David is my teenage son and autistic. When first diagnosed at the age of three, the doctor told me he would never develop mentally. However, over the years he has evolved within his own world. Here, I hope to tell of some of the strange but sometimes wonderful things about him and hopefully give a little insight and understanding into living with autism.

It’s been quite a while since I did one of my autism posts. Probably too long. However, one of the reasons is that since last September, David has been at college in Wales.

He’s doing good. Learning all sorts of life skills such as looking after farm animals and gardens, plus crafts, computers and horticulture. In fact, it is the latter which he says is his favourite subject. He phones me two or three times a week, mainly to ask for stuff but whenever I enquire about his classes and which one he likes the most, he says horticulture.

At Christmas, he came home with a box full of pottery and a festive wreath he made in horticulture. I’ll save the ceramics for another post as they deserve one on their own. However, his wreath stayed on the front door all throughout Christmas and to be honest, I still have it. I can’t bear to throw it away. And why should I? The grasses may have dried but the holly, pine cones, etc. They’re all still okay. Maybe I’ll stick it on the garden fence.

The Christmas Wreath © Antony N Britt

There he is with it. This was taken when he came home just before Christmas. It had a note attached, one from his tutor. It said, David made this in horticulture. It is all his own work and he is very proud of it. And so he should be.

I will say, it has been a bit of a change for me after ten years of being carer to an autistic teenager on a daily basis. That doesn’t mean to say I get a quiet life now. David has Facebook and boy, does he like to talk. At least once a day, my phone will beep a message and I know it’ll be him. There will be one word. A different one each time but I know what I have to do. Word association. He says something and I have to complete the sentence. He also sends messages asking for requests. Rewards. These, though, are based on behaviour.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, David has temper meltdowns. While not acceptable when they happen, he cannot help most of them. To combat and try to avert these, I operate the reward scheme. If he has the carrot dangled of getting something nice, it can act as an incentive to control his moods. I suppose it is a form of bribery but the reward is also a signpost in his mind for when for red mist rises. That he will not get his promised reward if he slips up.

But back to his messages. As well as games and requests for rewards, I get bombarded with Birthday and Christmas lists. Thank heavens there are neither of those now until November. However, before Christmas, I was getting the same list about three times a day in messages. When I replied to his private message, he’d then cut and paste my comment to his wall, the same he did when his mum promised to take him out for the day. He’s not stupid. On his wall, the evidence is there for all to see. So no backtracking allowed on any promises.

Anyway, these Christmas lists sent to me coincided with a bad spell of temper issues and I had spoken to him and the college about it. He messaged me again with his Christmas list. I replied, stating he would get nothing if he was bad. Thirty seconds later, I got a phone call.

‘Dad?’

‘Yes,’ I answered.

‘Christmas presents.’

I explained again about his anger issues and that he can’t keep having these meltdowns. He was promised at one point, fireworks and lanterns at New Year, but as I’d said these were also based on behaviour, he’d blown them. Still, there was the Christmas list at stake and apparently, it worked. He had a good final week and we had a great Christmas, too. I found out long ago that even though he can be awkward at times, he does respond the odd carrot or two.

I’m speaking to him at the minute, actually. On Facebook. I just had to log in under his name and delete some pictures. You see he keeps posting ones of other students, which is against the rules. After sorting the pictures, I’ve then had a message conversation with him, explaining what I have done and if he keeps doing it, he won’t get his latest reward.

Ah. Got to go. I hear the telephone ringing. Now I wonder who that could be?

On one of the days out since going to Wales.

On one of the days out since going to Wales.

Cheers.

Nick

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