Thursday, April 14, 2011

Perseveration, You Can Say That Again !! And Again.

copyright 1994 s.weese

perseverate |pərˈsevəˌrāt|verb [ intrans. Psychologyrepeat or prolong an action, thought, or utterance after the stimulus that prompted it has ceased.DERIVATIVESperseveration |pərˌsevəˈrā sh ən| |pərˈsɛvəˈreɪʃən| nounORIGIN early 20th cent.from Latin perseverat- ‘strictly abided by,’from the verb perseverare (see persevere ).
I know that reaching my son through his subjects of interest was the key to reaching him.  Thank goodness for me he had many perserverations.  Trains, Construction Trucks, Fire Trucks, Leggos, Playmobile, Infinity, Vacuums, Chickens, Crime Scene Tape, Submarines, Inventors, Space, Rock Climbing, Bicycles, Banjo and Bluegrass Picking, Aliens, Computers, Painting, LED lights, Clay, Sprinklers, Dirigibles,  Magic, and now Cars...ones that go fast.At a young age there was nothing that made him happier than playing with our Electrolux canister vacuum. He'd take on and off the attachments on the living room floor.  When I tried to put the vacuum away, he'd have a tantrum at 2.  The people who came to my house  thought I vacuumed all the time. :-)  When he got his first red shiny fire truck.  He slept with it for a week. I'd go to get him from his crib and he'd have ladder prints on his cheek from sleeping ON the truck.  When he learned to talk, there was one subject he brought up instantly when he came to someone's home.  "Do you mind if I look at your vacuum?"  He knew everyone's vacuum.  Usually calling the owner by the name of their vacuum instead of their name.  When his Godfather bought a house with an in house wall vacuum, I thought he would burst with joy.  And some of you know today he works in a vacuum shop. Back to perseverations.  At school they tried to interest him in their subjects.  But few held his attention.There was no way of getting him off course when he was heading down the tracks of a perseveration.  The good teachers used his "obsession du jour" to teach him science, english, history.  The  less than good ones, just wrung their hands and shook their heads in frustration.  In first grade (the year he was  diagnosed) he was not getting numbers.  Having characters, be they letters or numbers  meant nothing to my very visual learner.  Special Ed even tried plastic cubes.  At 7 he was a handful.  His eyes would glaze over, and I knew he wasn't even present, let alone getting what adding 2 orange blocks and 2 blue blocks meant.At that age he was sooooooo obsessed with his chickens.  Sometimes he'd crow or cluck when someone spoke to him.  Kids in his class thought he was really weird. One day it dawned on me as I was laminating something for his classroom Aide. I will photocopy a bunch of different chicken breeds he likes, and laminate them.  We'll do "chicken math."  And we did.  Adding 3 buff Cochins to 3 Barred Rocks...that was something he could get his head around.  I can't remember the transition from Chicken Math to regular math.  It wasn't long before he was doing regular math.   I learned something too.  Stop trying to force this octagonal peg into a round hole.  Look for the octagonal hole.  Ahhhhhhhhh.

He held the keys.

Many years later, part of his high school work program was to work in a vacuum store.  The man who owned that store was an angel.  Mr. Duffy.  He is an angel, as he's passed to another life.  But I hear my son quote him often when a vacuum "situation" arises.  I will never forget driving him to work and watching him put his key in the front door of the store one Saturday morning.  It was like a truck ran me over seeing him open a shop and knowing he'd been responsible and trustworthy enough to be given a shop key.  I sat in my truck watching him through the window turn on lights, put the open sign in the window, and arranging vacuums.  I cried, and I'm crying now typing this. That moment, I knew it had all been worth it.  He was going to be a productive member of our society. The sword of Damocles called "residential placement" was lifted from above my head.Today he works at a different store, and is quite the employee.  I am boasting, but I can't help myself. He not only has the key, but beat all sales records, and they send him to Las Vegas every year to the Vacuum and Sewing Machine Dealer Convention.  Yes, they send him.  All expenses paid. At 23, most "normal" kids haven't been on a "paid by the company" trip.  I know why he's broken all sales records.  He has a particle meter he brings out when demonstrating the different vacuums. When he looks up, he has watery eyes (something he's had since childhood when he feels emotional).   He shows the customer how much dust is or isn't being blown back into the air.  He's pretty passionate about it. Who could say no to that?There is a world vacuum collector meeting every year. One year I am going to send him to it.  He collects vacuums, that's for sure.  We have many in our attic. He has some of his favorites hanging on bike hooks in his apartment. He loves vintage vacuums.  Buying them at Goodwill, or thrift shops and fixing them up to resell (sometimes keep) is a "hobby."  When someone has a really old vacuum and he is able to fix it, he gets tears in his eyes.  He loved the kids video "The Brave Little Toaster."  If you have a young child on the Autsim spectrum...I highly recommend it. He's taken many a dust sucker or rug shampooer and put his own "after market" features on it. It sounds like everyday is wonderful.  Mostly they are.  His love of  cars, has caused him many a heart ache. He can't leave any car he has alone.  When one tinkers with vacuums, they don't have to drive them to work.  But cars are a different matter.  He just got a new car (used) and he's promised his fiance it will be his transportation, and he won't soup it up.  She had to drive him to work for 6 weeks when his last car's transmission died.  When he was young I had to hide every screwdriver. If he had one, he would unscrew light switch plates, the phone, appliances, anything to turn that screw.  I was constantly turning on lights and having the switch plate crash on the floor.  He found out dimes work as well as most flat head screw drivers, and I seriously considered doing away with dimes all together. Today his new car works, and really, that is his responsibility.  It would be much easier to just keep buying him new cars. But what will he learn from that?  He'd learn that he can do whatever he would like to his car, and Mommy will buy him a new one.  Not my idea of good parenting. He was single handedly supporting the red light camera program in our town.  But he learned.  Driving has been my biggest worry.  Little impulse control, perseverating on something else while driving, and being a 23 year old male are not what makes my heart sing.  If I think about it much, I can really work myself into a lather.  There ARE other people's lives at stake here. If I've told him to "drive safe" once, I've said it a million times.  It's my way of asserting some facade of I really have none.  Thanks for reading.Each Day is a Gift. Open now.xo,SuzPlease forgive the crazy breaks in lines. I can't get it to be fixed. :-(


  1. I've so enjoyed your stories of your life with Autism. My good Friend LIsa's son was diagnosed when he was 2 and it was hard but we were all there for her (and him) and now he too is doing very well. He is only 12 but is in mainstream school and only qualifies for speech last time I heard.

  2. Thanks for another lovely post. :) Your son sounds like an amazing human being, as do you. :)

  3. Wonderful post. My son has SPD and perseverates to some degree on all things transportation. I love that your son has broken all sales records the way he has. And kudos to you for figuring out how to reach him. Sometimes I have to let my son run on our treadmill to get him to read (while he's running or walking fast).