Where a dad of two great kids (one on the autism spectrum) muses about life.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Be the machine
I’ve been trying to understand for several months why Buddy Boy wants to be a machine or an inanimate object. I think if I can “Grok” this it might help me to see things thru his eyes a bit better.
Although Buddy Boy has rarely voiced a desire to be a particular type of person (he used to always say he wanted to be a farmer when he grew up) for the past year or so he’s always wanted to be some sort of machine (or occasionally an inanimate object). When I say that I would like to have a Ferrari someday (hey, I can dream, can’t I?) Buddy Boy will say that he wants to be a fast car when he grows up. He doesn’t want to fly a plane, he wants to be a plane.
I don’t necessarily think that this is a bad thing. Buddy Boy has always had a fascination with anything mechanical. Sometimes he’s obsessed about them (he could stare for hours at conveyor belts), but mostly I think he’s intrigued by them. As long as he doesn’t totally shut out everything else, we think this is great. We took a long drive in the country a couple of autumns ago, in search of combines in the field. We found some working near enough to the road to get some pictures, and had one of the pictures made into a puzzle that he still gets out and uses today.
Sometimes I think that Buddy Boy's wanting to be a machine is just a bit of magical thinking on his part. But mostly I wonder if Buddy Boy is so into the things he likes that he totally identifies with the machine or object. In so doing, the only way to really understand the machine is to be the machine.
Sometime this identification with things is a bit maladaptive. Buddy Boy has a hard time allowing us to wash his clothes in a washing machine. He hides his dirty clothes in his favorite hiding places to protect them from the washing machine. His offered compromise is that he says we can wash them only if we hand wash them. While I think it’s great that he offers to negotiate (negotiation as a preferred method of getting something, as opposed to screaming, grabbing, and hitting are all things we have been working on), it’s just not realistic to expect Liz to wash all of his clothes by hand. So we revert to a bit of diversion and subterfuge, putting the clothes aside and promising not to wash them then. Later, when he’s not watching, we throw them in the washer. When asked by him later if we washed them in the washer, we tell him yes, and he seems OK with that.
But other than instances like this, I don’t see any real harm with him wanting to be a machine (or an object). If being so focused on something that you want to be that thing can help you understand it, then maybe the heightened understanding gained from this experience will help in designing better machines. Only time will tell. Until then, anyone with a spare Ferrari in their garage, feel free to send it my way.
Me- Joe, husband of a great wife, and dad to two great kids, who were both adopted at birth.
Liz- My ever understanding wife, who manages to wear many hats (mom, advocate, therapist, teacher) for our kids.
Buddy Boy- Born in 2000. Funny, intelligent, inventive, and autistic. Loves machines.
Sweet Pea- Born in 2002. Typical little sister. Competitive, outgoing, and smart. Loves anything pink.