Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Oscar's obsessed with his watch. I've posted here about his dangerous habit of walking across streets with his gaze fixed on the small blue digital face attached to his slender wrist.  This summer I had to confiscate the darn thing during his educational therapy sessions because he was checking the time so frequently that he couldn't concentrate on his work.  Today, when I picked him up from school at noon for his weekly OT appointment he looked at his watch, smiled and said,

"You're early. It's only 12:01. You don't usually get here till 12:05."  He was talking as if he'd caught me in the act.  Of what, I don't know.

He wants to know the exact time for everything -- what time will we leave for school, when will our friends arrive, how long does he have to spend on homework? It drives me a little nuts.

Our biggest issue with time, though, is around naps. Oscar still needs a nap -- he's exhausted after a long day at school where he works so hard physically, cognitively and socially to keep up.  He rests every afternoon for 1.5 to 2 hours and if he misses that nap, or stays up too late, we see it almost immediately in his behavior. More meltdowns, less flexibility.  Or he falls asleep. After a busy day and late night on Saturday, he just curled up on the couch and dozed off on Sunday morning while Abe and Ruby jumped on the trampoline and built Wedgit structures that inevitably crashed inches from his head. He'd shift or stretch but his eyes stayed closed.

As tired as Oscar gets, he resists the transition to nap. Every single day, as I'm tucking him in, he asks me, "How long?"  I never answer with an exact time because I know that if I do he won't go to sleep.  Instead he'll just obsessively check his watch until the appointed time and then pop out of his bedroom, pleased but unrested. 

Every once in a while one of us will slip and say, as a way of coaxing him into his room, "C'mon Oscar, just a short nap."  That one little word -- short -- can set off a 15 minute discussion of what that means exactly.  Half-hour? Hour?

Today, as I was tucking his yellow down comforter around his narrow frame and straightening the hand-made quilt on top, Oscar hesitantly asked, "So, when can I get up?"

He knows that some days my patience is gone by tucking time. Some days I've already spent thirty minutes talking him through the pre-nap bathroom routine: sit down, no talking, wipe, flush, wash hands (rinse, soap, rinse, dry). Some days I've emptied and refilled the dishwasher, sponged off the table and counters, taken out the garbage, and thrown in a load of laundry and he's still in the bathroom. 

Today was no different, but I was feeling patient. 

"Oh, I'll know when you're done napping," I replied with my special all-knowing smile.

"You will?" he asked, smiling back, no doubt relieved at my light response.

"Oh yes", I joked, "I peek in on you when you're sleeping and I can tell. You're like a turkey in the oven with one of those temperature thingies that pops up when it's done cooking."

"I am? Really?" he asked, giggles erupting around the edges of his red lips.  I know he was trying to tell if I was teasing him.  He was also enjoying the turkey metaphor, even though he's never seen one of those thermometers. (I so rarely reference food when I'm talking to him that the reference alone is worth giggling about.)

He ended up sleeping for two solid hours.

At dinner tonight I challenged him to not look at his watch. Every time he did I would yell "AHA!" and he would laugh and bury his wrist back in his lap. It quickly became a game, with Abe, Ruby and me all baiting him with questions like "So, Oscar, how long, if you had to guess, until bedtime?" and "Daddy said he'll be home in 20 minutes. What time will that be?" 

He fell for each silly question -- first lifting his elbow in his slightly exaggerated fashion, then jiggling his wrist to work his sleeve down his forearm to uncover his watch.  But, just when his eyes would come to rest on the little blue face, he'd realize and start giggling all over again. 

It's taken me a while, but I really think humor is a great behavior management tool for Oscar. Everything we read about PWS when Oscar was a baby emphasized that people with this disorder are too literal and have trouble understanding the humor in situations. Yes, Oscar definitely struggles with subtler social cues. He doesn't get all the jokes, but he actually really enjoys humor and gentle teasing.  And I think all the giggling releases some of his pent-up anxiety and wards off tantrums. That's my theory anyway!

1 comment:

  1. Humor is one of my favorite teachers and guidance counselors. =) This would be a dull, gray world without it. I'm so glad that it's helping you and your whole family.