I took the boys to the beach today; it was cool and windy, and mostly empty.
The wind was loud in my ears, sand buffeting my face, the cool air sometimes stinging my eyes, and all of it prevented me from being able to focus clearly, the voices of my sons competing with overwhelming environmental stimuli.
Then it occurred to me: maybe this is what it's like for C. Maybe his brain is abuzz like a hive, filled with static signals making it difficult for the outside world to get in. Maybe he wants to be present, but all this noise is keeping him at arm's length.
It's certainly what it seems like from the outside: he's there and we're there, but it's like the rest of us are muffled, unable to break through. Maybe his self-stimulatory habits provide a way for him to turn his back to the wind and the noise and find a quiet place inside himself.
And then the moment comes, as if the wind is dying down, the surf diminishing, when he notices us, when he's present in the moment with us. Then, just as quickly, the wind picks up, the surf resumes its crashing, and again we're competing for his attention.