In January of this year I became quite ill with an infection and had to be hospitalised for a week. Around this time, Thomas began absconding from our home again … a behaviour he had previously demonstrated but we thought had been long resolved. I think it was possibly anxiety related due to my illness. Additionally, he just truly thinks that if HE knows he’s safe, that WE know he’s safe – it’s that whole Theory of Mind thing again.
We live in a street filled with children and our boys really enjoy getting out on their scooters with the other kids. Tom in particular really needs a lot of physical activity every day to keep him together, so we were loathe to just simply forbid him to go out on the street at all. GPS devices were explored and discussed in detail, but in the end the thing that worked was a watch … a simple, digital watch! That … and sending his rule abiding, policeman like older brother with him when he ventured outdoors.
One particular day however, Tom decided to try something a little different. Another neighbourhood child dared him to knock on a strangers door and say “You have a big bum!” in return for a turn on this child’s Nerf gun. Tom is very literal and was pretty much just focused on having a turn of this child’s Nerf gun, so he accepted the dare.
Sadly (but justly) for Tom he selected a military household! The first I knew of anything being awry was when I heard James crying, “I told you not to make red choices, Tom! It’s all your fault! Now I’m going to get into trouble!” I headed out the front door to find them and then saw James and Tom being marched into our yard by a large, muscular, stern faced man who relayed the story to us! Chris and I were horrified.
The boys were sent to their rooms and we had a chat to the man – incidentally the loveliest man – a father of two himself who had just moved into our street and had in fact lived beside a child with Autism at his previous address.
I mentioned that I was so grateful to him for bringing the boys home and for managing the situation as he did. I thought the boys had learnt a valuable lesson. I then also mentioned that Tom is obsessed with the army (which he is!) and that I might just mention to Tom that the man he had insulted actually was an army man and that he’d be keeping a pretty close eye on him from now on.
So this lovely man has become known as “Commander Sean” by Tom (despite the fact that no such rank exists in the Australian Army!) and Commander Sean conducts surveillance on our neighbourhood taking particular notice of children who are not following directions, climbing on the roof of their house or jumping fences. Sean found all of this most amusing but promised to play his role in keeping Tom on track.
Occasionally “Commander Sean” likes to appear on his front lawn and give Tom the “I’ve got my eyes on you!” gesture to gently remind him to do the right thing. Priceless! You know … we have spent thousands of dollars at various therapists seeking advice as to how to manage Tom when the most effective management tool was right under our noses all the time! Thanks “Commander Sean”!
** The picture above is of Tom in his new PJ’s. Bless this endearing little rogue however the message on the PJ’s is so appropriate for him … “I didn’t do it!” 😀