An evening with Donna

I went to an evening talk by Donna Williams at the church in Emerald last night. It was a free evening followed by supper. There were a few familiar faces which made me realise how big my circle of people has become all because of the fact that my daughter has autism. Bec came along as did Margaret from our hags group and there were several others that are on the hags mailing list but who often don’t come to meetings or dinner due to work / family or other commitments. Two of our aides from school were also there. I went with Laurine as I was a bit worried about driving up the hill to Emerald in the dark and Shelley came along too and met us there. There was our after school coordinator Jenny and two of the ladies from the occasional care room at Selby Community House. It’s always heartening to see people who no matter how big or small a part, have something to do with an autistic child and want to learn more. It was lovely to catch up with everybody afterwards too.

Donna is such a complex and interesting person to me. I interviewed her earlier in my blog and I find her fascinating. One of the things that dawned on me last night is how very different everybody is from each other. Donna has said how well Beth is doing and how much more socialised she is in comparison to Donna at the same age. I often think about how capable and able Donna is, she’s married, she can drive a car. Then there are strengths that Beth has that Donna hasn’t. Donna has told me how she often has no concept of time and will only realise it is time to eat when her husband is cooking or eating. Beth has no problems with this and often will ask for breakfast if I am on the computer or still in bed. Beth also has an amazing inner clock and knows when something such as the school bell is about to happen. I didn’t realise how well she can tell the time until we were running late for swimming on Monday and looked at the clock and said “it’s 3.30 mum.” She’s never commented on the time before and I was surprised that she knew that in fact that was when her lesson was about to start.

It got me thinking. Donna talks about the ‘fruit salad’ of autism with all the different fruits being some part or condition associated with autism. Somebody could have face blindness and social anxiety and dyspraxia. Somebody else could have tourettes and adhd and gluten and casien intolerance. Donna had a very different upbringing than Beth has had. And even if the upbringing was the same, the fruit salad was the same, even the star sign was the same they are still different people with different personalities. I don’t assume that I am like my friend because we are not autistic so why should people assume that all autistic people think and feel the same. It did give me a lot to think about.

I had my first psg for the year this morning and I think it went really well. I had been a tad concerned about Beth seeming to be wandering aimlessly at times that I had shown up to school but Meredith explained to me that as Beth is now in grade 5 the expectation for her to make her way back to class by herself was there. When she has stretched the rules as Beth does she had then been told to stay in during playtime. Beth hadn’t liked this and had had one of her whiney fits but Meredith had stuck to her guns and the next lunchtime Beth was back in straight away. Meredith wanted to run by what strategies I would use and how firm to be with Beth. I have found from experience that the softer somebody is with Beth the more she’ll walk all over them so I was pleased that they were doing as they were.

Tanya asked me about any strategies that I could bring to the table and I gave Meredith a catalogue from the place where I got Beth’s conversation cards and magnetic barrier game. I explained that the cards were conversation starters as Beth’s conversations usually start with “What’s your favourite movie?” followed by “Who’s your favourite character?” Once she has the answers she runs through the hundreds of movies she knows and asks about them too. Sometimes she’ll branch out to “What’s your favourite part?” or shares who her favourite character is. These cards help to broaden the language. I also suggested getting the strategies for the ‘how does your engine run’ program that we’re starting to implement. Meredith said that Beth is starting to know when she’s running low or sluggish and when she’s just right. We need to now have some strategies from Sensational Kids to speed her up or slow her down.

Francoise was in the meeting also and asked about Beth not sitting still or putting her feet down. I suggested one of those rubber flat ball things that they move with their feet or some sheepskin. Also some tactile toys for Beth’s hands. I was very pleased as all at the meeting took what I said and are more than happy to implement the suggestions that I made. Tanya did ask me about respecting other’s property, bringing up the fact that Beth had cut somebodies hair ribbon in half. I did tell her that I really have no answer for that one as we have the same problem at home. I wish I did have the answer. Unfortunately often this seems to be quite common in autistic kids. In Beth it seems to just trigger her “Oops, sorry” response. If anybody has any suggestions, please feel free to share.

About Sarah

Mother of an autistic child wanting to write about my personal experiences
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2 Responses to An evening with Donna

  1. MarkSpizer says:

    great post as usual!

  2. Sarah says:

    Thanks Mark!

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