Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Great Tubbies Mystery: Solved

It has taken four days, but I have solved The Great Tubbies Mystery.

One of the most pervasive of Bud's developmental disorders is language - the construction of it and the pragmatic social use of it. He knows thousands of words. He understands eveything. He has memorized the script of every kids video he has ever seen, and can pull out snippets of language from them that just about fit the situation when he's trying to "pass." But the back-and-forth flow of everyday conversation is an enormous challenge for him.

For that reason, trying to figure out what message he is trying to convey (and he is ALWAYS trying to convey a message) is like stepping into an Agatha Christie Whodunit. He can answer some questions, sometimes. But his answers - though relevant in some way to the matter at hand - are not always predictable responses to the question that was asked. (In his book Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism, author Paul Collins provides a great framework for thinking about this phenomenon. But more on that later.)

Anyway, Bud's latest challenge was The Great Tubbies Mystery. I should tell you that Bud is FANATIC about the Teletubbies. The Tubbies (or "the guys," as he calls them) are geared toward one- and two-year-olds, but Bud is well into year five and still going strong. They are his security blanket, his obsession, and his best friends. We have Tubbie dolls of every variety (and aren't we lucky that every six months or so our friends at Ragdoll produce a new line of these characters that are just slightly different from those already on the market - and in our house.)

Last Wednesday I picked Bud up at preschool and he greeted me at the door with a big smile and an announcement: "I want The Sound of The Tubbies! Is that what's a good idea?"

I immediately checked with all of the teachers in the classroom to find out what in the world he was talking about. No one knew. He hadn't been talking about it at school. But the request continued for days, "I want The Sound of the Tubbies."

I asked him for more information. "Is it a CD?"

"It's just a toy one."

"Did you see it in a book?"

"Okay." (loose translation: "Wow! They have a book on that??? Yeah, I'd love to get it!")

"What's the sound?"

"Of The Tubbies! That's a great idea! Okay, Mama?"

"Is it a doll?"

"Okay." Hmm... maybe he doesn't think of them as dolls. He sometimes calls stuffed creatures "soft ones," so I'll try that.

"Is it a soft one?"

"It's just a loud one. The Sound of the Tubbies."

"I don't understand, Bud. I need more words."

"The speaker. And Dipsy. In his belly."

This conversation becomes my life for days on end. It's clear that he really wants me to understand what he's talking about and is baffled that I can't follow him.

And then yesterday, at Target, the clouds part and the mystery is solved. There is (surprise!) a new line of Teletubbies out - BUT, this time around each of their little tummy screens have four pictures, each with it's own unique sound. When four Tubbies are lined up next to each other and one industrious five-year-old starts pressing with his chubby little hands flying at top speed, there are sixteen asynchronous sounds and a cacophonous symphony of Tubbie tunes - The Sound of the Tubbies!

He was not requesting an item; he was calling forth a happening.


Moi ;) said...

You know what's weird?

"Is that what's a good idea?" Bug STILL asks me that, to this day...he is 12 now....

Moi ;) said...

Oops, clicked post too soon...

Are you going to go to Target and tape the sounds for him? I would....

The one thing about this kind of stuff is that they tend to persevere on it and then it's really hard to break the habits when they become so ingrained. My son regresses when he watches the Tubbies, I saw that very early on, and decided he wouldn't watch it any more.

But now we have it with Yugioh (they do get into age-level things eventually LOL) and that's more expensive...Ugh..!

Anonymous said...

I am the mom of a 4 year old boy and we are just starting down the autism spectrum disorder path with him. I found your blog because of your review of "Teaching Children with Autism to Mind Read." I decided to go back to the early blogs to find out more about you and your son. I enjoyed your coffee addiction blog, but I was really touched and moved to affectionate tears by your interaction with your son on your joint quest to get the Sounds of the Teletubbies for him. He's a lucky boy. P.S. I love your title.