"If a parent from school, someone you don't really know, pulled up while you were walking home from the oval and asked if you wanted a lift home, what would you say?" I ask F as we walk to school, feeling confident of his answer.
"I'd say yes please," he says, equally confident that he is right.
"No! No, that's not what you do. You say no thank you."
And I wonder if perhaps the parents up at the school who say 'it's so nice that he's independent, he seems to really enjoy walking home alone' with immovable smiles and disapproving eyes are, after all, right.
"Well, you don't know those people and they might kidnap you," I say, in what I hope are wise tones.
"Why would they do THAT?" He looks up at me with wide eyes, bewildered.
And I remember that I don't want him to be afraid of the world, that I want him to feel confident and to take risks and make friends.
"Well, they probably wouldn't. It's not likely that you'd be kidnapped of course. It's not something that happens very often AT ALL. Hardly ever. But you need to be careful, because you just don't know. You have to be careful when you don't know people."
And I think that he does walk a long way and I would like him to be able to accept a lift if someone is driving into Yarraville village, especially if it's raining.
"You can accept a lift from M or T or S's dad, and THAT'S ALL. Only them."
"What about D's mum?"
I think about it.
"But she wouldn't kidnap me. I've been to her HOUSE."
"I know. Of course she wouldn't. But I don't know her very well."
I am trying to keep it as simple as I can.
"What about A's mum?"
"Yes, that would be fine. But that's ALL."
"And anyone in our family."
We keep walking. He pats the dog. We talk about how much we love the dog. He decides that he and The Husband love the dog up to the moon and back and I only love her to the tree at the end of the road and back. I tell him this sounds about right.
"If you were kicking a footy at the oval with a friend and B came over and said he was playing cricket at the park near our house and asked you to come with him, what would you do?"
"I'd go with him!"
"You'd just go?"
"Uh huh." Worry clouds his face. "I'm allowed to go to the park with B, aren't I?"
"Well, yes. But only if I know you're there. If you went with him, if I went looking for you to tell you it's time to come home - which I definitely would - you would be gone and I would be terrified and I'd have no way to find you."
"Oh. I see."
"So, you would come home and ask me if you could go to the park with B, and I would probably say yes."
We are nearly at school now.
"So, what if a kid you know came to the oval and said he's at a house down the road and he has chocolate cake and would you like to come over and get a piece?"
"No. You don't. If you are at the oval, you must stay there and not go anywhere except home."
I remember that Asperger's kids don't make connections between scenarios as easily as others do, and need the rules for different situations spelled out individually and specifically. I realise I have many, many more conversations like this to come ...
My mum arrives from Adelaide that day. I tell her the story. She gives me another one to try. Foolishly, I am confident.
"F, what if you are walking home or at the park or the oval and someone pulls up in a car and they say, quick, you mum's hurt and she's sent me to get you and take you home?"
"I go with them!"
"No. Only if it is The Husband or family or N or K or M or T. That's it. They are the only people I would ever send to get you. Okay?"
I have a long way to go ...