A Colorful Life

Children are survival pros.

Immediately after birth, they usually come to their desired goal by screaming. I admit, the needs are still manageable and easily met: they are either hungry or thirsty, have a stomach ache or need a diaper change.

As soon as the need is met and there is no longer an existential crisis, babies are relaxed. And so are the parents.

When children get to the age in which screaming is no longer effective or has the opposite effect (“if you keep screaming, you won’t get anything!”), they change their tactics.

Smart! They simply express their wishes in a very concrete manner or turn out to be full professionals in negotiating.

If that doesn’t help, they use their eyelashes as a fairly effective weapon.

When even that no longer works, they have grown up. 

But this is a different story.

Let’s get back to expressing wishes.

Jim has desires and needs like most 4 year olds. But he can’t tell us that.

Negotiating is also difficult.

You see, Jim is verbally limited. In order to understand how Jim communicates, you have to know: there are groups of words that he has mastered and whose meaning he also understands.

Animals: he knows them all, from ant to zebra, and can also name them correctly.

Then there are vehicles: car, bus, taxi (the favorite!), ambulance, police car, garbage truck and anything else that is motorized.

Jim can also name all the colors of the most colorful rainbow.

Only “blue” is and remains “ngaa”. Jim can also combine these words, e.g. red car or black dog.

In addition to vehicles, animals and colors, there are of course a few other words that he can say that are vital for him.

Above all: chocolate cookies!

With this in mind, Jim has put together a really smart strategy to make it clear to us what he needs or wants.

I have to admit that it took me a while to understand the strategy. But now it seems logical to me and I am fascinated every time that he came up with it on his own and didn’t give up until we finally got it.

It clicked in a stressful moment: Jim slipped from a classic tantrum into a solid meltdown.

The difference between a tantrum and meltdown is that a meltdown cannot be eased by simply fulfilling the need that caused it.

It is a state of emergency, an existential threat, fight or flight mode.

Perhaps most likely comparable with a violent panic attack.

Jim has his own calming mechanism during these meltdowns.

Most of the time he randomly shouts all the words he knows, sometimes he counts lot 100 obsessively. On this particular day, the meltdown lasted what felt like an eternity. 

After saying (or rather yelling) his entire vocabulary umpteen times, he looked at me and screamed from the top of his lungs “white white white white white”.

At first I didn’t put any attention to it. I kept doing what you do in these moments: bear hug, deep breaths, the full program of keeping everyone safe. Nothing seemed to help.

I think Jim was simply frustrated  that I just didn’t get it. So he peeled himself out of my hug, ran sobbing into the kitchen, grabbed the kitchen roll, tore off a sheet, showed it to me, screamed “white” and dried his tears.

Oh, what a fool I am! Of course! The WHITE tissue!

This strategy might not always be suitable for everyday use. I mean, we do have quite a lot of white objects in our household. Jim doesn’t always mean the tissue.

“Black” usually means the TV, but it can also be the battery cover of the Hot Wheels racetrack, which I should open to reinsert the battery that I removed the night before (our neighbors don’t deserve to be in a Formula-1 race at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning).

“Green” took me the longest: That is the power button on the remote control of the TV.

Would you have guessed?

For Jim, colors are a wonderful way to make us understand his needs and wants.

It is a great tool for us to avert breakdowns and to keep encouraging him to speak.

The next step is to work out with him that this one tissue is white, but it is not called “white”.

After all, a tissue can also be blue, pink or green, but it remains a tissue.

We still have a long road ahead of us, but the road is clear.

I keep being fascinated by Jim’s willpower, and by the cognitive transfer his little head mastered by himself. And if I pretend that I don’t understand him because he already had enough chocolate cookies, he simply hands me the box again and looks at me with his big blue eyes and long eyelashes.

And he wins. Let me tell ya, children are just survival pros.

Written by, Marison Dantas da Silva

Hi, I am Marison, a German living in Vienna, the beautiful capital of Austria, together with my boyfriend Ollie, our 4yr old son Jim and our dog Bob. Jim was diagnosed last year with Autism Spectrum Disorder, although we had suspected it for quite a while. He is a very social kid and limited verbal. I started writing about our journey because there are not many German-speaking blogs on Autism that focus on the positive side of the diagnosis. On my blog, I let you join our family virtually while I focus on all the things that Jim CAN do. You can follow Jim’s Journey on FB and Instagram.

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Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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