Veronica Grace has a son who thinks that “Love is more interesting than Star Trek”. He is a genius about the things that count.
When my younger son was 4 he came to me one day, and climbed into my lap between me and my laptop. He took my face in his little hands and made me look straight at him and he said very earnestly “Mama…I’m The Love.” Now part of my brain was going wha? huh? whatever thought I’d been having still hanging there…and where did this come from? what does that even mean? But part of my brain with complete clarity said “YES!” Because of course he is The Love.
It wasn’t long after that day that he started school and many of my favorite things about him turned out to be symptoms that he was wired differently than other kids. I celebrate difference so that didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that he was struggling and suffering in the school environment. What broke my heart was that he went from being my peaceful pixie of love to being extremely anxious and unsure of himself. His first kindergarten teacher could not evaluate his reading because he was too scared to read in front of her.
By the end of that first school year the long wait to have him evaluated for Autism had begun. There was a meeting with me and his teacher and assorted other school people where they worked very hard to gently let me know that they couldn’t hold him back without my permission, but that they strongly believed that he needed to repeat kindergarten. I agreed wholeheartedly. There was no way I was going to push him forward into a new situation he was not prepared for.
There was a boy in my son’s class that year that he spoke about in hushed admiring tones. “He is really good at kindergarten” my son would say. So I sat down with him after that meeting at the school and I told him that I knew this year had been hard but that I thought if he had a chance to do it again, he could be “really good at being in kindergarten” just like the boy he was so amazed by. He nodded wisely accepting this with absolute trust that made me want to cry in appreciation and fear that if he couldn’t do it this time he would feel betrayed.
The second year of kindergarten was completely different, beginning on the first day. Instead of being a stiff anxious robot who would not speak or even draw, he walked right up to the pile of paper and the crayons and wrote his name and drew a picture of himself. He was still a stranger in this land of “normal” kids but he now knew how things worked.
Now starting 5th grade, my son reads at a grade level far above his own and leads his school in AR points. He routinely stands up in front of his class to answer questions and his biggest complaints about school are that it takes up too much of his reading time, and it’s too boring and loud.
Things are not perfect at school of course, we work with a counselor to try to convince my son that talking to his classmates, saying good morning back to his teacher or even making a friend might be something he should consider. So far he goes back and forth between being uncomfortable with the idea, to rolling his eyes at the concept of taking time away from his reading for these “illogical” things.
This morning when I got up my son flung himself into my arms (he does this part every morning) and without any preamble the following conversation occurred.
Him: “If there wasn’t love there would be no life”…pause for thinking…“or it would be only amino acid life…If there wasn’t love there would be no intelligence.”
Me: “Why are you so smart about love?”
Him: “Most people are.”
Me: (not sure I agreed but keeping that to myself): “But you *really* think about it.”
Him: (As always in his Professor Spock Logical voice): “Love is very interesting. More interesting than Star Trek even.”
Me: “More interesting than Star Trek?!? Wow”
At some point some expert gave us some letters to describe my son, PDD-NOS. Over the years I have spent quite a bit of time reading and I often hear that people on the autism spectrum have no feelings and are incapable of empathy. I think that’s complete crap. I think the problem is that people don’t understand emotions and empathy when they are expressed differently, not that people on the spectrum don’t have or express them.
After breakfast my son and I snuggled up on the couch and talked.
Him: “I am a genius.”
Me: “What are you a genius at?”
Him: “Legos… hugging… being happy.”
photo by woodleywonderworks / flickr