Some Cream For Your Coffee?
Jonathan Helps (?) His Mom
from About.com's section on Autism and
Pervasive Developmental Disorders
I drink coffee. Constantly. I am rarely without a coffee cup in my
hand. And I take my coffee with cream. I always have and probably
always will. This may not seem to have much to do with Autism, but
this week, it certainly does.
After my husband's death, I decided to move a coffeemaker upstairs. It
seemed that it would cut down the endless trips up and down the stairs
if I were upstairs. It is wonderful in the mornings. I can just reach
over and flip the coffeemaker on and watch the news before the kids
wake up. I have the coffee up here and my powdered coffee creamer
since I don't have anyway to keep the real cream cold overnight. It is
a great convenience and a bit of pampering for myself before the day
Recently Jonathan has noticed, or at least I have noticed that he has
noticed, that I put cream in my coffee. And as so often with Jonathan,
he wants to help. The first fiasco with the coffee and the cream, I
had just chalked up to childhood mischief. But the second fiasco? I
began to see a pattern and it reminded me of when Jonathan fed the
The first incident occurred sometime in the evening before Jonathan
went to bed. He knows that I get the coffeemaker ready the night
before by putting the coffee into the filter basket and filling the
tank with water. This is a routine I have been doing for over two
months. But he also sees me putting the powdered coffee creamer in
each cup of coffee that I have. I believe Jonathan was analyzing this
situation and worked out a way to save me some time.
When I came upstairs that night I filled the coffeemaker's tank with
water and picked up the glass canister that I store my coffee in.
Something was definitely wrong. The coffee wasn't a dark brown freshly
roasted and ground bean. It was… well it was the color of creamed
coffee. I couldn't figure out what had happened but then I saw
powdered creamer spilled here and there and my coffee scoop was white
with the residue of the powder. Jonathan had mixed a full pound of
coffee with coffee creamer!! It was mixed quite evenly; the creamer
wasn't just dumped in on top of the coffee. This was a job that took
him some time. It did occur to me, but only quickly, that Jonathan was
trying to save me some time by combining the two products. I did
however decide he was just getting into things he shouldn't and
cleaned up the mess and started over.
Two days later, I came upstairs to go through my nightly ritual and
fill the coffee pot. The glass canister was still empty, as I had left
the coffee in the bag this time. I was operating under the theory of
"better safe than sorry" and since there was no extra room in the bag,
I felt the creamer and the coffee would stay separated. I believe now
that the Autistic mind knows no end to its creativity. I will never
underestimate that again! I opened the tank to pour in the water but
something didn't look right. The empty tank was not empty! It was
full, and I mean FULL, of powdered coffee creamer. Fortunately my
reactions were quick enough that I didn't pour the water into the
tank. But this did get me thinking.
When Jonathan fed the fish, he did it out of a desire to help. He
seems anxious to please people and enjoys doing little chores. I
think, as I observe him that it makes him involved in the normal
functioning of a normal family. And I know Jon is a problem solver. I
have seen this over and over with him at home and school. I believe
that Jonathan was trying to save me time and solve a problem. Wouldn't
it be easier to brew the coffee with the coffee and the cream
together? It would eliminate that step. After all, if I put it in a
thermos I add the cream into the thermos so it comes out ready for me
to drink. Why not extend that theory to the coffeemaker?
We often think that Autistics are totally in their own world. And
often they are. But perhaps they observe more than we realize in a
private way that we do not always notice. Jonathan is aware in many
ways of the loss of his stepfather and how life has changed. I am sure
he observes me doing many things Floyd used to do and I am also sure
he is aware of how much more I am responsible for. I don't think this
was a mischievous act. I think Jonathan was trying to help, just as he
did when he fed the fish.
I haven't figured out the best way to handle this yet. I want him to
feel he can help and he is needed in this family. His contributions
build his self esteem and help the growth of his independence.
Regardless of where I end up hiding the coffee creamer, I have had it
brought to my attention that Jon is ready to help and he is aware of
my routine and me.