Dying/broken/forgiven.... now I begin

Born: 17-06-56....gemini.... monkey
re-born: 3-09-80
born again\found: 14-04-08
other notable dates: 10-03-68; 03-09-87; 23-03-96;
1-05-98; 31-01-02; 5-04-04

Interests: movement, stressed/transgressive embodiment, lived experience (body\space\time\relation)
expression ( word, dance, text, image, story, music, poetics)
learning, yielding......

Hopes for the blog:
offer up the wild intersectedness of lived experience and engage others in creative, expressive, perhaps irreverant, hopefully playful, and respectful encounters....
enact kindness
create moments of pause for disclosure, discovery, stillness

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Autism Camp, the next installment: Echolalia

Johann B. likes to get naked and cavort. This was cute when he was five years old and could get his scrawny little butt out of sight quickly. It is not cute now that he is 15 and has more body parts that flop, jiggle and swing when he moves. That particular summer, Johann's favourite trick was to stand in the middle of the gymnasium and begin taking off his clothes. Sometimes he'd start at the top and work his way down and sometimes he's start at the bottom and work his way up. The two students who worked with him, Jason and Chris, were young guys in their early 20's, with wonderful dispositions and sensibilities. Jason was a rugby player who swore that working with kids with Autism totally improved his rugby game. Chris was a wiry little guy who had made a vow against profanity once he decided he was going to be a primary school teacher. So, there they were, doing a strip-tease tango with Johann... he'd take off his pants and underwear and while Jason and Chris were busy getting them all back on, he'd be pulling off his t-shirt. Eventually they split up and tag-teamed : one took the top and the other took the bottom until Johann decided it wasn't entertaining any more.
Geez, Johann, they'd say
Geez, Johann, he'd say back.
This is not fun...
This is not fun...
This is stopping ...now!
This is stopping ... now!
... and then he'd stop, somehow hearing his own voice saying something he hadn't planned on paying attention to.
Needless to say, bathroom breaks were also " not fun". Chris wanders in to check on Johann after a 15 minute wait, alerting Jason to be on the ready for one of Johann's ( in) famous streaking performances. Chris ought to have been prepared for this by now, but he was nonetheless surprised by Johann, in all his glory, perched happily on the commode.
Holy Cats, you're naked!! Chris blurts it out before he can even think about the consequences...
Johann latches on like a drowning man. Holy Cats, you're naked, he yells; then again, and again.
It is a mantra, a chant, a cheer! He leaves his pile of clothes and dashes out into the gym. Holy Cats, you're naked, he shouts with glee, galloping and swinging his arms in big circles....
everyone gazes at this display in utter amazement. Sometimes, you just have to bow to the absurd.
Jason and Chris corral him and guide him, giggling fiendishly, back to the bathroom. They are giggling, too, and who can blame them! Freshly dressed, Johann moves through the rest of the day. No more undressing, no more echolalia. Perhaps we did a brilliant re-direct.
Johann's mom comes to pick him up. He plops down in the front seat and gazes at her, a little fatigued and glassy -eyed. She catches my eye for an instant, but before I can say a word, she waves and drives off. I watch the car for a moment as Mrs.B. swerves and then regains control. That must have been an interesting ride home.


  1. And in the end when everyone gets to that point in the day when there is a pause, you all can look back through said day and be well pleased that a bit of nudity and echolalia was the worst of Johann's time with you that day.

  2. I moseyed over from The Crow, and I am glad I did! As the parent of an Aspergian son, I'm always interested in reading about autism. More than that though, you are just a terrific writer!

  3. It's things like this that make me wonder at the patience of some people. I just couldn't cope with circumstances like these, at all.

  4. i echo madame defarge. so often in books and movies people with such problems are portrayed as funny or romantic "free spirits". the reality...

    these posts are really interesting. i look forward to any more you might have.

  5. thanks, everyone... I am working on my next installment... hopefully I will get it up here sometime later today...

  6. Harlequin:

    As we watched a movie together this eveneing, Donovan kept breaking into giggles, tightening his leg muscles and squeezing a small pillow. His mother told him to settle, to quiet his giggling.

    "But I'm happy," he answered, trying to explain without knowing how to, exactly, that the intense happiness he felt at the way the movie was going was more than he could subdue and he was doing the best he could to control it.

    To those not used to his ways, the deep throaty giggles might sound menacing, even maniacal. But he's just a joyful child, caught up in the story he's watching.

    We are glad he hasn't decided he needs to express his happines in the nude.


  7. Thanks for this blog: I found you through Expressions, I think.
    My nephew liam has some kind of spectrum disorder at six years of age. His mother works like a warrior. She's my hero, but my life is in this too. Even though we are 2000 miles apart.
    She wrote on her blog (unfortunately private) about wanting to save her son. After writing three paragraphs of some of the most moving stuff I have ever read, she confessed Autism (or whatever it is) had in fact saved her.
    This blog is what I need, to become just a little closer to such wisdom. Thanks so very much.

  8. Andy-- welcome and thanks for your comments and sensitivity ... and sensibility.