Low-Functioning Allism

This post originally appeared on the Field Notes on Allistics Tumblr.

Heaven knows, I try to avoid “functioning” labels.  They don’t make a lot of sense, and they rarely ever describe how my children actually behave in any given situation.  But sometimes they come in handy.

Yesterday, we took the kids over to their Nan’s house so they could work in the garden.  Gracie in particular loves the smell of the fresh soil and the work of putting in perfectly-spaced rows, digging perfectly-spaced holes, and dropping in different seeds, one by one.

But my allistic kids, Al Jr and Alia, were having a particularly hard time.  Their Nan even put them to work together to plant a row of spinach, hoping that the “teamwork” would help moderate their allism so they might actually finish a task appropriate to their age group.

Yesterday, though, it was no go.  Al simply would not stop talking his Nan’s ear off about his P.E. buddy Joel, and Alia kept screeching at all of us to watch her turn cartwheels on the lawn.  (I try to encourage cartwheels, since I suspect the movement will help normalize her proprioception.  But I cannot encourage screeching for attention.)

After being pestered by both kids at once for several minutes, their Nan (my mother in law) turned to me and said, in exasperation, “They’re just rather low-functioning today, aren’t they?”

I didn’t know what to say.  After all, her son (my husband) is also allistic; she knows as well as anyone how variable allistic functioning can be from day to day.  But when I compared my two racket-makers with Gracie, I could see her point.  Gracie finished planting four rows of peas all by herself, humming Liszt’s entire “Dante Sonata” under her breath the entire time – and she’s a year younger than Alia and nearly three years younger than Al Jr.  My older kids should have been able to get through twice as many rows…but they’re allistic, and sometimes, that really gets in their way.


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