Since beginning this blog, quite a few people have queried the title ‘Medium Sized Hippo’ so here goes…
I have two sons, Dominic and Zachary. Zachary was diagnosed with high functioning autism when he was just four years old and over the years, his social skills have landed us in hot water more than once. Ask anyone with an autistic child what it’s like to live with autism and I bet you they will have more than one funny story about their child’s ‘black and white’ take on life, not to mention their brutal honesty. As the saying goes ‘Once you’ve met one person with autism – you’ve met one person with autism’ and it’s quite true, everyone with autism is quite different from everyone else with autism BUT there are certain traits which shine through time and time again.
“Mum, you look like a Sumo wrestler” springs to mind. I was getting ready to go out and Zachary happened to walk past the bedroom door just at the wrong moment. My usual response is “Yeah, thanks for that Zachary”, no point in getting stressed about it! In fact, it did prompt me to do something positive and a few years ago, I raised about £800 for the West Berks branch of the NAS by doing my ‘Diet for Autism’ so I had Zachary to thank for the incentive to lose one and a half stone in five months.
So, there we were, sitting in the back row of the cinema in Newbury, waiting for ‘Toy Story 3’ to start. I am such a Scrooge, I buy the sweeties before we get to the grossly overpriced cinema shops but of course, for some people, buying massive cardboard containers of cardboard tasting popcorn is all part of the experience. The adverts had started and out of the corner of my eye, I could see Zachary, open mouthed, studying a hugely overweight couple waddling up the cinema steps.
“Don’t even think about it” I hissed. Too late…
“Mummy, look – HIPPOS!”
I studied my fingernails hard, trying to pretend I didn’t know him but Dominic, was in fits. The rather large lady and gentleman had heard and although they seemed a bit upset, it didn’t stop them from settling down to their picnic of popcorn (large), Coca Cola (large), crisps and two Roman Catholic Family Sized packets of peanut M&Ms during the trailers. Munch, munch, munch, they couldn’t eat it all fast enough.
That night, I decided it was time to move Zachary’s social skills along a tad. “Sweetie” I said, as he was getting undressed for his shower “you know that lady and man at the cinema, the ones eating all the sweets and popcorn? Well, do you think they would have been happy or sad to hear you calling them ‘Hippos’?” (no point in asking whether they would be hurt/upset/disappointed, Zachary needed black and white descriptions, obvious emotions and happy/sad were words I knew he could understand).
“Well, I expect they were sad” he said, slathering his hair in shampoo “but Mummy, they were like GIANT MARBLES”
“Yes sweetie, they were quite large but still, it might have really upset them to hear you calling them names so let’s try something. I want you to think about someone but I want you to keep your thoughts inside your head, don’t say them out loud. Do you think you could do that for me?”
“Yes Mummy. What’s for dinner?” (food is king in Zachary’s world)
“We’ll talk about that once you’ve done this thing for me. Right, off you go. Time to think about someone but don’t say anything out loud”
“Wow, good boy. Well done. Were you thinking of something or someone?”
“Yes, I was thinking of someone”
“Good, well done and you didn’t say anything at all, that is really brilliant. See you can do this. What were you thinking?”
“I was thinking that you look like a medium sized hippo”