Sunday, August 19, 2012

Alex's Four S's

As kids around the country head back to school this month to learn the traditional “3 R’s—reading, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmetic,” Alex has instead been focusing upon 4 S’s. In past blog entries, I have described how he goes through phases where certain topics and activities hold great interest—even to the point of obsession—for him. Sometimes these interests are ones he rediscovers after taking a break from them for several months, even years, which brings us to our first S: Seuss. Lately, Alex has been asking me “to visit” him, which means he likes for me to hang out in his room. Since conversation isn’t one of his strengths, he has decided that the best way for us to visit is for me to read aloud to him, which is reminiscent of when he was little and liked me to read to him. Although Alex taught himself to read by the age of three, which was part of his hyperlexia, or precocious reading skills, he enjoyed having me read to him even though he could read to himself. Part of this nostalgic recent activity has been his choice of reading material—Dr. Seuss. Pulling four of Dr. Seuss’s best books from Alex’s childhood library, he has asked me to read The Foot Book, The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss’s ABC, and my personal favorite, Green Eggs and Ham. While I read the familiar rhymes and funny lines, Alex grins and seems to enjoy revisiting these old stories. I have to admit, I enjoy reading them as much as he likes to hear them, so this is a nice way to spend my “visits” with Alex.

Another current interest for Alex is also a rediscovery: sunrises and sunsets. Since he was little, weather has fascinated Alex, and at one point he told us he wanted to be a meteorologist when he grew up. Also, he has always been interested in time, so the marking of time by sunrises and sunsets naturally interests him. This past week, he has been asking me to check online the times of sunrise and sunset for each day, and he has been looking for patterns as far as how the days grow shorter over time. Yesterday, I reminded him that The Old Farmer’s Almanac, whose new annual editions he receives every year for Christmas because it is one of his favorite reference books, contains a great deal of information about sunrises and sunsets. After I handed him a recent edition of the almanac, he happily began studying when sunrises and sunsets fall on various dates of the year.

Unlike Dr. Seuss and the movement of the sun, which are rediscovered joys for Alex, a new obsession for him is showers. While Alex has always liked taking baths and seems to find them calming, taking showers is a new experience that he looks forward to every day. Because Alex didn’t like getting water in his eyes, we never had him take showers at home, fearing he might get upset if the water sprayed his eyes, and just had him take baths instead. However, when he was in the hospital, his only option for bathing was to take showers. At first, he was quite tentative, as we would have anticipated, putting only a leg and an arm in the shower. With time, he was able to put his entire body in the shower, overcoming his fears and actually enjoying the shower. Now, as soon as he rolls out of bed every morning, he asks us when “shower time” is, even though he knows that we follow a scheduled 7:00 in the evening shower time. Throughout the day, he’ll ask us repeatedly when shower time is or how long it will be until he takes a shower. While it might seem easier to allow him to take his shower earlier in the day, we know that showering seems to be the highlight of his day and prefer that he looks forward to this activity he anticipates so eagerly.

Another new interest for Alex is the red Solo cup, and we can blame country singer Toby Keith for this. [Click here to see Toby Keith singing his popular tune “Red Solo Cup.”] A country music fan, Alex especially likes country songs that are funny, such as Alan Jackson’s “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” and Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places,” so Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup” fits right into Alex’s taste for clever songs about drinking.  After listening to “Red Solo Cup” dozens of times, Alex decided that he, too, would like to drink out of a red Solo cup. Unfortunately for him, he can’t drink beer, and we don’t have Solo cups of any color. Fortunately for me, I was able to convince him that a red plastic cup we have was a Solo cup and that apple juice would go well in that cup. Whether he was humoring me or really did believe me, he has been enjoying apple juice in his pseudo red Solo cup, which he asks for by name. I suspect that my persuasive powers are not as great, though, as those as the lyrics of the song: “Red Solo cup, you’re more than just plastic. You’re more than amazing; you’re more than fantastic. And believe me, I’m not the least bit sarcastic when I look at you and say, 'Red Solo cup, you’re not just a cup. You’re my friend. Thank you for being my friend.'” If that plastic cup makes him happy, I’m delighted.

Although I’m sure Alex’s somewhat unusual current interests will likely fade, as all phases do, I’m glad that he has found simple things that bring him joy. Until he gets tired of them, I’ll keep reading aloud Dr. Seuss books, looking up sunrise and sunset data for him, reminding him that shower time is 7:00 P.M., and encouraging him to drink his apple juice in the beloved red “Solo” cup.  I just hope that he can always find little things that make him happy—what a blessing that truly is!

“Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.” James 5:13

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