The Gandhi of Autism

The Gandhi of Autism October 10, 2012
Lil D planking with Bluebell, our cat.

After all the kids came home from school yesterday, after we got through the first hour of craziness – unpacking backpacks, assessing homework, the requisite post-bus ride-avoidance-of-meltdown shower for Lil D and hearty snacks for all – I settled Amal into her homework and Hamza with a monster truck video on Netflix and headed upstairs.

Lil D was lying on his bedroom floor, which is how I usually find him these days. When I say that he is planked about 80 percent of the time, I’m not kidding. The boy spends more time in the horizontal position than vertical. We have been tracking and assessing as to why he is doing this so much. I always feel that being at his healthiest will help diminish his behaviors from the inside, especially when coupled with the Gold Standard in autism therapy – applied behavior analysis and behavior interventions.

So we are, as usual, investigating – is he fatigued? Does he have an infection? Should some of his meds be changed? Is he vitamin deficient? Is his diet off? And we are tracking – what is the ABC data? (You don’t know ABC data? Ahh, grasshopper, you don’t have a child with autism in your house. It stands for antecedent, behavior, consequence – what was the antecedent, what behavior happened, and what the consequence was?)

Often there is an antecedent to him dropping to the floor – he has to get ready for school, he has to do work at school, he is denied taking a shower for the umpteenth time, he is asked to come inside the grocery story with me while I buy bananas, he is asked to sit at the dinner table for supper, he is asked to sit at his desk at school to do some work. Sometimes it’s a “boy discovering himself” thing. (You know, lying down, hand goes in the pants, enough said.)

And, often there is no antecedent (which leads to me to question the medical/health stuff).

Planked in the backyard because I told him to go out and get some fresh air.

Still, all the times that he planks (because it’s hipper to say plank than drop) because he was asked to do something – well I have to hand it to the boy. He has embraced the age-old, most nonviolent form of noncompliance. Gandhi could take lessons from this kid in his noncompliance. All 87 pounds of his body drops to the floor, and there is No. Getting. Him. Up. Grown men (twice and three times his size) at his school struggle to physically prompt him up. It takes at least two people doing a special lift to hoist him up.

I have gone toe to toe with Lil D, matching my stubbornness to his, when he planks on me as I am trying to get him ready for school or out the door for some family outing. A few weeks back the rest of the family had gone ahead, as we were planning to go to a park to have a picnic. I had Lil D’s lunch out and wanted him to sit and eat before he, my husband and I joined our in-laws and other kids at the park.

Lil D planked. He did NOT want to sit at the table. He wanted to be fed in his position on the floor. I wasn’t having it. We tussled. I mean. We TUSSLED. I waited him out as long as I could. Then I verbally instructed him to get up and sit at the table. Then I physically tried to make him sit. Every time I got him in the chair, he slithered like a snake onto the floor. My husband tried to help and eventually stepped back, realizing that he was witnessing a battle of epic proportions.

Finally I realized that I couldn’t match him in physicality. So I sat on the stairs and turned my back to him. He kept reaching out, trying to grab my clothes. Attention was denied. Soon enough, because Lil D was hungry and that food was staying on the table, he sat down and ate.  I praised him, and we left for the park.

Mamma and Hamza planks with Lil D

He is planking in all situations at all times. In the house, in his bedroom, at school, on our deck, on the track at school when we are trying to walk it, on the floor of our van, in the middle of Best Buy, in the lobby of Target, in the parking lot. One time, when he was planked on the deck, Hamza and I got down and planked with him to see what it was all about. Lil D enjoyed that.

There’s no profound insight I have to reveal to you in sharing this latest turn in our autism journey. It’s yet another thing we need to figure out and overcome with Lil D — our little Gandhi. Our noncompliant guru. Our mystery still waiting to be solved, who probably will never completely be solved.

It’s always something. And if I didn’t laugh about it as we try to work through it with him, I’d cry.

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