Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Wobot in his natural habitat
Emma has been excited to start getting our house decorated for Halloween.  Last night while my wife was putting Lily to bed, she and I began the set up. . . orange lights on a faux wrought iron fence, skull heads, jack o’ lantern lamps, and all the trimmings.  Anyway, one of the decorations is a little animatronic skeleton that does a little dance to the tune of "Low" by Flo Rida.  Last year it scared the shit out of Lily.  Or at minimum she was not overly fond of it.  She called it "wobot" as in robot.  She didn't recognize it as a skeleton, which isn't a big deal, but probably is for the best.

So we set all the decorations up last night, and wobot was sitting next to the fireplace.  He's about 8" tall.  It was dark in the family room when we walked down the stairs.  Despite his inconspicuous placement, the first thing Lily did this morning was walk right over and start talking about making wobot dance.  "I want wobot dance!"

So I made wobot dance, depressing a somewhat hidden blister switch on his sleeve, and placed it on the table.  Next thing I know she was carting the stupid thing around with her everywhere, a  far cry from last year's "I no wike wobot!", and I'm trying to get breakfast ready, but every 30 seconds I had to stop because if I didn't, Lily would just repeat excitedly, "I want make wobot dance!" over and over times forever.

A few minutes later her big sister Emma came down stairs and since her breakfast wasn’t ready, I pressed her into ‘pressing’ duty.  She would ask Lily if she wanted wobot to sing and then would periodically depress the blister so that he could continue to sing about apple bottom jeans and the boots with the fur, etc.  Which is all pretty adorable. . .

. . . until it was time for breakfast, because Lily didn't want no damn breakfast, she wanted wobot.  And the answer to each of the following questions:  1)  “Lily, do you want a pop tart for breakfast?”, 2)  “Lily, do you want a strudel for breakfast?”, and 3) “Lily, do you want happy toast for breakfast?” was, “I want wobot.”

Finally to get us to shut up about breakfast she agreed to "pink pop tart," which we dutifully provided her on a pink plastic plate.  She put perhaps a quarter of a thimble's worth of poptart in her mouth before she hopped from her chair and said, "I'm all done now, I want wobot."

We stayed firm, of course, and said, “First pop tart, then wobot!” (only we pronounced it "robot") and she continued taking tiny mincing bites and popping up, frantically searching for wobot, until I finally negotiated one big bite of the damn pop tart in exchange for the wobot.  This was the first step down the slippery slope that hindsight almost immediately recognized, because as she took a bite, and I put wobot on the table, and he commenced to get his groove on. . . and she announced, "I all done pop tart," having gotten what she wanted all along, tipped the poptart off her pink plastic plate and stood up.

 “No, Lily, sit down,” said my wife.  Then, “Keep the pop tart on the plate.” 

Lily sat, for perhaps a second, wobot clutched in her hands while he gyrated, and said again, “I all done pop tart,” again upending the plate, while my wife repeated "No, Lily, leave your plate alone". . . lather, rinse, repeat, forever, while Emma took the opportunity to tell us all a story about a dream she had, as wobot continued to sing at full volume about how the whole club was looking at herrrrrr.  And it all became a little too much for at least fifty percent of the people in the room . . . my wife and Lily went into sensory overload.

Wobot was angrily removed from the vicinity much to Lily’s chagrin.  Words became clipped and terse.  All parties became tense and the morning degenerated to angry sarcasms muttered stiffly under breath and great forced politenesses. 

Eventually we got Lily to eat a few grapes, but she continued her domination of us, fooling us into believing she actually wanted happy toast*, which I made her in an effort to get something in her system.  She ate about as much of it as she had of the pop tart and then it was time to go to day care.  Not a spectacular effort on our parts.

So my wife lost it this morning, but you could tell this story again tomorrow and replace “she” with “he”, and neither of us would bat an eye, since the person who loses it seems to depend on nothing so much as what way the wind is blowing, which is why we’re such a good team, since we have yet to experience a day where we both simultaneously flip out.  I think when I see her lose it, it scares me and I somehow immediately develop superhuman patience, and the same seems to go for her.

I didn’t realize how stimulated Lily would be by wobot.  She was completely out of control (which is ironic since she had us leaping to do her bidding in an attempt to get food in her).  After the dust settled and the kids were safely at daycare and I drove to work, I called my wife to give her the daily morning drop-off update.  We talked about what we had done wrong and how her eating is getting a little out of our control again, and we needed to redouble our efforts. 

Tomorrow we’re hiding wobot until after breakfast.


  1. This is fascinating to me on many levels. First, I love the honesty of your blog. Sometimes, it's not pretty to lose your perfect Ward and June Cleaver personas when your child has autism. It happens. No doubt about it. The Pop-Tart episode could be any one of us -definitely me.

    What I see about Lily is something very similar to T. (He loves the frosted brown sugar and cinnamon but it must be torn to little squares...another story) He will be very scared of some object - like wobot- and then months or a year later fixate on it to obsessive proportions. I think this is their way of pushing themselves through the difficulty of the sensory overload. With each "dance", the sensory overload may reduce itself for Lily. As she plays it over and over, she can "sense" it making less of an impact upon her "senses" so to speak. This is just my total guess but I've seen the same behavior with T. He will refuse to allow anyone to touch one of his battery operated cars that makes a lot of noise and rolls across the floor. Then, he will do it himself over and over for days and days on end until it doesn't bother him anymore. Then - he's done.

    Meanwhile, everyone else in the house has every last nerve in their bodies frayed listening to it. Another mom of an ASD child taught me a trick. Wherever the speaker is for the toy, put tape over it - duct tape works best. It muffles and lowers the volume so the assault is not so bad!! :)

  2. Our biggest shared sin in all this is that Emma (who is a VERY slow eater on mornings when we both need to get to work) sometimes is the innocent who suffers the wrath of the stressed out parents. Sometimes things that might have been gentle nudges can become hollered "Emma EAT!" because we're in mid-"situation".

    We try though.

    So if I read you correctly, there's a possibility that if I leave her in her room for a few hours with wobot, i might solve the whole problem?

  3. OOOOOOH, Jim, be careful. She may start doing the club dance that goes with that song. Pretty sure that problem would be worse than a sensory overload.

    Just cut the eyelashes and be done with it.

  4. I can't. They're too adorable.

  5. Katie gets like this. Oh, when she gets overstimulated it's like she is on speed (I am guessing...I have never done such things) and it is near impossible to stop it, and also near impossible to stop (my husband's) meltdown about it. We do this whole earn chart thing the school Autism specialist told us (forced us) to do, so if K fails to do what she needs to do, she doesn't earn whatever her precious is at that moment. This supposedly is not bribing and not punishment, according to the "experts" (aka woman hired by our foe, the school district). Anywho, we don't have this issue b/c we are pretty much scrooges year round and the whole of my Halloween decorations are stick on things for the windows, that don't rile K up or allow her to stim...(so that's my excuse...yeah...that's it...) ; )

  6. i never wanted to decorate for Halloween. . . but the oldest kiddo. . . she loves the spooks and ghouls. The things we do for love!

  7. Juliana hates breakfast and if I can get her to eat half of a pop tart that is a win. I am sure she is going to starve at school but she seems to make it to lunch each day. Short of forcing food down her throat, I am forcing myself to accept the situation.