I received a phone call today from a mother who wanted to ask me a question. “Why is Patrick talking about eating cake or vegetables every time we work on his homework?”
Having been exposed, I had to tell the parent this story:
During a recent therapy session I sat next to 6 year old Patrick while he completed a puzzle. I was watching his strategy for putting the pieces together. As he skillfully interlocked the pieces he announced, “Mr. Chris, this is a piece of cake.”
Seeing that I needed to add some complexity to the activity I replied, “What are you talking about? That’s not a piece of cake. It’s a puzzle.”
Children who have Asperger’s Syndrome sometimes interpret language literally, and as Patrick had a severe difficulty with this I thought I would challenge him a little.
“Why are you saying that the puzzle is a piece of cake? It’s not even a piece of cake – it’s a puzzle of a dinosaur. You don’t make any sense.”
Patrick paused, trying to understand my response. “No, Mr. Chris. It is a piece of cake. But I know it is a puzzle. It is a dinosaur puzzle that is a piece of cake.”
“Well Patrick,” I replied, “now I am really confused, because I thought T-Rex was a meat eater, not a cake eater. I didn’t know that dinosaurs were made of cake.” Patrick’s gears were really turning now, trying to find a way to make sense of my concerns.
Patrick recovered quickly. “Mr. Chris, when something is a ‘piece of cake’ that means that you can do it. And it’s easy so you like to do it.”
I was pleased with his explanation, but persisted anyway, “So if you like to do something and it is easy you call it a ‘piece of cake,’ kind of because eating cake is easy too?”
Patrick was relieved that I was getting his point. “Yes, cake is easy to eat, and dinosaur puzzles are easy to do. So doing a dinosaur puzzle is a piece of cake!”
I needed to throw a wrench back into the conversation, so I added, “What do you call it if something is really hard to do, like writing your name?” Patrick hated handwriting.
Patrick went back to thinking, and then announced “Maybe we should call handwriting something else because it is hard. Handwriting is not a piece of cake. What is something that is hard Mr. Chris?”
“Eating a spoon of peas,” I shot back immediately.
Patrick beamed. “OK, when something is hard, I am going to say that it is a spoon of peas, and when something is easy I can call it a piece of cake!”
This made perfect sense to both of us, and that ended the conversation.
The mom was very relieved that her son had a legitimate reason for calling difficult tasks “a spoon of peas.”