Sunday, 23 November 2014


I came up with a new non-sweary swear today. It was a tweak of Sylvester the cat’s “Sufferin’ succotash”. “Perseveratin’ balderdash!” hasn’t quite got the same ring to it, but saying it to myself in a lispy cartoon moggy voice possibly saved my sanity (although if anyone had overheard they would have thought otherwise).

You see, my daughter has been putting the persevere into perseveration this week. (Perseveration is the uncontrollable repetition of certain phrases and questions. It’s a common trait with Prader-Willi Syndrome. She’s done it forever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever...well, you get the idea).

Some of her questions and mantras have been around for a while, but what I realised today that one in particular is growing. It is having extensions added to it. 

I had a little search through the posts on this blog, and discovered the earliest recorded instance of the pick of her perseverations was in April 2011, when I noted that “Have I still got lots of teeth?” was high up in that week's Top Five of her repetitive sayingsOver the months, this morphed into “Do I grind my teeth?” and later: “Do I gnash my teeth. I don’t gnash my teeth do I?”, and then later still the addendum: “This tooth is worn down more than that one, isn’t it?”

A few weeks ago, I broke my rule of not engaging with the tooth questions after five times of answering them, and told her in no uncertain terms that she didn’t need to ask them any longer as she hadn’t ground her teeth together since she was little. She demanded to know exactly how long, and I came up with an arbitrary answer, which has now been tacked on. So the perseveratin’ balderdash now goes something like this (keep in mind this is a sample of my girl having a complete conversation with herself, answering all her own questions in a slightly exasperated manner, at the same time as directing all the questions to the silently teeth-gnashing me)...“Do I gnash my teeth? I don’t, do I? No, of course you don’t. Is this tooth worn down more than that one? It is, isn’t it? No it’s not. Do I gnash my teeth? I don’t do I? No, of course not. You haven’t done it for 12 years!” 

Ad. Bleedin’. Infinitum.

So I’ve started to have this thought. It’s kind of wicked. I’m going to have to think carefully about it, because it has every chance of backfiring. But I’ve realised that I probably have the power to shape the continuing growth of the Tooth Chronicles. What will the next clause be? And can I lob in something random, just to amuse myself?

I’ll report back in a few weeks. I’m thinking along the lines of: “You’re not a pterodactyl in a tutu.” 

Video is Edwyn Collins - Do It Again

1 comment:

  1. Perseveration is also a behavioral trait that can present with brain injury. So, the cause differs, but the consequences remain.
    I'll give you my point of view from having perseveration myself. It may or may not work for your daughter : take what works, adapt what works so-so and quit what doesn't.

    Perseveration and mantras are commonly used in meditation, to help sooth anxiety and focus.
    So, what about teaching her sentences to sooth her anxiety, like "This too shall pass" or "one minute or 100 years, what difference it makes ?" ?
    It can be a good way to redirect perseveration in a more acceptable fashion for everyone, and even transform the difficulty into a huge asset.

    Also, this perseveration can be a powerful tool to introduce mindfulness to your daughter.
    In France, Christophe André has written a book with a CD to help meditate. I have no idea of any equivalent in English, but I'm sure that someone will be better at helping you for finding an equivalence in your language. AFAIK, Christophe André is a psychiatrist that introduced mindfulness in France through his books.
    In English, you have "Meditation for dummies", but I don't know if it has a CD with it. Their explanations are quite clear, with good tips and straight to the point.

    For social skills, I know that Carnegie is the classic, but I don't like the way his advice are given. The advice is given as if to help a beginner in cooking, "to roast your beef, put it in the oven" : yes, and then ?
    What really helped me with social skills is the book "The charisma myth" by Olivia Fox Cabane. All the advice usually given are broken into very concrete steps, with very concrete exercises : no more vague advice you don't know how to use, no more unhelpful platitudes like "smile more", only advice broken in concrete step by step exercises you can use (like a very detailed cooking recipe).
    The scientific aspects and anecdotes are funny and light-hearted, but you can skip them if you lack time or if they don't fit your daughter's needs.
    For social skills, in my very humble opinion, The Charisma Myth is much more helpful than Carnegie.

    Take care