Khalid has a hard time expressing himself, which is very common for a person with autism. We’ve learned to keep a closer eye on him, to looks for signs of things that he may not be able to tell us. Today, for example, when Iman started bawling and saying that Khalid bit her, I checked Khalid’s arm first. Sure enough, I found teeth marks and a nasty purple bruise that far exceeded the dent that Iman dramatically showed me in her finger. Khalid bit Iman because Iman bit him first, but he would never tell us that.
It’s not as if Khalid doesn’t talk- sometimes we can’t get him to stop talking- about trains, about Amtrak and Metrolink and Thomas. It’s just that he won’t talk about himself. He won’t even tell us when he needs to use the bathroom, and we have a roughly 90% rate of Khalid peeing in his pants if we don’t insist that he goes to the bathroom when we think he’s looking a little fidgety. So you can see how hard it is to get an idea of what goes on inside of his head, and how easy it is to miss what a sensitive little boy he is.
In addition to Khalid’s self-inflicted belief that HF has abandoned him due to bad behavior (see yesterday’s Umrah post) Khalid is also suffering from severe haircut regret. One of HF’s personal traditions is to have his head shaved whenever one of our new babies has their head shaved. This, he says, is so that the baby doesn’t feel alone. 🙂 This time, when HF went to the barber to match his hairdo to Musfira’s, Khalid got excited by seeing the ‘paint’ (shaving cream) on baba’s head, and said he wanted his head painted too. HF was skeptical, and he called me. I asked Khalid, Khalid said he wanted to have his head shaved. So we let him.
Khalid came home happy and we took some pictures of his and HF’s shiny new heads together. The next morning the honeymoon ended. Khalid woke me up by climbing into my bed with his hands on his head exclaiming ‘Oh no! Where is it? We need to find the hair!’ and since then, he has worn a hat, 24/7. He even goes to bed in one. He will run naked from one end of the house to the other (if he gets distracted while getting dressed) but he will be naked with a hat on. We’ve tried to separate him from the hat, but he will cry and cover his head with his hands out of shame. He will skulk around miserably with his head hanging, both hands covering his lack of hair. We’ve decided that him not feeling humiliated is more important than us following vintage Western social norms out here in the Middle East where we have no such hangups about headgear, so Khalid gets to wear his hat.
This evening, the kids ate dinner without a fuss, bathed without any protest, and earned a brief cartoon interlude before bedtime. We had ten minutes to go before lights-out, so I opened my computer and turned on a Pixar short film- Boundin’. It’s here, and in case you’ve forgotten, tells the story of a happy, fluffy sheep who shares his joy by dancing for the other animals until one day- insert ominous music here- he is unexpectedly hauled away and sheared. He is returned- naked and ridiculed by the other animals. Are you picking this up yet? Thunder rolls. The sky darkens. The sheep is crying in the rain. By the time it dawns on me that this might not be a good cartoon for Khalid just at this point in his dramatic life, he has pulled his hat over his face, and I can see tears rolling out from underneath of it. I ask him what’s wrong and he tries to run away. I gently pull him back because I want him to see that the sheep can be happy even without his hair, which is what his friend the Jackalope teaches him. Khalid sniffs and perks up a bit. The sheep’s hair grows back and Khalid is happy. But then that darn truck comes back AGAIN and the sheep is sheared and Khalid looks like the rug’s been pulled out from under him again.
It’s hard to tell how socially aware Khalid is or isn’t, but we’re learning. When I introduced Khalid to my physiotherapist two weeks ago, she very casually asked Khalid where his front teeth had gone. Khalid looked away from her and mumbled ‘nothing’ and then walked out of her office. ‘Nothing’ is Khalid’s response to any question with an unpleasant answer. She apologized to me profusely for embarrassing him, but I can’t fault her. She’s not the first person who has asked and she won’t be the last, and as desperately as I wish I could, I can’t protect him from the world.
Ya Allah, please protect Khalid from hurt and harm, whether it come from friends or enemies, and protect him and sustain him, and please keep him in Your shelter in this life and the next. Ameen.