More on Adam


Magteld and I swithered for months about whether to have Adam assessed. There was nothing to worry about. There was something not right, but...

Magteld and I swithered for months about whether to have Adam assessed. There was nothing to worry about. There was something not right, but it couldn�t be autism, because he made eye contact, responded appropriately to questions and didn�t share Euan�s more extreme habits, like endlessly fidgeting or standing by the radiator singing to himself.
But the doubts kept nipping at us. As long ago as last Christmas we noticed how Adam wasn�t joining in with his nursery carol singing. We remarked on his curious habit of dragging toys across his field of vision. We registered his delayed speech and the way he froze in the presence of strangers. A playworker started coming out to see him once a week in April; it was October before she heard his voice. And then a couple of incidents happened that pretty much settled it.
A month ago Euan fractured his shoulder at school. We still don�t know how it happened: Euan�s communication is improving, to the point where a few weeks ago he was able to give me a basic run-through of his day. I never would have thought that a sentence like �we planted some potatoes� could move me to the brink of tears. But relating something as complicated as a fractured shoulder remains a long way beyond his capabilities. Euan has a curious relationship with trauma: he will scream his head off if you threaten to take him away from the computer, and wail plaintively if his second slice of toast at breakfast time is a beat too late, but a really serious setback (thankfully, he�s only had a tiny number in his life) knocks him dumb. His shoulder was only noticed when a teacher saw him swinging his arm limply. When she tried to touch it, he flinched away. So Magteld took him home, thinking it was nothing more than a bruise, until he started wincing in pain in the early evening.
She took him up to the local Accident and Emergency department, with Adam in tow. I arrived soon after, straight from work. Euan was walking down a corridor wrapped in a blanket with Adam clinging to him, crying: �Euan, put your T-shirt back on� over and over again. �He�s very repetitive, isn�t he,� observed the nurse. While Euan sat quietly on the couch waiting to be examined, Adam was inconsolable. Nothing we said could assuage his sense of bewilderment. The routine was broken and he couldn�t understand why.
The week before he was about to leave nursery when one of the nurses reached into the fridge and handed him a carton of milk. The next day, at going-home time, he went to the fridge. Again he got a carton of milk. It was a classic case of kindness unwittingly being cruel. Because when, a few days later, the nurses stopped handing out the free milk, Adam was at a loss to understand why. No explanation in the world would suffice. His routine had been stopped, summarily. He howled all the way home.
How does this make him different from other children? In a word: rigidity. By the age of four, children ordinarily have a sophisticated arsenal of pestering techniques for getting what they want. All Adam can do is monotonously repeat the same demand. At times it's like watching a fly smacking its head against the same window pane again and again, oblivious to the possibility of other exits.


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Tetra Computer World: More on Adam
More on Adam
Tetra Computer World
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