Fly Away, Songbird

I recently likened Dmitry to a lorikeet. He’s certainly got the 11-amperage to favorably compete with a lorikeet strapped to a chainsaw.

But he’s also got the wings.

Autistic children usually have moderately low to severely low muscle tone. It’s such a common related condition that physical activity is highly encouraged during therapy sessions and in general. This is another aspect of “typical autism” where Dmitry’s a clear outlier. He is a wiry sack of sand and broken glass and gristle, and he’s STRONG. He does pullups to pull himself onto the counter without a stair step (though he loves stomping on the open stove to break it further). He will also climb right to the top of the 5-ton A/C condenser in the backyard. Especially when it turns on and he can see the spinnies and feel the hot wind in his face. He has not met a table he can’t overturn, a chair he can’t dash to the floor.

I think it’s the all flying he does. Dmitry is a fantastic flapper.

Dmitry's spectacular flapping

Dmitry’s spectacular flapping

He’s so incredibly active that he gets a lot of exercise, and seems to have almost unlimited endurance when it comes to things he loves. I never see him breathing heavily, winded from exertion, and he rarely perceives something as too difficult. He’s very tenacious. Even with his tendency to toe-walk he’s a very fast, confident runner at just 3 years old.

We never discourage his flapping anymore. It’s what he loves and what he does. I remember “learning” ( in my first apprehensive forays into autism lay research) that as parents, you should discourage the flapping. It will make him seem weird among his peers, and he will have a harder time making friends. But my wife showed me something from Leigh Merryday of Flappiness Is that pulled me up short as I reconsidered the path I was preparing to embark upon:

Please don’t try to stop him from his flapping.  If he isn’t autistic, he’ll stop one day.  If he is, you are trying to stop a mockingbird from singing.  It is simply how he expresses his excitement.  You’ll get used to it, don’t worry.  Flappiness?  It just is.

Strap a few dynamos to his arms and he’s a surefire solution to the energy crisis.

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8 thoughts on “Fly Away, Songbird

  1. I would miss his flappiness and hope it never goes away!

    • pianomikey says:

      Yeah, so would I. I don’t think it ever will.

      • I have cerebral palsy and use a power wheelchair; but I am very lucky not to have gotten any mental differences along with it.

        When I was in high school, in order to get my free physical therapy during the summer, I volunteered in a room full of autistic children in special education summer school, which they encourage, so that nobody loses anything they learned over the school year. For adults beyond school, if they are in a group home, the same thing is called DTA or daytime activity.

        Anyway, flapping was one of the few stims we were supposed to not necessarily encourage, but not stop from happening. Because it was understood back then, in the mid-90s, that was a way of calming themselves down from other, potentially more destructive behavior.

        Sometimes, I was able to make it into a fun thing. I love music, so that is always the second thing I try. The first thing I work with is finding their favorite thing. My favorite little boy didn’t like school. But he loved elephants. So we started doing math with elephants. I would ask him if I had five elephants over here and one elephant went over there to take a nap, how many are still over on this side playing, etc. We wrote stories about elephants. We drew pictures of elephants. Suddenly, he loved school. And when he didn’t want to exercise, I would race him in my Gait Trainer, a special kind of Walker, which was my physical therapy. Most of the time, he would win the race, of course, and I wasn’t even cheating. But the last day I was there, the last day I would ever see him actually, he started out running, and then sat down.

        So I “ran” to the end, and then asked him why he wasn’t running. He came up to me and signed that he wanted me to win one time, because he knew I was going away.

        We were supposed to only encourage high-fives. No hugs. But Chance, which was his name, always climbed up on my lap, and hung on for dear life. I hated so much to leave him, because we knew he was being abused. But I heard he was taken into protective custody. I hope he is doing well now.

        BTW, if you’re wondering why I’m writing, Dmitry is my second cousin, but he and his brothers know me as Aunt Amber. :-)

      • pianomikey says:

        Daww, what a sweetie. Thanks for sharing your story, Amber.

  2. I know this flapping well. :)

    • pianomikey says:

      Thanks, Leigh for taking the time to come by! Please everyone take the time to check out gentle Leigh Merryday’s blog. Her boy Callum sounds a lot like Dmitry’s distant soul brother!

  3. […] with mundane things like water, brushes and forks, or his hyposensitivity that drives him to spin in a circle for hours and flap like a sparrow lifting a coconut, because I enjoy those things about him. I love that he’s […]

  4. […] for “exhibition”. This can only be considered progress.  I’ve talked about it before, that Dmitry has very good coordination and muscle tone for an autistic child, and I’m very […]

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