But there are some things that I know others can sense about Zach, too. I recall in our early intervention days a few of the therapists discovered what I thought as well: Zach's favorite color is green. But how can this be? If someone cannot express something, we often feel they cannot know something. Thus is the problem with autism, and more-so with some of the tools and tests used to identify skills and IQ.
Anyone who is married likely understands that spending time with anyone, you see what they gravitate to, so words are not necessary. In fact, all too often I find with my neuro-typical peers and their supposed more intellectual and communicative abilities, that sometimes words run contrary to actions. And though I have been party to this myself, I find that some people live in this constant state, protecting themselves and their interests at all costs. Sometimes I have heard this referred to as "loyalty" or "self preservation". This is the "real world". I just have to laugh that many people with ASD are said to live in a different world. This world is probably more real than the world that many of us live in with lies and deceptions being tagged with positive spins. I was asked recently if someone telling me that my dog was fat upset me. I guess it did a little - and I have to think: why is that? I would guess that it initially feels like they are questioning me and my abilities. But why when faced with possible truth do we get upset? Why not heed it as someone looking out for us? Is this more of a woman thing? (for certain topics I would say: absolutely!) Being around the stoic and factual as long as I have been (dare I say that would be a class of people called engineers?) I realize too many people don't know how to deal with truth nor diplomacy in its execution. I am most likely one of them but am working on it. I went and asked a few animal professionals about Dear Doggy's weight and they concurred with my relative: they told me that extra weight can lead to joint stress in larger dogs so it would behoove us to get Miss Lucky's pudginess under control. So weight watchers for pooches here we come.
And so this brings me to the topic of Zach and Lucky. Yes, he likes the dog. You might never guess it since sometimes he appears to all out ignore her or look past her. When I ask him to pet the dog, once, and no more, a single glide of his hand across the head and partially down the back is all he offers. It might look like he does this begrudgingly, but I don't think so. Lucky doesn't have the straight lines that Zach favors, the bright colors, and monstrously huge eyes that he seems to like in other characters. But she has just the right amount of in your face "you must love me" or "you must pay attention to me" that seems to engage Zach from time to time. When Zach wants to flop on the ground, as he occasionally does in order to get out of doing something he doesn't prefer, Lucky appears to interpret this as a call to playtime. She quickly charges the lump on the ground and readies herself for licking. All it takes is hearing the tap on the hardwoods of Lucky's nails and Zach pops up like a piston on a V8. With this being one of their main courses of interaction, you would think: "Really? You say he likes the dog?" But indeed he does, and thus is the reason Lucky has a solid 10 to lose.
Observation indicates that Zach's favorite activity with the pup is to feed her. Especially when we are not looking. And he doesn't feed her food he doesn't like, recall that Zach likes his veggies: green beans, carrots, peas, broccoli, cucumbers, etc. Yes he shares the things he loves the most which just happens to be the most caloric and possibly toxic to our dear little pup - things like brownies and ice cream. He does it so subtly that it is often just seeing Lucky licking her lips meanwhile seeing that Zach's plate has unexpectedly emptied are the only clues I have been offered. Yet another reason I want a video surveillance system in the house. And so they are totally best buds, the kind that have that behind your back sneaky attachment to one another. When I purposely watched him share his food with her today, he carefully broke his caramel flavored rice cake in half and offered her the larger half. (larger half: as a fairly knowledgeable mathematician, I have to say writing this if offering me some tic-like side affects.)
And then there is baseball. I had always wanted my kids to play sports. I also knew that with Steve this would be a bit of a challenge since he is not the least bit interested in sports, and cannot stand the way most people conduct themselves at sporting events, including 7 year old girls soccer games. I have to admit, I concur that many a fan can be accused of behaving badly. I also try to explain to the Good Doctor that many people find sports as an outlet for pent up energy, anger, resentment. The act of sports themselves as well as the cheering allows a way to release these anxieties. Of course this is only theory. I had to find a way to justify my crazy family. You see I was raised in a house where screaming at a rectangular box with a CRT was not an uncommon experience, long before Windows and the concept of reboot were born, and I had to explain this rather odd behavior some way, so it was the theory I derived myself. It helps me to view those I love not as the maniacal obsessives they were.
|Zach at the Chief's Game|
And the offer of Challenger baseball then came up. I once again jumped at that chance. I knew it would make life busy - twice a week, but felt he needed the exposure. Challenger baseball is a division of Little League baseball with "30,000 children participat[ing] in more than 900 Challenger Divisions worldwide." If you live in an area that has a baseball stadium, you most likely have a Challenger league in your area. If you want to do something nice for yourself - go check out a game sometime. It is by no means competitive, but I view it as an exposure for Zach to learn the nuances of the game. And he has! Last week he even hit off a tee himself. He runs all the bases although we direct him where to run and how far. My wish is to get him on a regular team one day - I know he likes it and something in me tells me to make this a priority for him - so we occasionally pull the tee out at home and I have been practicing throwing and catching with him on the trampoline.
OK - so what is this about? Reciprocal interaction is challenging for many on the spectrum, and indeed is one the challenges for Zach. A simple game of catch can be so difficult for him to grasp. I am not sure if the motor issues are a problem or the concept of catch is a problem. I am often fooled into thinking that Zach has no fine or gross motor challenges since he met most of his all of his milestones on time and didn't require services to support motor issues as he did with speech when he was younger.
But simply asking Zach to do a thumbs up creates confusion for him and his attempts are often no where near the real thing - one reason we didn't push Zach into learning how to sign.
It didn't take long to realize we chose well, Zach really seems to enjoy baseball. His coach even posted to my facebook account "Zach loves Baseball:-)" with some really nice photos of the event which I previously posted to my blog. Nearly every picture of Zach taken shows that smile on his face that I am trying to ensure never leaves. He didn't need to say it - just observation let's you know it. Words are unnecessary.
And yes, that would be Sophia along the third base line. She has taken this position to help runners at third
find their way home. And she loves it.
So we are a baseball family now - the Good Doctor brings his mitt to help field balls, I bring water to hydrate the players, Sophia has even asked to play on the team!
It's times like these that are a little bittersweet - I think about my Dad - how he would have cheered Zach on and practiced with him. My Dad the athlete who truly loved nearly all sports - who would call his brother in Atlanta and watch the Braves game together. My Dad who was thrilled when my grandmother revealed that Carl Yastrzemski was a distant cousin of hers. That being said - Sophia and I have declared ourselves a Yankees family - so fear no more NY fans. :) I have to think the Good Doctor's Dad would have been similar - he played sports and coached as well as tuned to the games.
With that, I bid you adieu, to remember the games of catch I played with Pops and think about the ones I am going to try to get Zach to play. So lucky to have this opportunity for my son. Play Ball!