It’s the Little Things…
My son takes the container off the bookshelf and sits in his usual place on the floor between his bed and desk. He unscrews the red cap and turns the container over to dump his mini-skateboard toys onto the carpet.
As I watch him set up his latest favorite activity, I am thinking about what to post for April 30th – for the Autism Positivity Flash Blog: 1000 “Ausome” Things. I want to participate, to post something “ausome” in support of all the people who share my son’s diagnosis. Autism, of course, shapes my child’s personality and perspective, and I know that I could write about one of those things that I appreciate and love about this quirky kid of mine – as I have in many other ways on this blog over this past year.
But, I wonder. What would my son say is “ausome” about autism?
He begins to gather together his six finger-sized skateboards, leaning across his lap to shuffle them like playing cards. The six little “skater dudes” with magnetized feet that attach to their boards have been tossed nearby. They rarely join in on the action in this game. My son flips the skateboards over and over, click-clicking them together and thump-thump-thumping them against the floor.
I think about how, as the parent of an autistic child, I can honestly say that autism has changed me, for the better. Despite the stress I put on myself to get this parenting thing right for my kid, autism is “ausome” because it has opened my eyes to the wide-ranging diversity that exists in our communities, and it has re-affirmed my belief in the rights of everyone to be true to their own unique selves.
But, I wonder. In what ways does my child feel “ausome”?
To coincide with the tapping and thumping and clicking of the skateboards, my kid begins to add a verbal rhythm. I can’t quite make out his words, but bits of songs, clips from movie scenes, or repeated phrases from books are usually a significant piece of his play pattern. He laughs too; he is pretty good at cracking himself up.
I have always marveled at my son’s ability to pull enjoyment out of the smallest most insignificant-looking pile of nothing. He has always loved this activity of simply tumbling objects together; it soothes him somehow.
I remember when he was a toddler he loved to sit just like this, cross-legged, in the middle of the gravel desert landscaping in our front courtyard. He didn’t need any toy trucks, shovels, or buckets to play – he would just stretch forward, grasping large handfuls of rocks. Then, sitting up, he would bring his fists up to just above eye level. Working his fingers, he would let the rocks fall in a steady shower right in front of his face, onto the ground and in his lap. Again. And, again. A leaf or twig might get caught in the mix and disrupt his pattern, and he would pause to pinch it between two fingers and toss it aside. And, the digging and sorting would continue, as a layer of desert dust coated his pants.
He left the rocks outside, but the pattern would be repeated with any number of little toys inside – juggling, shifting, and sorting. Even now, at almost fourteen years old, he can always find something interesting in any misfit collection of items. For awhile, he tossed about eleven magnetic silver balls (Not ten. Not twelve. Always eleven). Two finger puppets – a cheetah and a giraffe – and a 2-inch tall Elmo action figure became an inseparable trio at one point. He had a favorite compilation of eight rubber frogs of all shapes and colors (plus, one chameleon, who inexplicably snuck into the mix); and once, I watched as he forged a connection between a palm-sized plastic jack-o-lantern, a miniature rhinoceros, a small white ball, and a Matchbox car.
I will admit that this tightly-choreographed game he plays is sometimes difficult for those of us who are on the outside looking in. This is not a multi-player game. We are rarely invited to participate in this solo excursion, and, at any rate, the rules of the game are not entirely clear to my neuro-typical eyes.
In his bedroom, the skateboard free-for-all pauses for a fly-over by his favorite duo – his squishy rubber lizards. One lizard in each hand, he spins them over the pile of skateboards, pushing his face close to the pile, taking in the view in a new way, through a spinning-lizard-prism.
I don’t quite know how my son extracts such joy from these interactions with little objects. I am not sure whether it is the visual of the items cascading out of his hands; or the sounds they make tumbling against each other; or some combination of those sensations. Clearly, something about this simple activity is soothing – or more: something about this is fun.
I wonder. How would my kid describe his innate ability to put a few little, random toys to perfect use – to block out the world, erase distractions, hone in to a sensory experience, and retreat to a safe place for a brief bit of time?
I am not sure, but I think he might say it’s an “Ausome” thing.
I am honored to participate in the Autism Positivity Flash Blog 2013! Please take some time to check out some of the other posts that celebrate 1000 “Ausome” Things.