The Scene:Interior hallway of suburban family home. The autistic teen is in the bathroom directly off the hallway. The sound of a shower running can be heard from behind the closed door of the bathroom. The autistic teen enters the shower and begins speaking loudly. He is scripting. He begins one of his favorite and most-quoted scenes from The Princess Bride – “Battle of Wits.”His mother, across the hallway in her office, smiles as she listens to him. Last week in the shower, he scripted Peter Sellers and Herbert Lom in an original Pink Panther scene. The week before that, he sang a song from Toy Story. The mother recognizes, since she has heard it so often, that the current scene is nearing its end as her son’s voice rises. She laughs as she hears him deliver the final intonation.
Autistic teen: Never go in against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line!
One love, one heart – let’s get together and feel all right. – Bob Marley
As many of you know, this family loves Bob. All three of us. In fact, it’s the only music that we all enjoy equally. It’s our go-to music for calming meltdowns, running errands, alleviating anxiety, and taking road trips. But now there’s something else that it’s good for, something only Nigel, with his keen observation, could have noticed.
The three of us were out running errands yesterday, singing along to Bob in the car. Between songs, Nigel commented, “This music is the perfect Christmas music – because it talks about peace and love.”
I couldn’t agree more. Beats the hell out of “Jingle Bells.”
From our house to yours, wishing all of you a beautiful holiday filled with the blessings of peace and abundant love.
The Scene:Interior of a small SUV. It is night. A mother is driving her teen son back to the video store where he had just rented a video game. They were half-way home when he discovered that the disc inside the case was not the correct game format. The mother thanked him for checking before they got all the way home. She found a place to turn the car around and started heading back. They are driving along, doing about 40, when suddenly the mother realizes that a pair of headlights is coming straight at them. They will collide in seconds. The mother slams on the brakes, praying that the other driver does the same. She hopes that the big truck behind them sees what is happening before it slams into them. The headlights slow; the driver has seen them. He or she stops, backs up, and turns into the nearest driveway. It seems to take an eternity. The truck behind the mother and son slows down and does not hit them. The mother, shaking, begins to drive again. A few moments pass.
Teen son (calmly observant): We are the luckiest family in the world.
Mother (choking back tears): Yes we are, honey. Yes, we are.
The Scene:Teenage boy’s bedroom. The occupant has autism and, although he eventually learned to talk, he is characteristically literal-minded and often has difficulty understanding various figures of speech. Those close to him have learned to take what he says at face value and proceed accordingly. The floor of the bedroom is piled high with dirty clothes, papers, trash, food wrappers, Lego and Bionicle pieces, DVDs, books, and magazines. The boy’s mother, astounded that even with the weekly room-cleaning sessions the mess still builds up so quickly, stands in the doorway with her hands on her hips. She recalls previous attempts and avoidance techniques and congratulates herself that she has at least implemented the mandatory weekly sessions prior to allowance disbursement and movie time. The mess is nowhere near as bad as it used to get, and for that she is relieved. She steps inside the room and gives suggestions for a plan of attack, pointing at the largest pile and urging her son to first put away the clothes, and that will make the pile seem a lot smaller. The son gestures wildly at the pile.
Teenage son: What a load of crap!
Mother (matter-of-factly): Well, if it’s crap, let’s throw it away then.
Teenage son (aghast): It’s not all crap! It’s a metaphor! You can’t take it literally!
Yes, you read that right: The Pizza Smoothie. Here at Teen Autism, we pride ourselves on being beyond innovative. We boldly eat what no one has eaten before. In this house, neither child has ever requested the typically well-loved staple, macaroni and cheese, for dinner. But a pizza smoothie? Bring it on.
I try to explain to Nigel that texture has quite a bit to do with why we like certain foods. Take away the texture, and that changes how we respond to a food. Appearance counts for a lot, too. Change the appearance and texture of a favorite food, and it might not be so appetizing.
But he’s adamant that – for him – it’s not about the texture or appearance. “It’s all about the taste,” he says.
And so, down the hatch it goes. He drinks the whole thing and claims to enjoy it. But, smile notwithstanding, I’m not so sure.
