How to take your autistic daughter berry picking (hint: slowly)

10:30 Sunday morning. I regard my children, lounging about the basement rec room in their P.Js.

The boy still has half of his breakfast on his shirt. He is  three years old but sprawled on the couch like a surly teenager,  coolly sucking on a juice box with nary a care in the world. He is watching Dora the Explorer.

The girl is buried under a small cairn made of books of Curious George, Franklin the Turtle, and Clifford the Big Red Dog. She alternates between replying to Dora with a hearty "Backpack! Backpack!"  and flipping pages back and forth like she is looking for a dropped penny.

My wife turns to me. "It's such a nice day outside. They need to get out of the house."

"What should we do with them?" I ask.

"I don't recall using the word 'we'," she says as she picked up her purse and car keys. "I have to run errands. I'll be back in a couple of hours."

And there we stand: myself, and two children whose primary interest on days like this was to test how far into the day they could make it before they had to change out of the pajamas.

"Today," I announce to them, as I turn off the TV, "We are going to pick berries! Won't that be fun?"

Natalie appears enthusiastic. She jumps up. She flaps her hands, like she does when she is excited. She hops up and down.

"No it WON'T!" she shouts.

A Chronology of Our Journey Into the Forest to Pick Berries

10:25 - We enter the forest. Natalie keeps reminding me that Boots is a cute monkey. I fail to see the relevance, but she is undaunted.

10:26 - Bennett insists he shall carry the bucket which is almost half his size. He insists he shall not fall.

10:27 - Bennett falls.

10:32 - We encounter a bush thick with red boysenberries. Natalie regards it with suspicion, for she has never eaten a red berry before.  I demonstrate how to carefully pluck the berry from the branch and drop it into the bucket.  She is sceptical.

10:33 - Natalie has plucked a berry from the bush.

10:34 - Natalie is regarding the berry.

10:35 - Natalie eats the berry.  "It's spicy," she says.

10:36 - Bennett and I have found a blueberry bush and begin to fill our bucket. Natalie has found a second berry. She is regarding it.

10:37 - Natalie has eaten her second berry.

10:38 - Still spicy.

10:45 - Bennett tumbles ass over teakettle, spilling the bucket of berries. Refuses assistance. Insists he will pick them up himself.

10:46 - Berry picking-up temporarily halted in order to monitor suspicious behaviour by a beetle.

10:47 - Natalie has finished her third berry. Announces she doesn't like this bush any more. "It's too spicy," she says.

10:48 - If the berries are too spicy, perhaps the leaves aren't.

10:49 - Nope.

10:55 - Suddenly, as she is examining the boysenberry bush closely, Natalie begins singing lyrics to LMFAO. She recommends that I Have A Good Good Time.

10:58 - I conclude that shorts and sandals was a poor choice of attire for stepping through thick patches of underbrush. My legs have criss-crossed scratches, and look like a street map.

10:59 - Natalie is still, everyday, shufflin'

10:59 - Bennett, by my count, has now picked up six of the spilled berries. He appears satisfied with his progress. He, too, confirms that, every day, he is shufflin'

11:03 - Annnnd here come the mosquitoes ...

11:05 - Inwardly, I grumble in frustration at the dearth of berry bushes that haven't been fully picked over,, and express surprise that people would venture this far into the forest to pick berries.

11:06 - Regard a very large pile of bear droppings, thick with berry seeds.

11:07 - We exit the forest at a full trot.

11:07 - Running up the path to our front door, Bennett stumbles and dumps the bucket of berries onto the sidewalk. Natalie walks  past, confirming that she is still, indeed, shufflin' and, without a care in the world, steps  square in the middle of the spill, crushing the majority of our pickings.

11:08 - Bennett regards me, as if to ask, 'Was there a point to any of this?'

11:11 - Kids are buckled in their car seats.

11:24 - Yeah, could I get two Happy Meals, a Quarter Pounder, and a side of fries?

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