What PJ Has Not Learned

It seems that most of PJ’s 36 years have been spent with us trying to teach him something. By now, I have accepted that there are things that he cannot or will not learn. Because he has taught me about unconditional love, I love him just the way he is.

PJ has not learned to navigate independently in the community.  We went through a phase when he would leave the house when I was in the bathroom or bedroom (and they say that people with autism  are not sneaky). Of course, as soon as I discovered that he was gone, I would look for him before he got too far away. He moves very fast, so I had to move fast , too.

Once, a stranger rang my bell because she had seen PJ barefoot and in pajamas on the next block. She had questioned him and of course he wasn’t answering , so she called the police and started following him to keep an eye on him.  She followed him home and let me know what had happened as she cancelled the police call. I had only been upstairs for five minutes, so I wondered if he had gotten that far that fast, but I thanked her for her concern.

The next time he left the house, I was ready. I went upstairs and waited. Sure enough, he left the house, but this time I followed him. He was down the street, around the corner and on the next block in two minutes. As I tried to catch up with him, he crossed a street while the light was red. Thank God no cars were coming! I caught him, took his hand and brought him home. He came willingly which was not always the case. These incidents stopped once I had a bell installed that rang when the door was opened from the inside and he found out that he couldn’t leave without me knowing.

He has not learned to distinguish whether a public rest room is for men or for women. I used to take him into the ladies’ room with me until he was about nine and the ladies started complaining. I tried to explain his condition, but this was in the 1980s and autism was far more rare than it is now. Ladies didn’t care what the situation was, they didn’t want him in there. So now, I had the fear of letting him go to the mens’ room alone.  Now, when we are in public, I have to make sure that he goes into the mens’ room. He has walked into a ladies room, but I quickly showed him the mens’ room. I have tried to teach him to read the word on the door, but don’t know if he understands.

When I found out that he was interested in the washer and the dishwasher, I thought I could teach  him to use them. I taught him to measure soap or detergent, but found that when my back was turned , he would pour it all into the washer.  He ruined a load of clothes by pouring a whole bottle of bleach into  the washer. He would run the washer just to see the water, so I would have to put clothes in to show him that we didn’t run it empty.

What bothered me for years is that he has not learned to talk. I finally realized that he is not deprived of anything that he wants or wants to do. When we go shopping, he picks up whatever he wants.  He is totally independent at home, so he takes care of his own needs and wants.  He does not want conversation enough to even try to talk. I have accepted what is.

Until next time; May you have peace, love and prosperity in your life.

Claudreen Jackson




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