One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Here's the fun part - I actually mean this literally. As in walking a step forward then stepping back. And stepping forward, then stepping back...

Except that I'm not quite good enough to be Cha-Cha'ing with Josh yet. I suspect we'll get there, though, as this is just one of a few new behaviors/rituals Toad has come up with recently.

Note: The Oscars are on as I write this. I am going to watch them after Toadie is asleep. My blog is the only safe place on the internet right now as far as spoilers go - not that I've seen any of the movies except Inception and Toy Story 3, but there's usually some entertainment to be found at some point during the 18 hr broadcast...

Where was I? Oh yes, the new rituals. It's all quite fascinating, really. I'd love to get some good video of him one of these days but as with the still camera, as soon as the video camera comes out, he is not terribly interested in being filmed. I mean, they're odd (the rituals), not surprisingly, but really interesting. I have no doubt every parent of an autistic child has wished at some point that they could just get inside their child's head for a little while, just to get some clue as to how it all worked, what's going on in there, and I am no exception.

Back in the old days of Disneyland (aka the 70's, when I was a kid), there was an attraction called Journey Through Inner Space. The idea was that you got shrunk, placed under a microscope, and took a trip through the molecules of a snowflake. It was awesome. I would very much like a journey into Toad's inner space. Someone get to work on that, k? Thx. I know there's a lot of Blue's Clues in there, french fries/potatoes, and trips to the beach.

I don't know about these new rituals though. I hesitate to even call them that because I'm not sure some of them are, I just don't know what else to call them. 

It started a while back with food and other objects he would take in his hands or a hand. He'll pick it up, and hold it away from himself in some direction - off to the side, up and in front, even back behind - looking at it the entire time, as though he were waiting for something, then he would put it on his plate, eat it, keep playing with it, whatever it was he was doing. It seems very purposeful. It never appears to be without thought. We joke around a bit when he does it with food, that he's making offerings to some higher power, because it looks for all the world like that's what he might be doing. I just don't know. I suppose that might come across the wrong way to some - it shouldn't. If we were never able to see a lighter side to life with Toad, then we'd be in a very bad place indeed.

That behavior has been around just a few months. And now he's adding to it. Studying him while he eats could earn someone a PhD. Take tonight, for example. Along with the usual meticulous sorting which makes sense to no one but him, taking a bite out of each thing and putting it down again, moving this off the plate completely, and that, and now there's a ring of food around the outside of the plate too, while still taking bites of all of it - tonight he added something new. He had asked me for sausages. This is a big deal because he used to eat them all the time, then simply stopped a few years ago. I was thrilled - he eats no meat otherwise. So the pieces of sausage were on his plate. He was eating everything around them in the way he does, then I noticed this: along with the usual routine, he was picking up pieces of sausage, bringing them close to his mouth, opening his mouth, then just sitting there, motionless, for a few seconds. Then he'd put the sausage back down, pick up a piece of potato or a peanut (he has to get protein somehow...) and take a bite. Then another piece of sausage would go up, close to his mouth, mouth opens, he freezes, few seconds, then sausage back down, on to something else. He did this the entire time he was eating. He never actually ATE any sausage. All the while this was interspersed with the "offerings".

But in the last few weeks more and more motor rituals... or something... have been popping up. He does fascinating things with his hands/arms. Geez, I wish you could see it because I'm sure I can't describe it well enough. At seemingly random times, and likely only random to the rest of us, he will stop whatever he's doing, and make strange hand gestures. Sometimes he'll be pointing with one or both hands. Sometimes his hands are clenched - not in complete fists, but partial, and often it's just one hand, but occasionally both. This can happen in any direction, or if both hands are involved, it's the same direction but at a different level with each. And he always looks in the direction of the gesture, as though he were looking at something. It's a bit disconcerting because it really looks like he's seeing something that I can't. Often he'll do double takes in the direction of the gestures.

The walking business also started a few weeks ago but is getting progressively more disruptive as it becomes more involved. He'll be walking, then without warning, he'll stop moving forward and take a step or two back. Then he'll start going forward again, then step back and stop. It always happens when he's crossing a threshold of any sort, or the ground surface changes, like sidewalk to road, grass to pavement, carpet to bare floor. It also happens whenever he's getting in to or out of something, like the car. He'll step down, then step back up again. Sometimes several times before actually getting out. But it's also happening more and more at other times too. Grocery store. Crossing the road - that's a fun one. He's holding my hand, we're crossing, there are cars waiting for us to cross, and BAM - Toadie stops, steps back, taking me with him. IN THE CROSSWALK. Hi, how's it going nice people waiting in your cars? Hey Josh, let's go honey... and we're walking... NO, step back. Um, ok, sweetie, please keep walking... *waving to the nice people now*... ok we're at the curb, oh. shit. A curb. Sigh. Toad do your thing.

You can't walk behind him any more because you'll run right in to him when he stops and steps back. I've almost wiped us both out several times now because of this. I'm learning.

Even just in the last few days yet another piece has been added. For reasons I'm not sure of (um, well really, can I say I'm sure about anything as far as Toadie goes?!?) in the last few months he's reverted back to a behavior he had as a toddler - he has to be carrying a small toy, either one of his blocks or cars that he likes, in one hand at. all. times. Period. All day if he's home. He takes one to school every day. It will come in the car. It comes with him out of the car, wherever we're going. He'll have one of those things in a hand. At the grocery store the other day, he was doing his step back deal down one of the aisles, and then he added this: bending over to place the toy on the ground. In one spot. Then another. And another. And one more. Then picks it up, takes the step, and we're off again. It's really amazing to watch, though, other people don't seem to appreciate it quite as much as I do... Hi, sorry, just go around him, it's ok...

It's a lot. And it seems to be happening all at once now. His teacher mentioned to me that this is the age they will often start seeing this. I had no idea it was something to expect, shows how much I know. But here we are.

It's not disruptive nor difficult in the way that the melt-downs are, but it is certainly physically disruptive and is proving to be an exercise in patience of a different sort. Time. It now takes significantly longer to do anything, as even just leaving the house and getting in to or out of the car takes a lot of waiting for Toad to do his thing. I'm hesitant to force him out of the rituals, as I am met with a significant amount of physical resistance when I have tried to pull him along a bit - suggests that this might be more than just behavior? I have no idea, really.

Can't help but watch him though. Watch him and wonder. 

Inner Space, people. Let's go.