Perceptive but Speechless

October 13, 2016

One of the problems that worry me the most is the fact that Robert understands and feels much more than he can express with his limited language.  The observations he makes do not translate into words but into actions.  Those actions are often misconstrued by those incapable of noticing the same things Robert sees.  When the valid reasons for Robert’s behaviors are not understood, everything Robert does is interpreted as a form of “severe behavioral issues” and dealt accordingly to that label. Not only  have I witnessed that many times but I wrote about this issue a few times. Still, all too often, I act with the same ignorance of Robert’s motivation I was guilty of before.

Stop and Shop Supermarket has a few self registers.  That is why we are shopping there.  Robert has a place to practice the basic cashier skills.  He was becoming more and more efficient and everything went smoothly until one day, couple months ago, there was a problem.

At first, everything went smoothly. Robert was doing a good job passing codes through the scanner and placing food on the belt.  I was packing and watching Robert at the same time.  Soon he had a problem.  The package of meat didn’t scan.  I came to help.  I took the package out of a thin plastic bag and passed it through the reader.  Since I also noticed that the number code on the eggplant was hardly visible, I removed the eggplant from its plastic bag and entered the code into the machine.  Then I put the package of meat and the eggplant in the plastic bags. As I moved toward the end of the belt to continue with packing, I was unpleasantly surprised when I saw Robert walking along the belt and trying to take the meat and the eggplant of their respective plastic bags.

“They have to be in plastic bags.  What are you doing? ”  I took the bags out of Robert’s hands and again put both items in.  Robert became upset.  He started making inarticulate noises and quickly pat his ears.  He tried to take the bags off again. I, with a very unpleasant voice, asked him to finish scanning.  Still demonstrating his distress, he went back to the cash register.  After he completed his task, I helped him use his ATM card to pay for grocery.  I was upset.  We have had many pleasant trips to Stop and Shop and Robert was doing so well at “being his own cashier”  and unexpectedly we had such a brawl.   Robert was pushing a shopping cart toward the exit and at the same time he tried to take out the thin plastic bags from the meat and the eggplant.  I didn’t want to create any more scene at the store, so I let him.

Well, he took off those thin bags and then put each of them on the other item.  Only then, I looked closely at those bags and realized that they were different.  The bag for eggplant had a light green, hardly visible print on it, while the bag for the meat was covered with equally unnoticeable red littering.  I hadn’t noticed that before, but Robert had.   He realized that I switched bags at the cash register as I tried to scan both items.  He tried to correct me all this time and grew more and more distressed not only by the impossibility of correcting my error but also by the fact that he couldn’t make me understand  what he tried to do.






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