When Alex was in special education preschool, some of the goals included in his IEP focused upon expressive language, which was a real area of weakness for him then and one he continues to struggle with even today. At that time, the suggestion was for him to work on statements that began with “I want” or “I need.” Since Alex has always confused first and second person pronouns, mixing up I and you, simply starting these sentences was tough for him. He would avoid the pronouns completely by saying something like, “Want cookie,” reminiscent of Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster. Sometimes he would drop the verb, as well, and just tell us, “Cookie.” We found him especially endearing when he would ask for a cookie instead of demanding one, which was more typical since he was docile and sweet. To do this, he would tilt his head, smile, and ask, “Cookie?”
Later, as he gained more confidence in his speech, he would more often ask for things by saying, “How ‘bout,” as in “How ‘bout some juice?” or “How ‘bout go to Wal-Mart?” Similarly, he improved his ability to let his needs be known by telling us things such as, “Need a haircut” or “Need a Band-Aid.” When he was younger, he thought the way to fix anything that didn't work was to put a new battery in it. Perhaps because he played with so many electronic toys and had seen them rev back to life with new batteries, Alex believed that somehow batteries were a magic cure. I remember once that he had dropped some toy of his and was upset that it no longer worked. I kept trying to explain to him that it was broken, but he kept earnestly insisting, “Needs new batteries!” If only putting in new batteries could solve every problem so easily, life would be much simpler.
The other night, Alex came running frantically into the family room, where Ed and I were watching television. Clearly upset and suffering from an anxiety attack, he blurted something he’s never said before: “I need an Ativan!’ Alex’s doctor has prescribed a low dose of the sedative Ativan to help ease his anxiety attacks, but we only give it to him when he’s very agitated. In fact, we don’t even tell him that we’re giving him Ativan because that usually makes him more upset, realizing that he needs to be sedated. Instead, we’ve been telling him lately that we’re giving him a vitamin to make him feel better. While we probably shouldn’t deceive him, we know that telling him the truth would upset him more, and we’re less likely to get our fingers bitten when we place the pill in his mouth. It’s a win-win situation as far as we’re concerned. Therefore, we found it surprising that he requested his anxiety medication specifically. When we asked him why he needed it, he explained that he was upset about Monopoly Junior [his current obsession that sends him into anxiety attacks]. Seeing that his hands were shaking from excess adrenaline, we agreed with his statement of need and gave him an Ativan pill, which calmed his nerves within a few minutes. To be honest, I miss those days when juice, cookies, Band-Aids, or batteries solved all of Alex’s problems. Although I wish Alex didn’t suffer anxiety attacks, I’m thankful that he not only has become so in tune with his emotions, but also that he can express himself to explain what’s wrong and what he needs to solve the problem. We’re just hoping that he will someday soon say, “I need to stop thinking about Monopoly Junior.” Now that would be something we want to hear.
“I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers.” Isaiah 65:24