The screaming thing came as a surprise to us, she had never done it as a child and it didn't start until she was turned 21 years old! We had a couple of years of it and worked out that it was just attention seeking and that she had seen the technique used to great effect by a fellow service user at the day centre and thought she would give it a go. It was very effective and always got our immediate attention! It has taken a couple of years, but we have cracked that one, albeit with the use of inappropriate television shows, but she has worked out that there is a risk of screaming bringing her the wrong sort of attention.
She has her own television which she has complete control over. We have no influence over what she chooses to watch, and she chooses to watch Sky 2, don't ask! She is fascinated by those awful late night police reality whatever programmes, Night Cops and Road Wars in particular. I was absolutely horrified when I realized she was watching these, she had been telling me about a police show she had been watching and I stupidly thought it was those endless cops and robbers drama series that litter the late night TV. She doesn't actually watch the television in the conventional way. The TV is on, so is the computer with iTunes playing, and always with the iPhoto screen saver on showing the entire family photo album dating back to 1985 going round and round and she will be listening to her iPod. Fortunately, she never really took to the radio. Whilst all this is going on she will be sitting in her arm chair or on her bed counting, organising and reorganising her collection of paperclips and safety pins, only glancing once in a while at the TV or iMac Screen.
Yet somehow she has learned to identify the difference between drama and documentary. Drama in the form of your average TV output of soap opera, comedy. whatever, she doesn't follow at all, and couldn't tell you what is on or what is happening, somehow she knows it is not real, so takes no notice. But Night Cops caught her attention and she worked out that these were not actors playing parts, but real people doing bad things and having bad things happen to them when they got caught by the boys in blue.
Now, don't get me wrong, we don't live in a desperately deprived or depraved area, but Friday nights can get a bit lively, and Sarah and I were making our way home from a trip to the cinema which meant going through town early one Friday evening recently, and some Night Cop style action was going down. To Sarah's horror, in broad daylight! It was a bit of an altercation between two women about the same age as Sarah which involved a fair amount of screaming and shouting. Police were on the scene and we didn't hang around so I don't know the outcome for them, but the outcome for me was brilliant, as Sarah had seen for herself the consequences of 'bad behaviour' i.e. big burly police people arrive and lots of ordinary people stop and stare. We have had no screaming and shouting since.
I am know there are far better and much more correct ways to deal with displays of inappropriate behaviour, but this chance encounter with reality, as opposed to TV worked and has not resulted in any apparent fear of the police which I was a little concerned about, in fact she has stopped talking about them at all, which is good, because I was running out of appropriate responses and was in danger of reverting to my default position on the police which has its roots somewhere in the late 60's early 70's and is probably best not discussed!
So, a win as far as it goes, but another thing always comes up eventually, and last week it appeared in the form of tears, real tears, the sort that break your heart, and the last thing she wants is a hug, which is of course all you can think of doing. Something has got to her, I have no way of working out what it is, I just have to stay alert for the time being and make note of possible triggers and employ distraction strategies.
Fortunately, as a household, we've got an awesome sense of humour, and despite autism, Sarah has this same trait, so some well placed words, or unfortunately, a pratt fall will have her dissolving into laughter. This will probably be coming and going for a couple of months, and I don't think we will get to the bottom of it, but we will get bloody good at diffusing situations by dragging the humour out of the corners of our minds we may not have visited for a while. If there is one thing Sarah is really really good at, it is keeping us on our toes. Just when you think you've turned a corner with her, you find yourself getting flung the other way and going downhill incredibly fast followed by the inevitable slow climb up again before turning another way around another corner, looking at another horizon. It really is a roller coaster.
Fortunately, my experience of roller coasters has always left me unable to stop laughing (possibly a little hysterically sometimes!) and then just plain exhilarated. So it's time to take a deep breath and see where it takes us this time. Wherever it takes us, we're going to learn something new and that can't be bad. Autism is one hell of an adventure....