The last blog post (Money can’t buy me love) described an evening of virtual spending, where The Rose sent texts donating to good causes but with no regard for how that money would be transferred – or indeed how it actually existed.
I promised to try and describe the fiscal void and resultant chaos from that evening in my next post. This is it. People with Aspergers aren’t all genius mathematicians.
I suspect that The Rose’s line of thinking isn’t a line at all. Most people tend to learn sequentially joining up info and using experiences from one thing to apply to a second thing.
The Rose appears to have her experiential information filed in random dots in her mind. Collected in separated bundles, which she is brilliant at accessing but only if relevant to an EXACT experience she’s had before. Add to that the fact that accessing vast number of packets of segregated info is time consuming and stressful – I am constantly amazed she is as gloriously joined up as she is!
She used to receive Maths tuition from a wonderful, patient, retired ‘old school’ Maths teacher who loved her. He commented that when he explained a concept or theory in maths she grasped it instantly and could answer questions based on that theory speedily and accurately. However if they paused for a cuppa or moved onto another topic, when they came back to the previously brilliantly performed exercise, he had to teach her from scratch all over again. Nothing was retained unless it was to answer the exact same question. Even if it varied a bit – she’d be lost.
Added to this the fact that numbers are an abstract concept providing no immediate satisfaction even if puzzles are resolved they carry no reward or consequence so as a result The Rose couldn’t have cared less.
So how weird then is money?
Ok the cash thing is at least tangible. The coins add up to a figure that can be exchanged for a lip gloss or Bruno Mars CD, but money is about to become virtual.
The Rose could have a credit card, cheque book, on-line shopping account in six months time.
I feel sick.
So – in order to prepare her for this monumental leap of fiscal faith I justify her pocket money by getting her to clean our house for a couple of hours on two days a week.
Well, when I say ‘cleaning’ what I actually mean of course is smearing a choked vacuum cleaner over a few dusty rugs and spraying cans of wood polish on the cooker – but it at least it nods towards a fair days pay for a fair days work.
I have tried to coach her in this skill of cleanliness and hygiene but she accuses us of:
“Having old, flaky skin”
And “disgusting loose toe nails”
PLUS “you ought to buy a nicer house with smooth places and no old crap in it!”
She hates it but I think I am instilling something – I’m just not quite sure what yet.
Anyhow – this means The Rose ostensibly has £10 per week of her own. She doesn’t go out, she has a fashion taste limited largely to ‘value’ baggy T shirts and sparkly necklaces, but she never manages to save.
This is because Tesco chicken wraps, Frijol milkshakes and packets of hoola hoops – are life choices. Whatever I make her to eat just doesn’t hit the spot – she’s locked in to their consistent taste, texture and look – but it’s expensive. I buy for her where I can but she loves the independence and freedom of getting these things herself without needing to ask anyone. It’s wonderfully reliable and predictable freedom. She’s 17 it’s her choice.
So let’s get back to where we started and what I’m trying to explain.
The Rose has donated money to charity using her phone texts – a total sum of £38 to Comic Relief.
I pay that phone bill. The Rose cannot understand that the donations appear in the bill. She thinks they are actual coins that will somehow get to Africa.
I am cross because she doesn’t understand the value of the amount she’s given or indeed how it is fulfilled. I am worried that this basic financial principle means a whole host of future scary debt – but I accept that she has been very kind and considerate and that I am proud.
Dilemma – I’m sending mixed messages to her. How can I be cross AND pleased? What to do?
I decide to split the bill – tell her I’ll pay for half, thinking she’d be pleased ….HALF?
“HALF? Bloody’ell Mum you think I’m mean; mean and selfish don’t you? I want to donate the whole flippin’ lot not HALF”
Regroup. OK how will you pay £38?
“I’ll pay you from my wages”
Ok I say, but that will mean no wages for three weeks. (“Four” she says and instantly hates me!)
Stupidly I suggest that I won’t actually pay her but will keep the money back to meet the bill.
