Our usual readers might find this post a tad off topic as it has little to do with gardening and building for a sustainable future. We do however think it is an important post as its aim is to build understanding and compassion for all the people affected by Autism in any way.
It is a tale of our oldest daughter Josie, who is autistic and like the rest of the family, a non-practitioner of organized religion. She attended a small Catholic primary school in the West of Ireland and we wish to point out a few of the culture clashes that happened during those years, most of them to do with religion. She remembers these incidents with fondness and quite a lot of amusement and is happy for them to be shared with you here.
Josie on the right and her sister Alex.
During her early years in the school a new room was added to accommodate the increase in student numbers. On completion of the build the Bishop was invited along with a priest to consecrate the new room in a very solemn and serious ceremony. We were sitting in the audience and half way through the ceremony the Bishop brought out the holy water and started sprinkling it, vigorously in all directions. On the sight of this Josie shrinked back in her seat, making a perfect impression of a possessed child in a horror film and shouted loudly; “Not on lou, not on lou!” The bishop was not impressed.
Josie used to refer to herself as “you” as that is what other people called her and she could not figure out until she was older that you don’t refer to your own person in that way. She pronounced it like lou for quite a few years. She was also terrified of anything unexpected or unusual and having water thrown on her in this manner must have been truly terrifying.
One year Josie was taking part in the Christmas nativity play and she was supposed to present the baby Jesus with the gift of a small lamb. She came onto the stage and was slightly baffled by the number of people in the audience. She kind of froze and stood there staring at all the people. Then she remembered what she was supposed to do and glancing over, she tossed the toy sheep in the general direction of the crib. It flew through the air and landed perfectly in the middle, on top of baby Jesus.
A couple of years later I received a phone call one afternoon. The teacher on the line sounded flustered, apologetic and very serious and I was told that an incident concerning Josie had occurred. Alarm bells started chiming quite loudly in my head at this point. She went on to describe how the whole class had gone to mass in the nearby church and the students went up to the altar to receive communion. If you do not wish to partake you are supposed to put your arms across your chest but Josie, trying to be like everybody else opened her mouth and received the body of Christ.
At this point in the conversation relief flooded through me mixed with slight amusement as I tried to calm the teacher down and tell her I did not mind. The teacher continued to apologize for not preventing this from happening and it took quite a lot of persuasion before I got the point across that I did not mind, Josie did not mind, and to be honest, Christ probably did not mind either.
This incident happened about the same time as when Josie was entrusted with the task of telling the other students in the class that the local priest was coming to visit the school one afternoon. Josie was very happy, excited and proud to be assigned this task and she walked done the corridor ahead of the priest, knocked on the door and proclaimed in a load voice; “Father Henry is coming out!”
Living with a person on the Autistic spectrum can be exhausting and difficult at times but it is also a truly heart-warming and life affirming experience. Josie has asked for us to add a short dictionary to the post explaining words she invented when younger.
Toilety adj. (1) To be in need of the toilet, often urgently.
Tiger lighter n. (1) Typewriter.
Skowey (skoh-wei) n. (1) Water.
Competitioner n. (1) Conditioner.
Carmimel n. (1) A scary sticky sweet, best avoided.
When Josie was about nine years old she read on a shampoo bottle that you should avoid contact with eyes. For the next few years, every time we helped her wash her hair she sang; “I am avoiding contact with my eyes, I am avoiding contact with my eyes!”
We also wish to mention the book that inspired the title of this blog post;
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon. A very good read indeed!
We hope you have enjoyed this slightly different blog post and next week we will probably be back to writing about our more usual topics again.