This week we celebrated another developmental milestone. Happy Chin discovered Facebook.
On returning home (with strict instructions from Mr August to pick up wine on the way home as HC was ‘being annoying’), I discovered a harried Tech Support trying to prepare the evening meal, Mr A deep in laundry duties, the Lamington nowhere to be found and HC getting under everyone’s feet.
I decamped to the couch with the laptop, inviting HC to join me with a suggestion of YouTube. We love YouTube in our house. It doesn’t matter how ancient or obscure the episode of Bob the Builder – you can find it on YouTube…and get a little peace for fifteen minutes or so.
“What would you like to watch?” I enquired.
“Facebook,” replied Happy Chin.
Facebook??? In the parlance of the day, WTF? He knows about Facebook?
So I dragged my chin up off the floor and fired up the good old FB. Obviously, one of his carers must have been on Facebook at some point and shown him something that piqued his interest. How hard could this be to narrow down?
“OK, then, what do you want to see on Facebook?” I asked.
“Facebook,” he replied.
I pressed on.
“Was it something you saw on Facebook? A talking dog? A dancing parrot? The Temple City Kazoo Orchestra performing Seven Nation Army?”
“Facebook!” he insisted, jabbing the screen with his index finger.
Happy Chin’s technology has hitherto all been Apple-based, so he doesn’t exactly get that our laptop isn’t a touch screen. We’ve tried to explain this without success. I’m getting quite worried about the screen. Yet another thing to see if our home and contents insurance covers….we’ve already found that Apple don’t cover iPods getting wee’d on in bed or hurled against walls. I made a mental note to have another interesting conversation with the insurance company soon.
“Mate, Facebook is a very big place. You have got to use your words to tell me what you want to see.”
“Face-Book!” he replied, with emphasis.
Yeah, I admit, I fell into that one.
Meanwhile, in the spirit of healthier eating, I had a bowl of nuts which I was bribing him to eat instead of pre-dinner chips or crackers. Eat a nut, then I’ll find what you want online. Quid pro quo. So he ate a nut. Great! No, damn! Now I had to miraculously find this needle in the Facebook haystack.
Turns out he really likes nuts, so that side of the transaction was going well.
Really, I don’t know what I expected from him. He was hardly going to say “I want to see the video of the cute little cat who’s terrified of the vacuum cleaner.” But one day it might happen, so I keep asking.
Lately I’ve started asking more and more complex things of Happy Chin, just for the hell of it. He often surprises me. I recently asked him to shoo the chickens out of the laundry (they sneak in and eat the dogs’ food) and he not only shoo’d them out with a very robust “Pitt op,” he also closed the back door so they couldn’t get back in. I hadn’t asked him to shut the door, so I thought this showed encouraging initiative on his part.
I’ve also developed the habit of nattering away to him in the car about whatever pops into my head. He doesn’t seem to mind and who knows what language he’ll pick up while I blather on at him? Hopefully not “you stupid idiot, you give way to the right at a roundabout! Where did you get your license? The corn flakes packet?”
For several years we home educated HC. We ran a home program where we (and our team of amazing volunteers) worked with him in his playroom one-on-one. Sometimes, when he didn’t feel like participating or just if I was getting bored, I’d play by myself or sing songs to his toys. One of the wonderful teachers at the Autism Treatment Centre in the US (who had also run a home program for her child) told me she used to make up little songs and sing them to her daughter’s dolls.
“Barbie loves Ken. But he’s in love with another girl. That Bratz doll with the low-cut pants….lalala”
If you have a problem, Happy Chin is a great listener. He never interrupts. He never actually gives any valuable advice either, but you can’t have everything. Sometimes it’s enough for someone to just sit and listen. Granted, it is a bit disconcerting when you’ve just poured out all your problems to someone and they turn to you at the end and say, “Milkshake.” But it could be worse. They could say, “you are a complete loser and you’ve made a huge mess of your entire life. Now get me a milkshake.”
I never did find out what he wanted on Facebook. But we had a nice time sitting together on the couch. For years, we assumed when HC said a word it was because he wanted that thing. Only recently have we realised he may just want to talk about it. And have someone stop for five minutes to listen and be interested. Or even just pretend to be interested.
I’m going to continue to view our interaction as a developmental milestone, an interaction common to many parents of young people. Young person approaches parent to share the cool thing they’ve seen online, parent feigns interest, everyone is happy.
I have a fridge magnet that says “Pseudo Authentic Enthusiasm next 2-3 hours.” It’s false advertising. I’m not capable of 2-3 hours’ worth. But I can manage it for long enough to get the laundry folded and dinner on the table.