After raising three children, twin girls and a teenage boy, on my own, life was beginning to calm down. I had become the owner of a large cab firm, working my way up from a driver, and had enough money to buy the council house we lived in. The mistake was when my ex-wife ran away from us I had not taken her name off the rent book. The council had to locate her and request her permission for her name to be removed. The smell of money brought her out of obscurity, with a lawyer, claiming half of all she had thrown away.
I was now on a downhill spiral, the legal injustice of it made me feel like throwing in the towel. The radio controller called me as I entered my office “We have a problem boss, got a punter (cab customer) that is demanding a cab to pick up her boy from nursery and cab 14 has broken down” I sighed, a long ‘give me a break’ sigh, and said,”Is your cab outside?” ” Yes boss”, “Give me the keys, I will go do the fare myself”‘
And that’s when my life changed forever. 10 years my junior the blond nurse waved to me frantically, angry at first, but we were soon under way and we ‘clicked’. I told her the firm had given her 4 free cab rides as and apology. When she smiled at me to say goodbye our eyes met and I had trouble holding my bowels together. Back at the cab firm I told radio operator about the free cab rides. He laughed “Bloody hell boss , are you feeling all right” “Listen to me when she phones for those free rides if you do not find me so I can do the jobs you will lose your job” He laughed, and the smile quickly dropped from his face, “Bloody hell boss you mean it!”
Our first date was a month later, she had three children 2 girls and a 2 year old that seemed unable to talk. I had never heard of Asperger’s but over the next 30 years learned a bit more each day. At first I felt Billy was just pretending not to talk as I had heard him laughing and saying the odd word with his sisters at play. I soon realised that he would only talk if he ‘felt’ safe. The nursery refused to believe me when I pointed out he could talk, insisting on him going to speech therapy and medical tests to ascertain his disability.
I got round this by tape recording his play noises on an old answer phone. When I played this recording to the play school they agreed to try to use laughter on a 1 to 1 basis to ‘ease’ him out of his shyness. School soon became a daily terror for the boy, he was constantly ridiculed for his reluctance to speak out and his limited short term memory. This environment conditioned him into retreating into silence.
If the Asperger’s person does not speak then he can not be ridiculed for what he says. Special needs teachers in the 80s had little or no knowledge of this part of the Autistic spectrum. When I attended the many meetings with them they would speak to Billy like he was still 2 even though he was 12. They would bend down and say words slowly into his face. He felt intimidated by this and the communicating shutters came down. My wife and I found laughter was the best medicine, soon Billy had a little brother and with Freddy to lean on life for Billy stepped cautiously towards what others call normal.
We never use the term Normal around Billy, as we see it Billy is the same as the rest of us with the exception of his ‘funny little ways’. The most predominant is OCD. 8pm means 8pm not 7.59 or 8.01 but exactly 8pm. College became another hurdle, despite my explanation of his condition and limitations, The head of music had a relative with the same condition and assured me he would be sympathetic to Billie’s condition. Within 1 month, they sent for me, Billy had fallen behind with his written work. I explained his writing is limited due to his short term memory, something that had been pointed out and agreed on at the start.
I was soon in a circle of chairs, with me explaining the pitfalls and ramifications of an Asperger’s student. Their policy of having every student capable of earning a living in music, when they leave college, was, with Asperger’s students, unrealistic, since their condition and limitations make them, in many cases unemployable. They offered him back, but once you have rejected Billy he does not go back for fear of feeling the same pain again. We never ‘push’ Billy into doing something he feels uncomfortabla doing. It is vital that he has his ‘rocks’ to defend and protect him from the ever present onslaught of depression and/ or anger.
The driving test became the next hurdle, he was unable to understand some of the long words in the ‘theory’ test. Words like Hazardless, ‘where is it less hazardless to park?’ he chose driveway and failed. I asked the DVLA if they could explain the long words to him but they would only do this if English was his second language! I took a year with daily coaching from his brother and 7 attempts to pass his theory. We dropped him off and parked up he other side of a large car park. The first time we realised his success was the sight of a paper being held high above the parked cars as he ran towards us shouting out ‘I passed’!
The way forward with Billy, now in his 30s, is to work within his limitations and accept his ‘funny little ways’ as the way he is and not be offended if he does not reply to a question but just rephrase the question to allow him to answer without having to make a choice. If he goes on an errand to the shops he needs a list, first because of his short term memory and second because if its written down it takes the responsibility away from him in case of a mistake. Billy will never change, he needs those around him to adjust to his ways in order for him to feel comfortable.
After being born into a family of 12, bringing up 3 children on my own then starting all over with the addition of three step children, then having a fourth child making 7 in all, life is never uneventful. It is Easter Sunday and as I try to write this piece my beautiful 2 year old, red headed granddaughter, is sprinkling chocolate crumbled Easter Eggs into my keyboard.
Would I change a single minute of it?? Nah its the way it is, you just make the most of it.
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