When I went to get Janey at afterschool yesterday, I could hear her coming down the hall from a long distance. She was reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, in a loud and what I recognized as a frantic voice. As soon as she finished it, she started again, sounding horrible, like someone trying very hard not to cry. She kept saying it all the way to the car, and the first part of the ride home, getting increasingly upset. It's a mode I've seen in Janey a few times before, but not for a while---her stuck mode. She used to even call it that---she'd cry out in the middle of these episodes---"I'm stuck!" I imagine it's like when you get a song stuck in your head, but with Janey's brain setup, it's far worse. You can't distract her. Any attempt to do so just results in her getting louder and more frantic. I finally used the only technique I've found to work---giving her something else to recite. I chose The Lord's Prayer, which might strike people as a little sacreligious or a little bit of an odd choice for an agnostic, but there have been times in my life when reciting that prayer in my head has calmed me down. I figured it was an opportunity to teach her something potentially calming, and at least it would give her something else to say. I've recited it to her a few times before, and she has said parts of it, but this time, she learned it fully in about 5 minutes. We said it back and forth the rest of the way home, and it did seem to calm her some---not because of the content, I think, but just because it was something new. She likes the "Amen", and she likes the daily bread part---maybe bread is something she can understand there, and she certainly likes her daily bread.
This all is another example of what Janey can do very easily---learn new things by rote. It comes completely naturally to her. Too naturally, maybe, because then the recitations get stuck. It's also an example of the seat of the pants autism parenting I so often have to do. I've never found a handbook for how to deal with a child that is stuck reciting the same thing over and over and can't be distracted. I don't think it's a common enough problem, even maybe in autism, to have a "correct" solution. It's one of those times I feel utterly alone. I don't know what to do, I don't know if I'm doing something helpful or not helpful. I only know what sometimes seems to work. The whole episode left me drained. There are a few other things going on lately that are a little scary, and I just fell apart a bit last night. I had a defeated feeling---a "what the heck does anything really matter" feeling. I don't have a cheery ending for this post.