My youngest son doesn’t answer to his name.
Or at least, now he only occasionally answers to his name. We keep working on it. It goes something like this:
Mommy is in the kitchen, washing dishes, while her son, X, is playing in the living room (she thinks). Mommy looks up from her suds and notices that X does not appear to be in the living room. She calls “X!” then listens. No answer. She calls again “X!” and cocks her head, straining to hear any movement, rustle of clothing, footsteps, anything to indicate that another living soul is in the house. When she hears nothing, she checks behind furniture, the bathroom, then goes to the front door and calls again “X!”. When nothing responds she goes to the back door and again calls “X!” In a bit of a panic she runs out into the back yard and again calls “X! X! Where are you?!?!” The neighbors come out of their houses (Mommy has a good set of pipes on her – she could signal in fishing boats in a dense fog) and offer to help look for X. Mommy goes back into the house and, a bit shaky at this point, calls one more time “X! X! What do you do when Mommy calls ‘X!’?”
“Here I am Mommy,” he calmly says while crawling out from behind the sofa.
Now – I know there are smug parents out there thinking “Why doesn’t this Dodo-brain just say “X!” “X!” “What do you say when Mommy calls X?” the first time? You see… this would make sense. But remember… this is AutismWorld we’re talking about – where rules are changing and the only consistency is inconsistency (it is a game that will likely not be marketed by Hasbro or Mattel anytime soon). Apparently we first must call and call his name repeatedly, then ask “What do you say when Mommy calls X?” (requirement is that this phrase is usually only valid when we begin to sound hysterical) before he will respond to this latter phrase.
This was recently tested during a holiday shopping trip to WalMart where first my husband disappeared somewhere around the pharmacy section (without alerting me as to where he was going), then my older son wandered off near the bike rack (“Stay in this section or come to us in Toys when you’re done,” I told him), and then my Autistic son disappeared while I was checking in what country the supposedly lead-free toys were made. I started calling out his name. And let me tell you, after the first unanswered calls – those “pipes” kicked in. “X! X! What do you say when Mommy calls X?”
My older son came running. Five other Mommies offered to help us find my younger son. After 5 minutes of searching the management shut the store exits down (my apologies to the WalMart shoppers out there). The tears started to spill down my cheeks as true panic kicked in. We jogged down aisles calling “X! X! What do you do when Mommy calls ‘X!’?” Employees checked restrooms. Pages flew across the rafters. And then, another 10 minutes later, an employee ran up to me and said “I think we found him!” She led me to an aisle where my son was happily sitting in a corner next to some paint rollers (one aisle away from the toy section). He looked up and said “Here I am, Mommy!” I held him until my shaking stopped. After a while, we stood up and started to walk toward the exit – all thoughts of Christmas shopping having fled. That’s when my husband strolled up. “We found him!” I said with a weak grin. “Oh, that was you that caused that ruckus?” he asked.
No wonder there is such a high divorce rate in AutismWorld.
My son’s behavior reminds me of one of those funny stories that circulates occasionally on the internet. I’ve copied it below for you:
Why Parents Drink:
The boss wondered why one of his most valued employees had not phoned in sick one day. Having an urgent problem with one of the main computers, he dialed the employee’s home phone number and was greeted with a child’s whisper.
“Is your daddy home ?” he asked
“Yes”, whispered the small voice
“May I speak with him?”
The child whispered, “No”
Suprised and wanting to talk with an adult, the boss asked, “Is your Mommy there?”
“May I speak with her?” Again the small boice whispered, “No”
Hoping there was someone with whom he could leave a message, the boss asked,
“Is anyone else there?” “Yes”, whispered the child, “a policeman”
“May I speak with the policeman?” “No, he’s busy” whispered the child
“Busy doing what?” “Talking to Daddy and Mommy and the Fireman” came the whispered voice.
Growing more worried as he heard a loud noise in the background through the ear piece on the phone, the boss asked, “What is that noise?” “A helicopter”, answered the whispering voice.
“What is going on there?” demanded the boss, now truly apprehensive.
Again, whispering, the child answered, “The search team just landed a helicopter.”
Alarmed, concerned and a little frustrated the boss asked, “What are they searching for?”
Still whispering, the young voice replied with a giggle, “ME”
Peace to you all, and may you always find what you’re looking for!