Each day is the scholar of yesterday. Publilius Syrus
What is it about “time”? It always moves forward. There is no rewind. We can manipulate height, width, depth, but everything we do happens as we move forward in time (well, at least until some kind of passage through black holes is discovered that would not rip our bodies or passage methods to shreds…)
As we are continually carried on this raft down the one-way river of time, we have to accept the waits, the passage of time, the changes. We must go with the flow.
Seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, decades, and eons. The past, present and future. Durations. Waiting. Length. Correlation. So many aspects and so all encompassing to our lives. We move with time with each breath we take. How do we teach our ASD children to deal with, accept, and understand the concept of time?
It has been a very slow go of it around my house. My son only learned his days of the week with the Addams Family song – taught to me by Karla over at Beyond the Dryer Vent. While he now knows the song, he only knows it as a memorized stream of words. If you ask him before and after questions about a specific day, he can only answer if he has a chart available to read… If he does not have a visual prompt, he will either not answer or give me a random day as a guess – usually Wednesday for unknown reasons.
If he has to wait for anything, he begins a mini-meltdown, cussing his favorite words, “Fire Truck!” or, in a relatively new method of expression, he will begin doing mathematical equations, “2+2= 4… 5-1=4” in a long drawn out, and obnoxiously loud voice, studded with staccato emphasis on “plus” and “equals”.
I have asked him what happened yesterday to no avail. I get no response at all (total ignore) or a false response (I went to kindergarten and it was Saturday – no school), or he will say, “I played on the playground.” (a memorized response from ABA) We do have time outs and nebulizer treatments that use the timer. He is comfortable with very small and definite increments of time, the ending of which must coincide with the end of the engaged-in activity.
So, imagine my surprise, when he used a time concept all by himself to communicate with me on Sunday!
It all started on Friday after we got our MRI news. I took the little guy to the mall. He wanted to go to the food court, something we mostly avoid due to the large crowds and sensory overload from too many choices. That he asked for this alone, I found unusual but I complied. He wanted to go to McDonalds which, of course, had the longest line. He had already eaten so I knew he was not going to eat again. Instead, I took him to get a small cup of chocolate gelato. His first.
He was in love. Ate the whole cup. Who wouldn’t?
On Sunday, we returned to the scene of the crime. As we walked to a store to buy his Grandpa a Christmas present, this was our conversation:
SON: I want Mommy to get you some ice cream.
ME: Well, okay but first we have to get Grandpa a Christmas present. Then I will take you for ice cream.
(We walked a few feet.)
SON: I want Mommy to take me to get ice cream at…. (here he was struggling to get the words out – visibly I could see it) the place you were at yesterday.
I was so excited! My son – without prompting – used the concept of yesterday (okay- technically day before yesterday but whatever!!) correctly to get his point across. Of course, Swiss Chocolate gelato is a pretty powerful motivator on its own but nevertheless – it was sheer awesomeness, in my mommy book.
Like many things about the brain, where it stores information about time is still largely not understood by science. I did find this interesting bit about the brain and time, here:
French scientists in 2007 reported their study of a group of patients who had suffered damage to a region known as the left temporal lobe. The patients watched a documentary, and a familiar object appeared on the screen, then reappeared a few minutes later. The patients had to guess how much time had passed. On average, the patients thought an 8-minute period was roughly 13. (Normal subjects were off by only about a minute.)
My son has some abnormalities around the left temporal lobe associated with his sleep seizures. I’m guessing this may interfere with his ability to “get” time concepts or communicate them to me. I’m guessing the rest of it is just being a young child, busy learning so much about the world around him.
Either way – as yesterday is exchanged for today, and tomorrow, I will rest a bit more comfortably knowing that little by little, he’s getting it. It will just take some time…