the deluge came,
inundation of disaster updates
and surging soundbites,
flooding images with
torrents of facts and figures,
down-pouring of human drama and despair,
we drown in torrid details,
soaking in a ratings revival
they saturate us with coverage,
swamping us with talking heads,
(and brilliant white teeth)
drenching us in understatements,
showering us with clichés and inanity,
submerging us with victim intrusions
and protruding news bursts,
We wouldn’t want to cloudburst on their parade!
or gossip in the spring?
In honour of Bob being recently awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, I am reposting this blog post, written in 2009 😍
I sometimes say that I am the opposite of autistic. I would describe myself as empathetic, intuitive, good communicator, sociable, flexible, and completely lacking in spatial awareness (I get lost all the time). But there is one characteristic I share with my ASD son – obsessions or special interests. My current obsession is Bob Dylan and I have been obsessed with the world’s greatest singer-songwriter for the past couple of years.
Don’t get me wrong. I have always liked the man, but I was not previously obsessed with him. In fact, I recall borrowing a tape (yes, you heard me right – a tape) of Bob Dylan songs from the local library when I was in my early teens. I shared a room with my older sister and let me tell you, she was none to impressed with me playing that tape. She is a bit sensitive to sound and there was something in the quality of his nasal breathing that disturbed her greatly. I can’t for the life of me understand the problem.
Anyway, my obsession began after inadvertently watching on TV the Martin Scorsese directed ‘No Direction Home: Bob Dylan.” If you haven’t seen it – JUST DO IT! It is brilliant and has some of the best interviews with the man himself, that I’ve seen. As you will be aware he doesn’t like being interviewed. Maybe he really likes Martin Scorsese.
After watching the best documentary ever, I began collecting every Bob Dylan album ever made. Then I began to play every Bob Dylan album ever made; and I didn’t stop for a year. I had my 6 stacker CD player in the car full of Bob Dylan albums. I had, and still do have, Bob Dylan albums piled up and spilling all over the place in the living room. I drove my little 6 year old daughter crazy. Our son, on the other hand, just loves Bob Dylan (isn’t he a champion and great taste in music) and never complained. After a year of endlessly playing Bob Dylan albums, and reading biographies and anything else I could get my hands on, I started to calm down a bit. I regained composure and now play Bob intermittently, as is the way of a well-balanced person.
A collective sigh of relief was heard emanating from the Bryden clan (minus our son, bless his heart).
Earlier this year, however, on a long trip home from Brisbane to Woodgate after visiting my mother, I had the urge to put on ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’. I had put off playing Bob Dylan because I didn’t want to annoy the sound-sensitive little girl. All was quiet in the back seat and I thought our daughter might even be asleep; beaudy, at last I can play Bob Dylan. I started playing the album and after a couple of songs a little girl’s voice chirped from the rear “Mummy, I’ve got an earache.”
“Oh no, that’s no good. How long have you had it darling?” I asked in a concerned voice.
“Since you put Bob Dylan on!”
There’s no accounting for tastes, is there!
People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often prefer things to stay the same.
And don’t I know it!
Our son’s diagnosis of Autism arrived shortly after his third birthday, but the signs were there shortly after birth. These included maniacal screaming fits at all times of the day and night, the obsessive systematic sorting of shoes and books (recorded on video if anyone needs verification), the lining up of tin cans, cars and trains, the absence of speech followed then by echolalia, the inability to wave or greet anyone, the spinning, the intense interest in fans, planes, wheels, water and light switches.
Another sign was the need for things to stay the same, including an intense dislike of any change to routines. I’ll give you an example which occurred when he was a toddler. I hate to admit it but I used to watch the soap opera Neighbours religiously. I have since ceased this irritating habit. Our son loved the theme song to Neighbours and when the song came on he would turn to the television, smiling broadly and sometimes clap his hands in glee.
The producers of Neighbours, in their wisdom, decided to modify the theme song. It was such a minor change that most people would not have noticed. But our son noticed and roared his displeasure, every night for at least a week. We were suitably amused by this display of loyalty to the original tune, completely oblivious to the underlying reason for his outrage.
Our son has always had a good ear for music and exceptional tastes that closely mirror my own 😉. His little sister would disagree with that statement (see blog post on Bob Dylan). I am not a huge fan of rave music but I took a bit of liking to musician Fatboy Slim while undertaking research into Dance Parties for Queensland Health. One day I made the mistake of playing the DJ’s album You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby in my car. Our son absolutely loved the song Funk Soul Brother. He insisted I play the tune in the car every trip for at least 6 months. Any refusal resulted in the volcanic eruption phenomenon.
Our son also insisted on wearing the same shirt every day to the AEIOU. It was a blue t-shirt with Nemo on the front. I would wash it every night to avoid the inevitable tantrum if it wasn’t available. It is very common for ASD children and adults to regularly wear the same type of clothes. The reasons are mainly to do with sensory/sensitivity issues (the need for soft well worn clothes that don’t feel itchy and scratchy), rigidity and the need for things to stay the same.
The need for sameness also impacts at the dinner table and many ASD children, including my son, have extreme rituals surrounding the types of food they will eat and it’s presentation. This can drive parents insane. I will discuss food in greater detail in further blogs.
Why the need for sameness?
I will end this blog with a quote from Sean Barron who has ASD:
I have no idea how many ways there are to deal with a level of fear so great that is hangs over you like a storm cloud. The three remedies I chose and that made the most sense to me in all areas of my life were repetition, repetition and repetition (Grandin and Barron 2005, p. 85)
Grandin, T., and Barron, S. (2005) Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.
You run away from me,
angry words pounding in my head
like the sound track to Romper Stomper,
sound bites, piling up, shifting
like the heavy oiled bodies
of dead birds in the latest spill.
You run off so fast,
your small body disappears along the sandy path,
a bubbler crab retreats down a hole.
I wait for anger to subside
and the thoughts to slowly die,
like a fish that cannot breathe,
but those thoughts are smothered
now, campfire suffocated by dirt,
when you fail to return.
A stranger passing a report,
I saw the boy mucking about
on the sand-dunes.
I run along a grey beach,
storm clouds gather
like black-garbed mourners at the graveside.
I am dizzy as I drain of blood,
a free-falling skydiver
waiting for the chute to open,
where are you?
Endless, scalloped sand-dunes
line up like soldiers in a silent honour parade,
contents piled up in regular mounds.
My insides erode like the sand-dunes
as time passes,
every mound looks newly formed.
It is too dark to see
so I stumble home for help,
and there you are, my son,
your eyes dark as the storm,
your spiky hair strewn with sand and leaves,
but your arms in the air, surrendering.
I embrace you,
and you bury your head in my shirt.
I have already surrendered.
Note: This poem is based on an exercise I did, using the poem ‘Feared Drown’ by Sharon Olds – who is known to like the use of similes.
the puppy contemplates
the sound of hunger