A few weeks into summer vacation, Tyoma came home from an afternoon of swimming with a new word: Fart.
Coincident with this, I was no longer “Mama.”
My son christened me “Farty.”
I should have ignored him, knowing attention feeds certain behaviors–but I love to lecture. I preached appropriateness and cultural norms. I discussed disrespect and hurt feelings. I diagrammed charts to organize his behavior.
Tyoma attended solemnly and gave every indication of having learned his lesson. Victorious, I gave myself copious pats on the back–my child would never call me “Farty” again.
The next day at breakfast, T blurted out, “Get me some juice, Farty!” I reeled, dumbstruck. He shook his head, “Uh-uhn, Mama. Mama, may I please have some juice?” I examined his little face for mischief. None. I complimented his manners and made a mental note.
Three days later, the stupids arrived. Mostly, it was just the word “stupid” by itself, but not always. I heard a few “Stupid Mamas” and plenty of “Stupid Farties”. Appalled, I wondered where this came from.
My encyclopedia of behavioral interventions failed to eradicate offensive words. Recalling his boozle hinking episodes, I decided to ignore him. This choice reduced both our anxiety, yet I was still awash in a sea of stupids.
Midsummer brought the shut ups. No amount of lecturing, positive reinforcement, or consequences helped. In fact, everything I did worsened the shut ups. He began shouting “Shut up!” at the TV and computer. He whispered “shut up” to himself as he read. And of course, there was “Shut up, stupid Farty,” addressed to me, or the cat, or Papa.
Bewildered, I scoured forums, took data, and read books. At last, I consulted our respite provider, Michelle. A blessing from the start, Michelle is a skilled school psychologist, savvy to all things autistic. Many of Tyoma’s baffling behaviors, she explained, stem from compulsions—irresistible urges.
If a sainted spot in heaven awaits wise and peppy school psychologists, the angels have a berth just for Michelle. Some form of OCD must underpin Tyoma’s behavior, since OCD-specific interventions remedied many behavioral incidents.
OCD should not be a surprise. It thrives in our family. I take a dash of meds to keep me from repeatedly checking the front door at night. Nonetheless, after scrutinizing three childhood OCD books, I realized that OCD and autism did not explain our behavioral issues.
Tourette’s syndrome and autism, however, matched our experiences with uncanny accuracy.
To be continued…