bothered one way or the other if I was watching, because he would never look at me to see if I was doing just that. This always hurt. I would see other mothers beaming with pride when their children would use this phrase to get their attention so they could show off their skills on the monkey bars, or how they had learned to swing all by themselves. I envied that and couldn't help but think that I may never have that with Nugget. I was still proud of my son though. I was proud by just watching him have so much joy in just the smallest things like, feeling the sand, studying it and seeming completely content with just that.

After I applauded and told him what an awesome trick that was, I proceeded to tell him that a woman had just stopped to tell that he had said something to her that made her feel sad. I added that it made me feel sad too since what he had said was not a nice thing to tell someone. His doctor immediately pulled out a facial expression chart and asked Nugget to tell him which might display how the woman had felt. He pointed to the sad picture. I added that if we saw her before we left, we should apologize. Nugget went from being excited to seemingly worried. As we walked out into the hallway, a woman passed by. This woman too, was a little obese. Nugget left my side and caught up with this woman and said, "I'm sorry, I am really sorry!". Poor guy. He seemed almost frantic. I had to call to him and tell him, "Sorry, Nugget. That's not her. We proceed to the waiting area. I scanned the area, but did not see her. I was talking to the receptionist to schedule the next appointment, when I saw Nugget running over to yet another obese lady and telling her he was sorry. I yelled over to him, "That's not her either". Poor guy. He looked disappointed. 

As we are walking to the car, he pipes up, "I know what I could have told that lady. I could have told her to get on a treadmill and exercise!"........ Oh boy! I proceed to say that that wouldn't be appropriate either and that we should not make any negative comments to people, only good ones. "Oh", he said. I could hear his brain ticking. I knew what he was thinking because it is the same look he has when I try to explain idioms.

So today's doctor visit was definitely a learning experience for both of us. He learned something about inappropriate comments. I learned that my son, even with all of his challenges, can be sincerely apologetic when he thinks he has hurt someones feelings. I know this will not be the last time he forgets to apply his "social filter" and he has some learning to do yet. But my Nugget makes me proud and he is very capable of learning how to show his empathy more appropriately in the future.....It ain't over til the fat lady sings.