Jack has known about his autism for years. I’ve always wanted it to be something that has sort of always been in his consciousness rather than sitting him down when he’s older and laying such a big concept on him, as if it were a secret when he was younger.
I tell Jack and his brothers that everybody’s brains work differently and it just so happens that the way Jack’s brain works has a name, and that name is autism. Everyone has things they are good at and things they have trouble with. It’s just that it is different for everyone.
Recently, however, Jack has really started to quietly investigate his autism. He’s been telling people, “I have autism,” or upon meeting new people, asking them, “Do you know that I have autism?” I see this as the first steps in figuring out for himself what autism means to him and how he is going to approach it in life.
Needless to say, I am watching with interest.
The other day, we were in the waiting room before Jack’s OT session. There was another kid there, who is often there when we are. He has a visible disability and, although I get the impression that he does speak sometimes, he rarely does in the waiting room.
This child was trying to interact with Jack. The two of them weren’t in sync. Jack was under a chair (he likes to be under things) watching this other child. After trying to get Jack’s attention a couple of times, he walked over to a child gate in the hallway and started to play with the mechanism.
Jack started to get interested. “He must have autism,” he said to me. He came out from under the chair and walked up to the other boy. “Do you have autism?” he asked.
The other boy didn’t answer and then his therapist came out to take him to a room. Jack immediately stepped over to the gate and began to inspect the mechanism and investigate the way it worked until his own therapist came to take him to his session.
I was fascinated by this whole exchange. I wondered if Jack picked up on the difference in the other child and didn’t have a word other than autism with which to describe that difference. After the session, when we were back in the car driving home, I decided to ask Jack about it, although I was unsure that I would get any sort of response.
“Jack, why did you think that other little boy had autism?” I asked.
Jack was quiet for a minute, then said, “Because he was curious.”
I love that curiosity is the common bond that Jack picked up on. I love that although Jack is aware that his autism makes him different than most of the other kids he knows, he sees such a great quality as being curious as a defining characteristic. I love both the inquisitiveness and self awareness that he is starting to demonstrate.
Flat out, I just love that kid.