Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Life of A

One of the traits autistic individuals have is that they lack imagination. In children, this is one of the red flags. Often they mimic, but they have difficulty creating their own play scenes.

Little A fell into that category, and perhaps still does. But that doesn't mean he will remain in that box. Perhaps he is maturing emotionally, perhaps we're doing something right as parents and teachers, but recently he has been more imaginative.

Since he is non-verbal, he can't easily express what is on his mind, but we see it in his play.

Over Easter break, he watched certain parts of Ang Lee's film "Life of Pi" several times. He loves animals and water, and often takes toys into the pool and tub.

I haven't seen the movie in full, though I have read the book, so I was surprised when one day I peeked in on Little A in the tub and saw the bathroom floor covered in water.

As I watched, he filled his plastic bucket carefully, carried it to the edge of the tub, and tipped the water onto the floor. A tiger and several animals floated in the tub. The Au Pair rushed in and said, "You are not Pi!" and came back with a mop.

Apparently there is a scene when the lifeboat needs bailing out, and the main character does this with a bucket. So this was Little A's recreation of the scene. He has also tried, but failed, to get the cat into the tub with him, since he doesn't have a real live tiger.

Then last weekend, he set up his train set - the tunnel is his favorite - and a few days later asked me to help build some of his farm set. He also took out the Sesame Street building that is a modern version of one I had as a child. (Sadly, my aunt and cousins never returned the toys we lent them.) I looked into his room and saw that he had created his own scene. Certainly it wasn't one I'd ever seen in any of his books or shows.

He plays with this little diorama, but is careful to put the toys back in their places, instead of packing away. For now, this is his play land. It might not be what other almost-seven-year olds do, but my eight and a half year old typical godson was playing with the same toys on his last visit, so I don't think Little A is stuck in an earlier developmental play stage. Now to get some dialogue going into the next play scenes. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Burnt Feet

Holy Week is usually the hottest of the year, until May comes around. On Easter Sunday, there is an egg hunt and party in our building for all the kids.

Little A doesn't usually join in the party games as he dislikes loud adults constantly yapping into a microphone, which is a norm at all Filipino children's parties, sadly. So he participated in the egg hunt, did the rounds of the party area before and after the main event, and generally had a decent time.

He spends much of his outdoor time these days zooming around on the scooter/skateboard we got him two Christmases ago. It sat in a corner, ignored, for an entire year, and this January he simply decided one day to learn how to use it. A proper skateboard mounted with a removable handle, it requires more balance work than the average scooter. I have a hard time on it, but my son is young and determined and far more agile than even my former ballerina body once was, so he learnt without any major falls and has mastered turning and stopping.

Like a dancer, he enjoys getting the feel of the floor, and prefers to scoot barefoot. This is fine most of the time, summer being the exception. We chase after him asking him to please wear flip flops while skating because the ground is scorching mid-afternoon.

So hot, in fact, that two days later, Big A noticed red patches on the soles of Little A's feet that turned out to be first degree burns. He'd been back at school a couple of days already, and they are barefoot in the classrooms as well, so I asked his school nurse to keep an eye out and make sure there were no blisters or peeled skin. Burn ointment was applied every night while he slept, and the redness faded within a week.

Little A didn't complain, but he did give up the scooter for a couple of days. And we strictly forbade him from outdoor play between noon and 4pm. This is now his youTube and iPad time.

These days, since he is back at school, scooter time is back to early mornings and late afternoons. And now, finally, he manages to skateboard on hot days while keeping his flip flops on. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hooray for Pigs

Barely a month after returning from their annual pilgrimage to the Spring Buying Fairs in Europe, my parents were off again, this time for a month in the United States, where my sister was scheduled for much-needed heart valve surgery.

As a child, my younger sister tired easily, and was diagnosed with asthma. She was naturally athletic, but couldn't train rigorously in any one sport long enough to participate in national competitions. She got top grades in P.E. classes and was always asked to join varsity teams, but never got to fulfil all of their training requirements.

About a decade ago, her husband noticed that her heartbeat sounded irregular. It turns out she's had a heart condition probably all her life, called mitral valve prolapse. Apparently it's not an uncommon condition, but most cases are mild enough to be left alone. Hers was moderate to severe, with considerable regurgitation of blood in her heart that caused her to tire easily and get short of breath.

This condition can be hereditary, in this case inherited from our paternal grandfather. He had valve repair surgery years ago at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, a renowned heart centre. So my sister headed over there too.

On hearing the possible option of replacement with a mechanical valve if repair couldn't' be done, she shelved the operation in favour of having children first. The blood thinners required for life after a valve replacement would mean she couldn't get pregnant. She had two girls in 11 months, but then didn't get pregnant again.

This year, her doctor noticed a marked deterioration in her heart condition, making immediate surgery a necessity. As soon as school ended for the girls, they flew off to Cleveland with my parents, for a month.

This morning the surgery finally took place, after the doctors had changed the schedule several times. Two valves were damaged - one was repaired, and the other replaced with a natural valve which would not require blood thinners, but which will in turn require replacement every 10 - 15 years.  The valve they used was porcine.

A long-time fan of Grey's Anatomy, I never thought my knowledge of random medical facts would come in useful, until now. My sister currently recovers in the ICU, and we continue praying for her complete and quick recovery.