We’ll see what happens the next time we have pizza for dinner.
This is Nigel. I am 15 today and I have big plans for my future. I want to be the first of my family to be in space and on the moon. I want to be the first human being to set foot on Mars.
But for my birthday party plans, I’m planning to invite all 3 of my bestest friends for a sleepover party. For Halloween I’m going to be Ash from The Evil Dead Trilogy, the Ash with the chainsaw hand and the boomstick.
The things I like and dislike about getting older are these two things: one positive effect of it is I’m getting closer to getting to drive a car. The negative effect of getting older is that I have to discontinue trick-or-treating on Halloween.
Well, I’m going to watch Edgar Rice Borrough’s At The Earth’s Core. Bye for now.
The Scene:Medium-sized kitchen in a usually non-political suburban family home. A mother and her two teenage sons are cleaning up after dinner. The sons clear the table as the mother loads the dishwasher. The mother has noticed that this is often the time when out-of-the-blue questions are asked or odd comments are made. Why? she wonders. Are their full stomachs causing their neurons to fire and their synapses to connect? Is it their minimal effort to humor their mother and engage in a family conversation before retiring to their rooms for the night? Or are they just trying to distract themselves from the fact that they are doing a household chore?
Younger son: Who’s that guy nobody likes who made a bunch of money off the Iraq war?
Mother(stalling, not sure where her son is going with this): Umm . . .
Older son: George Bush?
Mother(turns head away, stifles a laugh): Well, I –
Younger son: No, that other guy – Shaney?
Both sons in unison: Yeah, that guy.
Mother(toning down her amusement): What about him?
Younger son: I saw this thing on one of those comedy shows and this guy who was being him had this horrible, evil laugh.
Mother: Hmm. I never heard that before.
Older son: Well, I think they’re both war profiteers.
Mother: Where did you learn about war profiteering?
The Scene:A family of three – a mother and her two teenage sons – strolls into the gated outdoor pool area of a hotel. It is early evening; the desert sun is low. The mother settles into a chaise lounge near the pool, and her sons drop off their towels on chairs near her. They walk around to the deep end of the pool as the mother opens up a book. The older brother dips his toe into the water.
Older brother: It’s quite warm.
He backs up, and then strides quickly toward the pool as he jumps and pulls himself into a perfect-form cannonball. Perfect. The mother, impressed, didn’t know that her son could do that so well. Seconds later, he calmly surfaces.
Older brother (in the same tone): It’s quite warm.
She smiles at her son, wondering what movie he is quoting. Usually when he repeats himself, it’s because he’s either employing echolalia or is expecting a response. He is satisfied with her acknowledgement and glides over to the far corner of the pool. The younger brother then readies himself: he backs up, strides toward the edge, and jumps. He does not exhibit the cannonball form of his brother, but his long hair flies impressively. The mother wishes she had filmed it. He surfaces, spluttering.
Younger brother, sneering: You LIE!!
He lunges through the water toward his older brother, who laughs as he evades him. The mother hides her smile behind her book. So that’s what he was up to, she muses.
The Scene: A history-loving, trivia-quoting autistic teen is showing his mother the two-dollar bill that his grandmother gave him for Easter. He had just recently watched National Treasure, one of his favorite movies, for probably the twentieth time, so he is full of US history trivia, both from the movie and from research he has done on his own for his Obsession of the Week. The mother, and other extended family members, are accustomed to the autistic teen being a storehouse of information, especially about history and movies, and will often consult his expertise to settle a dispute or answer a question. The guy knows his stuff. And he often likes to quiz his family members on the trivia to see what they know. So he shows his mother the two-dollar bill, pointing out all the Mason symbols and the two different presidents on it, etc.
Autistic teen: Look at this painting on the back. Do you know what it is?
Mother: It looks like the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Autistic teen: That’s right. And do you know who painted it?
Autistic teen (pauses): Neither do I.
Mother(trying not to laugh): YOU don’t know?
Autistic teen (smiling slightly): I can’t possibly know everything.