Thursday, November 8, 2007


The interview with Michael and his dad, Andy, was unique on several levels. Most obvious, Andy is a single father, which is something we have not found with any of our previous interviewees; Michael is non-verbal, which means that his communication is confined to using a computer device called a "Minnie Moe," or a picture board when at his home; and the level of cooperation that we experienced with Michael's school administration was remarkably open and helpful. Our crew followed Michael from his last couple of minutes in school to the bus stop at his grandparents' house and we ended, 4 hours later, at Michael's house with his sister, Sarah, and dad, Andy.
I have read about how important it is to maintain a routine for children with autism, but to experience it first hand was a different situation. Andy was extremely open about telling us when Michael was transitioning from one part of his routine to another. For instance, we usually do our interviews in the interviewee's house, but when we were about to begin Andy's interview, Michael was ready to transition to the next part of his daily routine - playing around outside and in his dad's parked truck. This was not a problem for our crew; we simply moved our equipment from the house to the front yard. You will see that our interview with Andy is outside. Many of us find comfort in a routine, but to see how rigidly it must be followed in Michael's case in order to provide that comfort is a testament to Andy.

I couldn't help but notice the difference between Michael's after-school routine and his sister Sarah's. Michael starts his evening ritual with routine "stemming" activities like slapping a belt against the ground, while Sarah dives right in to the latest recommended reading list from her honors classes. There we were, observing two siblings doing their starkly different after-school rituals, Michael's routine intended merely to provide a sense of comfort and Sarah's geared toward scholarly advancement. Two routines, done side by side, yet completely different.

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