Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Girl who Loves Keys

I have finished my English preparation quicker than I thought.
There is a precious half hour before I have to leave to teach six frighteningly precocious little girls of 8 and 9 years old (and one boy) a bit of English cunningly concealed in a theatre workshop. The long and short of it is that they dress up in my old stage clothes and we make up stories about princesses and magic handbags with genies in them.

So I will tell you about the girl who loves keys.

This morning I went to give my usual music workshop to my autist students.
The girl who loves keys was there waiting for me to drop my guard and part with my key ring. She is 16 years old and the most noticeable thing about her is her eyes. They are a startling cornflower blue, and beautiful. She has some speech, but she has a fixation on keys. She will ask me over and over again to give them to her. These keys are a valuable negotiation tool. I can persuade her to do most things, if I promise her temporary possession of them.
She has learned to trust that when I say she will have them, she will get them.
She has also had to learn that when I give them to her, she must give them back when I ask for them, so that I can trust her. That has taken a little longer, but now we understand each other.

She prefers the keys to the Kangoo, but will make do with the old mercedes’ keys because when you press a button, the key pops up. She likes to stroke her cheek with the soft plastic surface, and she does this throughout the music lesson. When we make up a musical story, she describes my car, and her driving away in it and going to Paris or to the swimming pool.
She doesn’t sing very often, but she is very musical. She can play notes on a trumpet and hit a drum in time and sing a note in tune, but she is rarely interested and stays locked in “keyworld”.

I thought I would try a new song today.

I started to perform a barely recognisable version of Wonderwall, by Oasis, on the harmonium and sang with a very croaky wheezy voice .
I don’t think you can possibly imagine the surprised look on my face when the girl who loves keys sang the exact melody along with me with the right words every now and then… IN ENGLISH…
I wonder where and when she had heard it before.

12 comments:

Ms Mac said...

One of my best friends had a little boy who loved keys. From a very young age he had to hold on to his mother's keys and wanted to be in charge of opening and locking the doors.

Wonderwall is a top song though, good choice from both of you.

Lady P said...

Another beautiful and touching story, beautifully told. I love that it's not just the physicality of the key itself but the narratives it represents too.

I remember 2ndSon, whose behaviour when very young was remarkably, uh, rigid, and how when I took him on holiday to Spain I had to take a picture of the car with us. He used to spend hours standing with the tip of his finger in the lock on the passenger door. Luckily after a couple of days of 24-hr screaming he discovered he could stand for hours with the tip of his finger in the lock of the passenger door of the car of the friend with whom we were staying. Phew.

How I love you and your autists :-)

Dingo said...

I absolutely love your stories and your students.

I used to babysit for an autistic girl. She was verbal but her voice was deep and husky and Lauren Bacall-ish. Until she sang. She had the voice of an angel. Charlotte Church would love to have the voice that came from her. Amazing, isn't it?

Liz said...

Well you did say she loves keys! This obviously includes musical ones.

meggie said...

I love your The Girl who or the Boy who stories.
The human brain is an incredible frontier of the unknown!

Dick said...

Good to read, Rosie.

Mike said...

Beautiful story Rosie! My hat is off to you for having the heart and the patience to work with special needs kids. Thank you.

Lucy said...

Fascinating, and I love the idea of her stories of you driving to Paris and the swimming pool! I guess they really do open doors to other possibilities for her.

Does she have keys of her own, at all, or is it other people's keys she loves?

Omykiss said...

You meet the most amazing people ... and amazingly, seem to understand them so well!

Suzy said...

I hope you're putting all these stories into book form. I think they're fascinating and might help a lot of people understand these children/adults better, eben their parents. Start querying some U.S.agents.

I know this sounds AWFUL but autism is a very discussed topic in the US right now. I don't mean to say "Make a Buck off them" but I think it would just be a fascinating read.

Rosie said...

Thanks for your input everyone.
These children are so interesting on lots of levels. They reflect and exagerate parts of our "normal" selves...perhaps that is why they are fascinating. I see myself in a distorting mirror, and it is not always a comfortable experience...

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

she sounds lovely ... its amazing that she had that song locked away- apparently waiting...