Friday, December 09, 2011

Overheard At The Zoo

Our youngest could be described as a mix of eccentric, quirky, hilarious, colorful and intense...  with an uncanny resemblance to Cindy Lauper.  My mom keeps it simple and calls her delightful.

She's on the autism spectrum, and although she has overcome so much and is doing better each year, there are still so many ways that this impacts her life as well as ours.

I wouldn't change a thing.  She truly is a delightful ten year old with her own unique Christmas tradition.

Years ago, when she was struggling with so many areas of language and auditory processing issues, asking her what she wanted for Christmas was an event in and of itself.  Unable to process the question and communicate her answer, more often than not she'd simply answer with whatever was on her mind (or in her vision field) at that moment.  I remember that first time she was able to answer this question, she was probably 4 or 5, and she was certain that she wanted carrot sticks and underwear.  Most children that age would probably have asked for Barbie this, or Dora that... but not this kid.  Her sensory issues made her request even more peculiar -- she couldn't tolerate wearing underwear.  It was simply what was on her mind at the time, it's not what she really wanted.

We've seen so much progress in the years since, but the tradition remains.  It usually starts with whatever is on her mind at the time the question is asked.  You'd think she was a teenage boy with how often food is on her mind...

2008 -- Romaine lettuce hearts.

2009 -- Pomegranates -- 3, but if they were on sale, then she wanted 4.  Seriously

2010 -- Cheese.  The orange kind in the shape of a wheel, but just a small slice.

2011 -- Cheese.  Mozarella.  Or maybe marbled.

Cheese again?

She's such a sweet girl, doesn't ask for much, and appreciates what she is given.  I tried to think of something I could give her aside from the usual (food & books) even though that will always be her favorite, and that's when I noticed that for the last few months, she has been using a pair of headphones that are held together with electrical tape.  They're the kind that cover the whole ear and she prefers those as it helps her focus, but the sound isn't great at all.

Still, she doesn't complain.  The way she figures, if no one likes them, no one will take them!  She has siblings, can you tell?

That same day, I saw colorful pairs on sale at my favorite online retailer, and at half the price, I figured it would make a very useful gift for this musically talented young lady.  I picked a pair of yellow ones, her favorite color, and had them shipped to my work address so that she wouldn't open the package as soon as she gets home from school.

It's so hard to surprise her, since she has an extremely keen sense of observation and intuition, I was excited to have her Christmas shopping figured out.

I received the headphones at work a few days ago, and later that afternoon I called home and spoke to my husband on the phone, telling him I had receive the headphones I ordered for Jillian for Christmas, and that I had tried them and loved them...

That's when he dropped the bombshell.

"Uhm, I'm on speakerphone... and Jillian's right here beside me."


She had been so quiet, and with my hearing issues, I hadn't realized that I was on speakerphone or that she'd been there all along.  She sheepishly pipes up... "I sowwy!"

I had to laugh.  And laugh... and laugh some more.


Chances are, she'll forget by Christmas, and it will be a surprise all over again.

Such is the life on the spectrum -- full color spectrum, as I like to call it.  Never a dull moment.