Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Road

I've just finished 'The Road', by Cormac McCarthy. An outstanding book that's already garnered many awards, not least among them, The Pulitzer Prize 2007 and The Sunday Times Best Book of the Decade.

It's a poetic vision of a boy and his father travelling through a post-apocalytptic, ash-covered United States, in search of remnants of civilisation: "The world soon to be populated by men who would eat your children in front of your eyes and the cities themselves held by cores of blackened looters who tunneled among the ruins and crawled from the rubble white of tooth and eye carrying charred and anonymous tins of food in nylon nets like shoppers in the commissaries of hell". The pair travel through the strange, dystopian landscape of petrified trees and strewn limbs, fearful of murderous strangers. Our modern world exists only in the father's memory and dreams. The central question in the book appears to be whether there is any point in living in this stark, brutal new world. The power of familial love is a constant throughout the book and this is what makes it so compelling

So why have I chosen to put this in my autism blog? Near, the beginning is a description of 'the blackness' which 'he woke to on those nights was sightless and impenetrable': "He rose and stood tottering in that cold autistic dark with his arms outheld for balance while the vestibular calculations in his skull cranked out their reckonings". Clearly the word autistic grabbed my attention. I can't remember seeing it used in this way before in fiction. And it seems inadvertantly such a perfect representation of the sensory disorientation which affects autistic people.

So, why is the darkness autistic? It's an unexpected word-pairing. The darkness is autistic in the way it disturbs and distorts The Man's senses. The darkness is also autistic as it places a veil or barrier over The Man's ability to perceive the world. It is also a stunningly evocative portrayal of how isolating and disorientating this is for The Man.

So, just a snapshot of 'The Road' then. I'd highly recommend it......let me know what you think?

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Demolition Girl

I'm not quite sure why this happens. When I took Lyla to mum's house at the weekend, she went upstairs and gouged a huge hole in the wall with her bare hands. She ripped through wallpaper, and dug out plaster. Unfortunately, the wallpaper is 30-year-old Anglypta and the plaster 100 year-old lath. And the wallpaper is holding the wall together. So, in short, there is no possibility of a repair apart from replastering the entire hall up and down. Oops.

Luckily mum is very laid back, but what I can't understand is why she did it. She isn't able to explain it to us and I can't readily think of a reason. So, it'll have to remain a mystery for now. Watch this space.

Picture by Spiro2004.

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Mystery of the Missing Diet Cokes......

There's been a discussion going in our house for the last few weeks. It goes something like this: my husband asks where I've put all his Diet Cokes and I respond, er, maybe they're in your tummy darling (or something less polite if this is the third time i've been asked in a day, but you get the picture).

Anyway, the mystery of the Diet Cokes is no more.

Yesterday, in a fit of pre-Christmas house-proudery, I cleaned under the sofa, and lo, what did I find but about 30 of the empties. It seems that Lyla has been cunningly stealing the cokes and hiding the evidence while we're not looking.... At a rough tally then, she's consumed nearly 30 cans of the stuff over the last few days. Quick, call the Diet Police!!

Why? Well, this is a common feature of autism, especially those who suffer from Sensory Processing Issues. Lyla's senses confuse and distract her and when this happens she starts sensory-seeking behaviour. In terms of her mouth, she cannot interpret the signals so she needs to constantly chew to stop herself from being distracted. It's not unusual for her to consume large quantities of food in a day and I'm constantly discovering little stashes that she's hidden around the house for herself. She needs crunchy strong foods, to give her the correct feedback that she needs. She can often be found sitting down with a huge bowl of peas, straight out of the freezer or tucking into a box of Bran Flakes or crunchy apples. She can easily get through 20 pieces of fruit in a session. Apart from being expensive it doesn't seem to be harming her particularly as she is very skinny. She's hyperactive, so she burns off the extra calories.

I expect she enjoyed the fizz of the Diet Cokes. But obviously caffeine isn't great for kids, so we've hidden them away now.......I wonder what she'll get up to next.....

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Fireworks Night

Guy Fawkes Night has been intensely difficult for Lyla, ever since she was a baby. An American friend who was staying over one year remarked on how it was like being stuck in the middle of a war-zone. So, lots of people can find fireworks and particularly Guy Fawkes Night overwhelming. However, for some autistic people, the sounds, smells and suddenness of fireworks can make them feel as though they themselves are imploding. Since she was a baby, my daughter Lyla has hidden under pillows screaming for the entire duration of the night and we've been completely helpless to calm her down. As her autism was not yet diagnosed, we just thought that she was just an especially sensitive person and did our best to protect her.

It is well known that many autistic people suffer from sensory sensitivities. This means that autistic people's senses can disrupt their lives significantly. For instance, Lyla understands language, but she cannot absorb long segments of speech. Lyla has said that the loud irregular bursts of fireworks make her feel like she is dying- her brain cannot process the noise in any way that isn't distressing to her.

What can we do? When she became verbal, we tried explaining the whole event to her, but she was just in sheer pain with the noise again. This year Lyla, will try a pair of Ear Defenders (from B&Q, for using with pnuematic drills!) and earplugs. She coped better at home on the 5th so this weekend we're taking her to the fireworks at the South Bank in the hope that for the first time in her life, she and her sister might be able to enjoy them.....Wish us Luck!

Picture by Sonewfangled
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