Today Pamela and I delivered meals on wheels, and I became very mindful of how much she has changed in her ability to experience share. If I only assessed quantity (length of sentences and number of words), I might be disappointed because of her aphasia. The quality of her conversations are terrific. Persons with autism tend to speak in verbal stims or focus only on certain favorite topics. Pamela still does that to some extent and I see it most when she is feeling incompetent or upset. It is her way of calming down and reassuring herself.
This morning the third stop on our list caused Pamela to scream. We walked to the apartment, and the gentlemen was sitting outside in a chair. So far so good. There was another man inside his place cleaning, and it was absolutely empty, not one stick of furniture. On the ground near the sidewalk was a large sheet of broken glass. After her squeal, I reassured her that everything was fine. I gave the meal to the man, and he explained that he was moving to another apartment in the complex. Pamela pointed to him and said, "No! You're not moving." He told her that he was, and we said good-bye. As we walked to the car, I told Pamela, "The man is moving over there." She looked and added, "Not leaving Manning." I replied, "Yep. He wants to be near his family."
We were getting near the end of our route and I decided to sign the sheet. I handed it to Pamela for her signature. She looked up at me surprised, "Are we done?" I answered, "No, we have two more stops." I did something out of the norm, so she commented on it, which is part of experience sharing. She could have waited to see what would happen but her curiosity drove her to ask.
As we were driving home Pamela pointed out the saucer magnolias blooming and asked, "What's that?" I answered her question and loved that she wanted to continue a conversation from yesterday. When we drove home from lunch, we noticed the signs of spring. I pointed out the flocks of robins and pink crepe myrtles blooming. She noticed the bright green grass in one of the fields. We are going to add our observations to nature notebooks.
We were almost home and here was another little gem:
Pamela: What about April?
Me: What about it?
Pamela: April 24
Me: Oh, Easter!
Pamela: It's late.
Me: You're right! It is late.
Pamela: What am I going to wear?
Me: I don't know!
Pamela: Short sleeves!
All of these questions were fresh like Spring. Pamela shared new thoughts that were emerging in her mind. They were important enough to her that she wanted to tell me. She reflected on the context of what we have been doing: delivering meals and looking for signs of Spring. She pondered what everything meant. She stayed in the moment. Isn't that grand?
P.S. It goes to show that one doesn't need to question, prompt, and correct to chat with a person with autism.