“United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Haiti, Jamaica, Peru,
Republic Dominican, Cuba, Caribbean, Greenland, El Salvador too”, Preston chants.
We are seated at the dinner table and though I have understood what he’s said I have no idea what it means or where he’s gotten it from. He loves memes. He reads through hundreds of them every day. So I ask him if he’s quoting another meme. (Meme quoting is a graduation from quoting commercials. At three years old we’d mention ordering pizza and he’d say, “Hot and ready!” Or his dad would bring home Subway and he’d shout, “Subway, Eat Fresh!”)
“It’s a song from the show Animaniacs. You should know them. They were around in your day,” he responds.
It fascinates him that his parents used to be children too and that some of the things he likes (Mario bros. Nintendo, and cartoons like the Animaniacs) were things we also enjoyed . I recognize the song now. I did watch the Animaniacs as a child. The wonders of Youtube never cease.
Preston’s unique quirks don’t end at quotes. He is also a child who relies on facts. He hates fiction that masquerades as truth. He explains, “I don’t see the point in reading a fictional book. It’s stupid.” The real world is enough of a mystery for him to feel contented in uncovering its secrets.
He is extremely intelligent. His Wechsler IQ test proves that he’s “off the charts intelligent”. The psychologist’s words – not mine. He’s been reading since he was two. And reads far above grade level, even now. His broad and advanced vocabulary is often commented on by strangers. He is very articulate.
I have learned so much from him. The way he sees the world is different and unique. My whole life I’ve perceived the world from ground level – now I get glimpses of it from his perspective – a bird’s eye view so to speak. And it’s impressive.
He thinks everything through – too much. It gives him extreme anxiety which often or not results in meltdowns. Pressure. It’s the only thing that calms him down. I bear hug him. I can feel his heart beating like he’s run a marathon. His breath hitches in gasps and gulps. When my arms don’t work we use a weighted blanket.
His small talk and back and forth conversational skills challenge him. He tends to talk at a person and doesn’t respond “neurotypically” to other people’s revelations about themselves; although, I’d argue he responds honestly. His speech therapist once asked him about his siblings. He gave a rambling answer starting with their names and ending with video games. She smiled and told him a little about her siblings. When she was finished he stated, “Okay”.
So, he doesn’t learn the nuances of socialization naturally and doesn’t understand why people feign interest in others if they aren’t interested. It will have to be taught because…
Preston is autistic.
He. Is. Autistic.
What does that mean? It means he was born this way. It’s genetic. It means he has gifts and it means he has challenges. It means the two (Preston/Autism) aren’t distinguishable from each other. When people speak about Autism needing a cure or preventative measures or how it’s caused by vaccines it translates to: You’re son is an abomination that needs to be fixed.
Go fuck yourself.
He wasn’t afflicted with Autism. He wasn’t “normal” one day and then suddenly woke up autistic. This is how he was born and it’s insulting that people act like his existence is an unfortunate accident caused by vaccines or any other number of dumb things I have heard since he was diagnosed.
My son is more than your definition of what normal should look like.
And you’d be blessed to know him.