Noooooooooooo again – because “How can I pay you if you don’t give me any money?” – she’s gone puce. I’ve gone too far. She’s shaking like a grumbling volcano.
I attempt to save the situation and avert the lava flow by drawing a diagram.
Yeah right! That’ll save us all.
“Shut up you horrible woman. You’re saying I don’t love African children or poor children and that I’m mean because all along it’s YOU who is paying. Well it’s not YOU it’s me. I gave that money to them so BUTT out and leave me alone, I don’t want you near me ever, ever, ever again.”
She’s right of course. I should have known. I apologised when she was eventually calm and let me near her. She wrote me a note back.
“Dear Mum. I am so sorry about shouting. I am horrible and you aren’t. I don’t know what to do but I will give you my money and buy you a holiday just as soon as I’ve saved like £50 or something”
Ah yes my lovely love. Money CAN buy me love.
Wow. Both posts really hit home for me and let me say what you are encountering isn’t necessarily Autism-specific. I can (but won’t) name quite a few non-Autistic older teens and adults that haven’t the slightest idea why they can’t just write checks and charge amounts willy-nilly. And generally it’s because they have a backer (like Mum)!
I think you handled this surprise situation very well. The fact that you were able to see the positive (The Rose wanting to help others) while wanting to snap her phone in half for donating a large sum of money is very good indeed! Both aspects needed addressing and you addressed them!
Virtual money is extremely difficult to explain – I can remember telling my Mom (well into my teens) to just “Write a check” when she would tell me there was no money. The checkbook was full, lots of checks! So, just write one! The idea that there was a building (the bank) that housed our money and that a check could only be written if we had money in that building completely eluded me. So credit cards, bank cards, phone-texting… forget it! Those things don’t even look like money! It’s as simple as swiping a card or pushing a button.
How on Earth do we expect kids in general to get this without explicit instruction and explanation? We can’t. The Rose is very intelligent, but her brain is going to need you to explain things to her very differently. Sometimes our Autistic brains don’t get the simple things (e.g. phone-texting money’s gotta’ come from somewhere)! It’s gonna’ take a lot of explaining, discussing, diagramming, watching YouTube videos, whatever workds for The Rose… Because, honestly, looking at this situation with my Autistic brain, I’m not buying anything with money unless you put actual notes/coins in my hand. I’m swiping a rectangular piece of plastic and some bank somewhere is recording my account balance lowering. So, where’s the money…?
Starting now is key, because you’re absolutely right, if you don’t help The Rose with this now what will happen when she’s on her own? She’ll either find herself in debt up to her eyeballs or continually running to the Bank of Mum and Dad! And that you don’t want!
My very best to you and the family /
Renee you are like a magic key to the other side. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond, so insightfully and so articulately. I really do appreciate it … And so will my bank manager. Bless you and thanks again for taking so much time and care.
I can really relate to this on several levels. One is the not being able to retain the information unless the exact sane scenario presents itself. In our case it was our son who was not making much headway with maths until his godmother hit on the idea of using props to illustrate the “how far have a travelled in a car going 50 miles p/hour” question with a “road” made out of paper and a toy car. She then turned all the questions around and worked with him until he could approach the same maths from all angles. Luckily, because this worked, we were then able to make sure school understood how he needed to learn maths from then on,
The other part was the money. M is only young still, but I can see that right now she literally has no idea about the relevance of money at all, although she knows the Tooth Fairy brings a gold shiny one, and money buys chocolate. I suppose she sees me pay with a debit card too often. There is no connection yet between cheques and actual money, no matter how many times I explain. Her brother, only 1 year older, lights up with delight if a card contains a cheque, yet she is disappointed to the verge of tears at the same, until I explain again how I can turn it into money. Yes, afraid I’ve copped out slightly for the moment.
Anyway, a great post!
An inspired Grandmother! Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s quite a mountain to climb Isn’t it? Keep climbing. X