I’ve created a monster. A monster of regression?

Dar’s latest thing is coming up to me and saying “nuh” in an apparent effort to get me to say “no” in response. Is this as bad as a global pandemic or systemic racism? No, but others are better positioned to speak about those.

How did this latest thing start? Well, it started because Dar asks for things. I sometimes refuse those things. I try to refuse in the nicest possible way. “Sorry no you can’t have that.”

At some point during the last few weeks, Dar began regularly approaching me, taking my hand and saying “nuh!” I took this to mean that he wanted me to repeat after him. So I started doing that. But it has evolved to where Dar actually objects until he hears “no” in the highest possible lilt, like an amateur male thespian imitating a woman. I gotta get chirpy!

When I do say “nuh!” with the high lilt, he often walks away happy, as though he just got a cat to smile or something. And you know, if this was something he did once a day, or once an hour, or even once every 15 minutes, I could roll with that.

But lately, he has taken to doing it every thirty seconds or more often. I know the attention of a child is precious and one shouldn’t complain about too much of a good thing…but, uh, sorry, I’m complaining. He doesn’t want to stop. I started this blog entry in a room with Dar. Now that he’s done this 20 more times, I’m hiding in a different room of the house just so that I can focus enough to finish this blog entry.

Nowadays Dar wants me to say “no” even when I want to say yes. I’m not sure he’s realizing what I mean when I really say no, if he ever did. What I’m about to say will be unfathomable to almost anyone else with a 10-year-old, but our 10-year-old barely knows the difference between “yes” and “no” and certainly can’t deploy them consistently. We have massive spreadsheets of data – graphs that chart Dar’s work on yes/no over years. These are of course separating into him saying no and him understanding no. The TL;DR version is that Dar is better at yes/no than he was three years ago, but the ideas still represent a massive challenge. I still hand him things I know he wants only to hear him say “nuh.”

Sometimes when he’s grabbing me like he has been, sometimes just to change it up, I respond, “show me on talker!” or “show me on iPad!” This is supposed to be his cue to use his iPad’s Proloquo2go app to find the icon that refers to what he wants. When he wants something like the TV, or ice cream, or the hose, finding and touching the icon is no problem. But when he touches me and says “nuh!” he wants…something else. Usually he just wants me to repeat “no!” with that cheerful lilt, although occasionally he walks away disappointed. I could easily train him with a new icon, and in that context I should say that I’m very grateful that Dar is very trainable if the icon is a new noun that he wants (say, candy). However…what would the icon be in this case? “No”? No, we save that for other things. “Daddy”? Maybe. Not really appropriate either, but maybe. In the world of kids who talk with board icons, It’s always tricky to train something that you never want them to say.

Does all this “nuh!” I’m hearing lately represent regression because of cabin fever brought on by the pandemic? Well, maybe. But I’m not as worried about that as you might think. Dar has a very well-established penchant of getting into something to the point of obsession for a few weeks or so, and then forgetting all about it.

Right this minute I’m a little more concerned about my cabin fever. Technically, there are enough rooms in this house for me to hide away from Dar. (I could write “as I’m doing now” but that would be a lie; I’m back in the same room as Dar as I type this part.) I know parents of 10-year-olds that can go most of a day without seeing the kid, because they just leave him/her in a room with a tablet or whatever. However, that doesn’t really work here at Chez Smith-Rowsey for a few reasons. Number one: when Dar is left alone, after maybe 30 minutes or so, he usually starts screaming. He doesn’t like to be left alone. At 3am I try to tune out the screaming, or rely on ear plugs, but that doesn’t really work any better than it does at 3pm. I wind up hanging out with him until he calms down. Number two: when left alone, Dar rips shit up. Sadly this is not done in the fun way of a skateboarder or snowboarder. Instead Dar rips papers and food packaging. If we leave him alone for an hour in a room, we tend to return to that room to find scraps of mess everywhere. Most of that isn’t awful, although cleaning broken pens and cracked DVD cases gets annoying. Number three: I’m primarily responsible for Dar. That reason has several sub-reasons, like a) I have more home time than wifey, b) the state of California pays me something for it, c) he seems to respect my authority more, d) I’m bigger and can better handle his growing strength. What this means is that if I’ve left him alone, even if I’m temporarily in the bathroom, and I hear wifey moving around the house into a room with Dar, I feel like I need to run in there and make sure Dar isn’t ripping shit or climbing on things or being naked (he loves to be naked) or otherwise destroying things.

Do I recommend having a severely autistic child? Let me answer that with one word in my chirpiest, cheerfuliest tone: no!

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