Saturday, April 15, 2006

Science, sequence, and celebration

I've been thinking a lot about Bud's logical, sequential, "systemizer"-type mind. I first started thinking about it this afternoon, when Bud completed his very first science experiment.

It was a test of buoyancy. Bud filled a pan with water and placed it on the counter, then wondered aloud if a lemon would sink or float. I could tell by his inflection ("Will the lemon SINK - pause - or FLOAT?") that this was a script, but I went with it.

The lemon floated.

Bud repeated his script, suggesting that we test the buoyancy of the lemon again: "Will the lemon SINK - pause - or FLOAT?"

"I wonder what else might sink or float," I said.

Bud looked around the kitchen and shouted, "A pear!"

The pear sank. And quickly started turning brown. Now it was getting interesting. Bud abandoned his script and we set out testing everything we could think of. We got two sheets of paper and (with a little help) Bud wrote "FLOAT" on one and "SINK" on the other. After we tested each item we scurried into the dining room to draw a picture of the item on the appropriate list.

Big goldfish float. So do Cheerios and walnuts.

Pasta sinks. So do baby carrots and grapes.

Pretzels float, but get really, really disgusting after a while. Or, to quote Bud, "It's very GOOEY!"

I continued to think about Bud's sequential mind after he went to sleep and I started my Easter Bunny duties. Easter took Bud by surprise this year. He's been out of school all week, so he hasn't been around other children talking about the upcoming holiday. The family members who would typically come to our house for the weekend cancelled their plans to steer clear of our illness. So the usual signs that Something Is Happening are absent, and he was startled when I told him this afternoon that tomorrow is Easter.

He is used to a build-up; he expects the agony of the wait. So he quizzed me about it for the rest of the day.

"Tomorrow is Easter?"

"When I wake up?"

"And will be eggs waiting for me?"

"Easter Bunny will hide my eggs when I'm sleeping?"

It was clear from his questions that he needed no reminders about what the flow of activity looks like on Easter. He was able to recall it all immediately. But I found it interesting that his questions focused on the eggs and not on the basket.

"Tell me about the eggs, Bud," I said.

"They're maps." he said.


His favorite part of Easter is the maps.

Throughout my own childhood, my favorite part of Easter was the hunt for candy eggs hidden all around the house. My siblings and I would scatter in a frenzied scramble to collect as many of the foil-wrapped treasures as we could. In my memory, Easter morning is a frenetic pace and a mound of chocolate. I always imagined I would recreate the scene for my own family.

But when Bud was very young, I recognized that my idealized Easter morning would not work for him. First of all, Bud has never been all that fond of candy. A mound of chocolate would hold very little appeal to him. And second, even before Bud had a diagnosis - before I knew there was anything to diagnose - I simply couldn't imagine him engaging in a "traditional" egg hunt. I guessed that he wouldn't see the point in rushing around collecting eggs at random. My hunch was that he would not be interested in hunting, and would abandon the search quickly.

But I wanted Easter morning to be something special for him, so I tried to create an experience that I thought he would enjoy. I bought some brightly colored plastic eggs and I created an egg hunt - a concrete sequential egg hunt, in which each egg led to another egg in a predetermined order, leading him through the house and, ultimately, to his Easter basket filled with little toys and treats. That first year, I drew pictures of places in the house and hid the pictures in the eggs. The egg at his bedside held a picture of the couch, the egg on the couch held a picture of the sink, etc. The following year, and each year since, I've used digital pictures.

Or, according to Bud, digital maps.

I'm sure he remembers the Easter basket pay-off. I'm sure he'd be disappointed if it wasn't there. But the magic of Easter morning for him is in the thrill of the hunt - starting at the beginning and following each step in sequence to reach a logical conclusion. And the Easter Bunny will not disappoint this year. The hunt is on; the game is afoot.

And perhaps when the hunt has ended and the goodies have been discovered we'll finally be able to answer the question that's been on everyone's mind:

Do those Cadbury cream eggs SINK - pause - or FLOAT?


Wendy said...

Sacrifice a Cadbury egg in the name of science? Are you out of your mind? :)

You're a great mom. To go through the effort of printing out digital "maps" so that Bud will enjoy his Easter is amazing.

Have a wonderful holiday. I hope he's feeling better.

Kristina Chew said...

Sounds like you're preparing Bud very well for the great Easter Egg Hunt of life, maps and digital photos and all.

And I think he's gonna float.

Camille said...

He could put the Cadbury cream egg in a mug of hot milk! mmmmm. mmmmmm. Sciiiiiience. mmmmm. Marshmallows? that's obvious. Float. Maybe you'll have some of those horrible Peep candies...yeck... might be ok on top of hot chocolate made from a cadbury cream egg sunk in hot milk...

Estee Klar said...

They melt in your mouth and unfortunately, all over your hands.

Happy hunting to you, Bud and family!

Anonymous said...

Your blogs wonderful. I just stumbled upon them today and cannot stop reading. I am a mom of an 8 year old autistic boy. We did the sink and float experiment one whole summer! My son was obsessed with diving down to pick up stuff from the bottom of the pool and we were always looking for toys that would sink. "Barney" sank, so did "Caillou". "Steve from Blues Clues" floated. We would run to the pool and he would throw his toy in and smile if it sank. He would scream with frustration if it floated!