Friday, June 18, 2010

House Rules Check in...

First I want to lead off with Miss Anthrope's comment from my last check in last week. She just posted it today, but I didn't want anyone to miss it..

Uffda! I finally got this book a couple days ago from the library (Monday, actually)- I was like 130 on the wait list (so, whew! I'm gonna back off my library after seeing that some are in the 1000's!)

I work with individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders- it's so fascinating in the way that they think:

For example:

I had one individual who used to hate taking showers. Whenever her mother tried to bathe her/wash her hair, she would become physically aggressive (hit, kick, spit, pull hair, etc). So when she came to the crisis facility, we showered her: we put up with the physical aggression, we got our hair pulled, punched, kicked, spit on, yelled at- but I'll never forget the day I had her in the shower and she looks at me and says, "Turn it farther!" And when I was clueless, she kept (calmly) repeating it. "Turn it farther?" I asked her, "Make it hotter?" and she'd scream out, "Noooo, farther!"
Finally I just looked at her and said, "show me". If you look at the shower handle, it was the kind where the handle should be turned in a counterclockwise fashion (like an arc) to get hotter and to the right to get colder. She literally meant, "turn it farther".

It was interesting because we always would teach people, "if you say something, they take it literally", but sometimes I think we don't even know what the literal meaning of a word is, or what slang literally means- because we're so used to it we don't think of it like that.

One guy I currently work with loves the tingling and burning sensation of slapping- it feels good to him, so he will walk around the house, pound on walls, windows, tables, doors, people-- yes, people, and he does it either because it feels good or he wants attention. For the longest time (years ago), they didn't think he could talk; he would just echo what he heard from others. Turns out, now many years later, he talks all right! He swears in context! He'll tell you that he does something, "to get a rise out of you!" It's a bit of a word salad, where throughout the day you have to stop and listen to what he's saying to figure it out. But we talk back to him- if he starts talking about something, we talk about it too, even though it might not be talking together, but more of a parallel conversation- that way, he knows we're listening to him (and it gives purpose to language for him). Otherwise, if no one would respond or listen to him, then why talk?

Oh, and the need for consistency and routine- it gets to be difficult. I work with one individual now who was misdiagnosed all his life as OCD, but really, he is on the spectrum. "I want peas, cottage cheese, and hot dish for supper". And if that's not what you were having, then he'd tell you, "I want my way now! Peas, cottage cheese and hotdish, now!" He'll eat food that falls on the table: not because he's hungry, but because it's his. So to get him to stop doing that (eating off the floor), we have him throw it away and we "replace" what he lost.

Surprisingly, Picoult does a really good job of conveying what it is like to support an individual with Autism Spectrum Disorders... the mom in this book, is, lemme tell you, by far the most understanding parent I've run across! (Many parents simply just don't understand or don't know what to do- even providers, group homes!! don't know what to do sometimes.

The mom in the book (I'm on all of page 61 haha) reminds me of another mom that I was blessed with meeting when I was student teaching. She is super mom to me. Her oldest daughter is on the spectrum and she fights for everything for her daughter. She has improved sooo much and she makes sure that her daughter gets what she deserves and is treated fairly. She gets the side-eye from a lot of people and has pissed off school admins but she is doing what she is supposed to do; advocate for her daughter. It's tough for people who have no experience with autism to realize how much work and how much struggle and how much isolation the whole family has to go through!

My thoughts through page 61...

I like Jacob's character but it is almost hard for me to think he can be so reflective on everything and yet unable to control his outbursts.

His brother is going to snap and his mother really needs to remember that she has two children and that Theo can live his how he wants regardless of his brother. Oh and the breaking into 'perfect family houses' is not going to end well and is a perfect example of a cry for help. I also have quite a few guesses as to how this is going to play out and I am already kind of disappointed.

My co-worker just finished it and she said she thought she had it figured out and was like no, it will be a twist and then at the end finished it and said, yep had it figured out. She was not a fan. So now I am worried.

And let's borrow a question from Jodi's website...

‘My mother will tell you Jacob’s not violent, but I am living proof that she’s kidding herself’ (p.11).
As with many of Jodi Picoult’s previous novels House Rules is written from the perspective of several different characters, each taking turns to narrate a chapter. Why do you think Picoult favours this narrative device, considering the nature of her stories? Is it a successful technique?

I enjoy when she tells the story in different perspectives, I think it helps you know more about the characters and develops them into real people to care about and gets me engaged in the story! I think she does it for those reasons.. ha

Have you gotten it? How far in are you? Do you like it? Anything you want to discuss? I will respond in comments!


Kelly said...

Definitely agree with you about Jacob's character- he seems like 2 different people at times, but it said she talked to many teenagers with Aspergers so maybe they were able to be that reflective...?

Anonymous said...

I think after reading this novel, everyone should watch a movie called, "Temple Grandin". She's diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and she beat all the odds in order to go to graduate school and get a degree in "Animal Husbandry" (or something like that). She's also the developer of the "squeeze machine", which is a contraption that many individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders use in order to alleviate some of their anxiety: you get into the machine and it literally squeezes you- that pressure is what feels good.

Anyway, a movie was made of her life and it does a great job of showing the world through how she sees it: for example, you and I know what "animal husbandry" is, but the movie flickers in that instant to a picture of a cow and a person, getting married (to show that she thinks literally and with pictures). One of my staff introduced me to the movie (it's currently on HBO); but I plan on purchasing it when it releases this fall and using at a staff meeting (or as a training video) for the 3 group homes I supervise. Our county case manager team brought it up at one of our recent get-togethers.

I've read one other Picoult book, "The Plain Truth", so I'm familiar with the use of her characters voices in order to tell the story-- but this book really blossoms because of that style.

For example, the situation may be that Jacob is to make friends at the local park. He doesn't fit in with the kids his own age; they call him "retard" and they make fun of him. He sits in a sandbox with a group of little girls and tries to play with them in the sand. He doesn't play with them, but engages in parallel play, digging for dinosaurs.

Mom: describes the pain of knowing that her child is not atypical and does not fit in. She is afraid he will forever be misunderstood and alone. She understands why he does things and tries to advocate as best as she can for that. She describes her broken marriage, chaotic life dealing with a career, two kids (one who is diagnosed with ASD), as well as financial woes, and struggles with her other child. She sees empty cereal boxes left on the kitchen counter after promising Theo a meal out and knows that she's just hurt her second son: she's damned if she does and damned if she doesn't.

Theo: explains that it's embarrassing that Jacob doesn't stick up for himself, finds it painful that he's the "big" little brother and that Jacob steals his mother's attention away from him. He delves into the sacrifices he thinks he silently makes in order to support Jacob.

The Detective: well, he's just like the rest of us atypical people who do not have experience dealing with ASD's and just don't "get it".

And of course, Jacob- he explains how he doesn't understand how he doesn't fit in, and his biggest problem being labeled as "retarded" is because it simply isn't true- he has an IQ over 150 (and to be retarded, your IQ has to be less than 70!) He explains exactly why he doesn't go to places with fluorescent lighting (it's like pin pricks in his eyes) and in typical ASD fashion, the world really truly revolves around him (how often does he worry about Theo or his mother?)

I think without hearing all of those voices, we'd really never understand Jacob or his family. It'd be flat, one dimensional, and there wouldn't be the layers and different perceptions of things... and for ASD, perception is a tricky thing!

Mystica said...

This book has a huge waiting list in my library. I just have to wait.