Birthday Wedding Cake?

My brother Andrew has Down Syndrome and Autism. He speaks using mostly broken sign language and English combined – when he feels like talking, that is. We met him today to give him a birthday present (happy birthday!) and he got a little worried. We gave him 3 1/2 pounds of Swedish fish. He immediately panicked, signing, “throw up” and “full”. He suggested we give them to Dad, because Dad wouldn’t throw them up.

While Mom and I were off paying for a train ticket, Andrew and Ethan chatted a bit. IT went something like this: “What did you get for your birthday?” Smiles. “Did you get anything?” Yes. “What did you get?” Smiling again. “You have to tell me what you got!” Cake. “Cake?” Yes. “What kind of cake?” Rachel. Wedding cake. “For your birthday?” Rachel’s wedding cake. All smiles.

After further consideration, we’ve noticed a pattern in Andrew’s storytelling. It doesn’t follow a chronological order; it follows a topic. Instead of telling a story about his birthday cake, he tells about all the cakes he’s ever enjoyed. Instead of talking about his visit to the hospital, he talks about all the things that doctors do. So, in light of this pattern, here are a few of the topics Andrew most frequently talks about:

  • Cakes I have eaten
  • Pizza I have eaten
  • Times when Rachel got married/will get married… still…again?
  • Times I have thrown up
  • Temples my sister has and has not gotten married in
  • Things I can put spiders on
  • People I know who have gotten an IV at the hospital
  • Times I have been bitten by the dog
  • Bad things the lawnmower can do
  • The price of Swedish fish
  • Anything that has ever happened with Alvina present

The list is growing slowly, but these are his favorite conversation topics. I recommend shaking things up at your dinner table by spending the entire time talking only about the creepiest spiders you’ve met, just as an example. And no chronological story-telling allowed – you have to follow up each spider with another spider. All spiders become the same. Let me know how it goes. So far, we like the style. ♦

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6 thoughts on “Birthday Wedding Cake?

    • Thanks! It’s hard for me to be objective about the way my brother does anything, because he’s the only sibling I have – I grew up “with” (?) Autism.

      Your blog looks really interesting; I’ve started following it. Thanks for your comment!

      • Well, it seems you have a natural acceptance, and not a “why me” attitude about it. I have a friend with siblings that one of the kids has ASD. The kiddo that doesn’t have it sometimes gets cranky because of the adjustments that they have made as a family.

        Thanks for following my blog! 🙂

  1. Enjoyed your blog Rachel. I am currently working at a private school for autistic children. The boy I work with used sign language at first. He can’t talk like Andrew but is starting to pick up words and repeating them. It’s exciting to see him learn to talk. He’s 12 and its like watching a 1 yr old learn to talk, in a way. I enjoyed the pics of your wedding day and I know Andrew has a great sister to look up. God bless your family and especially Andrew! Dori

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