Hugs, camps, books

Things have been hectic, thus fewer posts. I have been a bit more active over on Facebook; won't you join me there? In the meantime, just a couple quick notes.

C shows his brother some serious affection

We've been working with C to help him show his emotions in appropriate ways, in particular affection. It looks like it's working.

I took this photo just before a very tough morning. You see, it's summer break for the twins. This means some much-needed downtime for C, and day camps for M. As we dropped M off at his camp, C fell apart. He saw the kids doing a morning routine, playing, laughing. He was devastated that he couldn't stay with his brother, that he couldn't be part of the summer camp experience. Obviously, this isn't easy on us, either.

On the drive home, my wife and I chatted with him about how this wasn't possible just now, but hopefully soon. We try to be honest with him, but still protect his feelings. He gets it, even though he doesn't like it.

In other news, I just started reading the just-released and already critically-acclaimed NeurTribes by Steven Silberman. It's not just incredibly informative, it's a great read. I highly recommend it, but don't take my word for it:

NeuroTribes is a sweeping and penetrating history, presented with a rare sympathy and sensitivity. It is fascinating reading; it will change how you think of autism, and it belongs, alongside the works of Temple Grandin and Clara Claiborne Park, on the bookshelf of anyone interested in autism and the workings of the human brain.”

— Oliver Sacks, author of An Anthropologist On Mars and Awakenings

In March, Silberman gave a great TED Talk on the forgotten history of autism. Check it out if you haven't already.

That's it for now. More soon...hopefully.

Falling for Frosty

As we were leaving the school where C’s sensory gym is, he spied two cardboard Frosty the Snowman standees, each over six feet in height. He made an immediate hard left turn, cutting me off, and marched directly toward them. He pointed at one and said, "This one is Frosty." He pointed at the other: "This one is Snowman."

This seemed to please him greatly, so he continued: "Frosty!" Turns: "Snowman!" Turns: "Frosty!" Turns: "Snowman!"

With each turn he became more animated, until finally his pointy little finger pushed "Snowman" so hard it began to fall over. I lunged to grab the standee. As I did so, C spun and pointed his finger directly at the chest of Frosty, pushed hard, and yelped, "FROSTY!!!"

As Frosty started his own descent toward the ground, I let go of Snowman and lunged toward Frosty and, in doing so, managed to cross one leg in front of the other. At this point, my legs were completely intertwined.

And so, as Frosty hit the ground, I hit the ground, too...hard as a sack of potatoes. I didn’t even have time to get my hands in front of me. WHAP! Right onto the unforgiving elementary school linoleum.

A moment passed, and then came Snowman. Apparently I'd not stabilized him sufficiently before letting go. There I was, lying on the ground, two large cardboard snowmen on top of me.

A security guy and a custodian who saw the incident ran over to see if I was okay. I leapt up, embarrassed, and blurted something about being totally sober, which probably had the opposite effect. They chuckled and walked away.

In their wake stood C, regarding me with what can only be described as a slightly quizzical yet mostly disinterested gaze. He leaned over, pointed, and said one last time: "Frosty. Snowman. And Daddy."

Prime people

Theater brochure Here's a guest post from my wife, related to last week's Prime time post.

I was with C at an autism-friendly screening of The Lion King. In the back of the program was a photo accopmanying an article on the young actor playing the lead in The Curious Incident Of the Dog in the Night Time.

I said, "Look, there's a play about a boy who loves prime numbers as much as you do."

C smiled, then said, "But everyone loves prime numbers."

I said, "No. Not everyone loves prime numbers. In fact, a lot of people have trouble remembering their prime numbers."

He looked at me like I had three heads. And even though three is prime, this did not make him happy. So I added, "Only this boy and you like prime numbers, which means you two must be very, very special people."

He seemed to like that. He looked at the photo in the program and touched the boy's face. He smiled and said, "This boy and I are prime people."

Prime time

C on the iPad

C's latest obsession is prime numbers.

He carries on about them at length, so much so that I installed an app on my phone that is nothing but a long list of prime numbers. He scrolls up and down, scanning for the red dots that mark a prime number, bouncing with joy when he discovers a new one.

He tells us that "two" is his favorite prime number because it's the only even prime number. He informs us that prime numbers are only divisible by one and themselves (as if we weren’t the ones who explained that to him in the first place). He's just starting to understand what "divisible" even means: "Eight isn't prime because two and four go into it."

He quizzes us: "Is 35 prime?" We play the mark: "Why, yes! 35 is prime!" He squeals with delight: "NO! 35 is NOT prime! But 37 IS prime!" So proud to be schooling mom and dad.

Tonight I asked him which of his classmates is a prime number. This stumped him, so I explained that if they had a prime number of letters in their name, they were prime. We determined that he's the only prime number in his class, a fact that pleased him greatly.

I don't really know how he first heard about prime numbers, and I don't know what the allure is.

I do know he loves them, so I love them now, too.


My favorite prime number, in case you were wondering, is 67...and I don't really know why.

A talk that changed my perspective

The period after C's autism diagnosis was troublesome: I experienced emotions ranging from grief to confusion, anger to denial. Most of all, I felt an overwhelming sense of loss. A few months later, though, I came across Faith Jegede's TED talk, "What I've learned from my autistic brothers."

After watching this brief video, I hit replay two more times — something I rarely do (who has time?). Something in her words kept tugging at me.

And there it was, this idea, so simply stated: "Everyone's got a gift inside of us, and in all honesty, the pursuit of normality is the ultimate sacrifice of potential. The chance for greatness, for progress and for change dies the moment we try to be like someone else."

I've watched this talk many times since, and when things are especially difficult, I reflect on this passage in particular: "...beyond the tantrums and the frustration and the never-ending hyperactivity was something really unique: a pure and innocent nature, a boy who saw the world without prejudice, a human who had never lied. Extraordinary."

Extraordinary indeed.