Monday, 2 May 2011

A Seder with autism - a 'good news' story.

Meals can be challenging times for us – Aaron seldom remains seated for the whole meal which means one of us is also not seated since we often need to attend to his needs, or just wonder what mischief he can get up to! Friday evenings, as a jewish family, we spend with friends and/ or family either at home or at their homes for a Shabbat meal which includes certain traditions. These include lighting candles and saying blessings over kosher wine or grape juice and challah bread. Men and boys wear a kippah or yarmulke to cover the head when the blessings are recited. Aaron has decided that Friday night is “party time” since there are special hats and candles (after watching The Wiggles birthday party time videos)! He often blows out the special pair of candles – a real no-no in Jewish tradition –one is supposed to let them burn themselves out. Amazingly, he will only drink grape juice on a Friday night, never during the week. He has occasionally sneaked some crumbs of Challah bread into his mouth behind our backs, and we only know about this when he starts bouncing around on the furniture and being super-hyper, so now we are super-vigilant! (Aaron is on a GF/CF diet.) When we have the Shabbat meal at my father-in-law’s home, Aaron will spend some of the time while we are eating and chatting, watching TV in the study. However since the bathrooms are nearby, we check on him often to see that he is not playing with water, or squeezing out expensive soaps and lotions, or doing any other mischief he can find.

Passover, also known as Pesach, is a particular time in the Jewish year when there is a special meal. Certain foods are eaten during the meal, but more importantly before the meal starts we sit as a family and take turns reading the Haggadah book which takes at least 30 minutes. So for the Passover Seder meal this year we decided to be extra prepared so that we could sit and enjoy the whole Haggadah section with Suzanne – Aaron’s 11 year old sister and the rest of the family present – about 15 adults and children. We asked one of our babysitters to join us so that she would be able to keep an eye on Aaron in the study.

We pre-fed Aaron to be sure he wouldn’t get into a bad mood as a result of low blood sugar and then dressed him smartly for the occasion. He was in a good mood and walked in looking for the party! Davka, or in his own inimitable way, he sat beautifully between his father and great-uncle for the whole Haggadah! He seemed to think that it was a “show” and clapped at various points! (They do shows at his school.) He was a bit noisy at times making comments, which made it difficult to hear the reader. However, one priceless moment was while someone was reading a long passage, Aaron exclaimed, “That’s enough!” Throughout the evening our babysitter hardly saw Aaron, he was on his best behaviour.

One of my dear late naval father’s favourite sayings was, “Prepare for the worst, yet hope for the best.” Indeed, with Aaron’s autism we continually attempt to prepare for the worst while always hoping for the best. Autism in my view is a little like the British weather, predictable in its unpredictability! Wasn’t rain expected to shower blessings on the Royal couple this last weekend?