Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Thinking Distortions

When Alex was younger and seemed to be contemplating the world deeply, we often wondered what he was thinking and wished that he could tell us what was on his mind. As the saying goes, we learned, “Be careful what you wish for, for you will surely get it.” Now that Alex can verbalize his thoughts and feelings, we have a better glimpse of his thought processes, but frankly, sometimes they’re really strange. Because of his tendencies to have obsessions, he often gets stuck on certain topics and can’t let go of them. This means that he needs to tell us his concerns repeatedly throughout the day, and we must patiently reassure him not to worry or remind him that the problem has already been solved. For instance, he has recently been concerned that he doesn’t have a good memory. I have read that those with savant memory skills often lose some of the phenomenal storage capabilities when their social skills improve. Since they are interacting with others instead of just focusing on memorizing details, the ability to store facts easily declines somewhat. Perhaps Alex recognizes this change in himself and feels frustrated that he can’t remember things as well as he used to be able. Nonetheless, we remind him that he memorized hundreds of digits of pi, and that fact convinces him that he does have a good memory.

Alex’s most recent obsession about his voice has about driven us crazy the past several weeks. After studying adolescence in medical books, he decided that he wanted to regain the voice he had prior to puberty. He would deliberately talk in a higher pitch voice, and he ordered a voice changer toy that altered the pitch of his voice as he spoke through this electronic speaker gadget. In addition, he purchased a sound level meter and studied the sound concepts of decibels and hertz, trying to understand the variation of voices between children and adults. Although we tried to assure him that his voice suited the size and age he is now, he insisted that his voice was “too damn deep.” Aside from some early teen rebellion, where he thought it was funny to use profanities, Alex never curses, so we knew he felt strongly about his worries about his voice. To make matters worse, he busily researched voices on the Internet and found some self-proclaimed expert [whose grammar and spelling were atrocious, adding to the lack of credibility] who wrote that surgery could be done on vocal cords to make the voice higher pitched. Despite our attempts to dissuade Alex, he was convinced that he wanted this surgery and was sure that it would cost about two thousand dollars, which he was willing to save and pay himself. Moreover, he wanted us to take him to the doctor so that he could discuss this medical procedure. Fortunately, with the retirement of his doctor and the transition to the new doctor requiring several weeks before we can see him, Alex had time to get this odd notion out of his head before he shared it with the doctor. After talking about his voice, little kids’ voices, decibels, hertz, voice changers, sound level meters, and surgery repeatedly every day for several weeks, Alex thankfully seems to have moved past this strange obsession. Perhaps it was a Christmas miracle; we haven’t heard about voices or changing them for a few days, so we’re hopeful that Alex finally has straightened out this idea in his mind.

As I mentioned in another blog entry “Stages,” every annoying phase eventually disappears and is usually replaced by an equally annoying phase. As soon as Alex stopped talking about his voice, he started another weird habit. For some reason, he has decided to eat with his eyes closed. It’s actually pretty amazing how adeptly he can wolf down food without looking at his plate, but he has managed to eat well for the past few days while keeping his eyes closed. He’s doing this with a smile on his face, so at least he’s not agitated or upset, as he was during the voice obsession, which is an improvement. The other night, we took him to a restaurant, where he ate his entire meal with his eyes closed. I suspect this bothered Ed more than it bothered me, but I was sitting next to Alex, so I didn’t have to watch him the entire time, as Ed did because he was sitting across from him. I think if he continues this trend, we’ll just have him wear sunglasses if he’s eating in public so that his unusual behavior is less obvious. While we have asked him why he’s eating with his eyes closed, Alex hasn’t yet revealed his reasoning for this behavior. Perhaps this is for the best; he probably has some distorted reasoning that makes perfect sense in his mind. In the meantime, we’re just glad he’s not eagerly waiting to have unnecessary surgery, and we know that like everything else, “This, too, shall pass.”

“How can you comfort me? All your explanations are wrong!” Job 21:34


Big Daddy Autism said...

This post may be a glimpse into the next few years for me and my son who is now 13.

Fiitingly, the Word Verification for this commentis "uncle". Some of the phases my son goes through makes me want to cry "uncle."

Fred Haeberle said...

I have heard there are restaurants where you eat in total darkness. The servers can see but not the patrons. If you are ever convinced you should attend one of these restaurants, Alex will keep you out of trouble.

Pam Byrne said...

Hi Big Daddy,
Those early teen years are a test of patience, but at least you'll have some interesting stories for your blog! ;) With your great sense of humor, I'm sure you'll be able to find something to laugh about, even when you're crying, "Uncle."
Take care,

Pam Byrne said...

Hi Fred,
Since Alex doesn't have to see when he's eating, I guess he would be fine at one of those restaurants you described, but I'd probably knock over my drink. ;) We still haven't figure out why he doesn't want to see what he's eating...
Take care,