Tag Archives: understanding


I suppose many typically-developing teenagers question why they need to learn certain things in school, or why they need to take a certain class. And you can usually reason with them along the lines of “You need to graduate from high school so that you can go to college. Or if you don’t go to college, you still need to graduate from high school so you can at least get an entry-level job somewhere. And in order to graduate from high school, you need to take some classes that you don’t like.” And they won’t like this reasoning, but they will eventually see the logic.

The autistic teen? Not so much. “You don’t think like I do.” This is what Nigel tells me after I have tried the above-mentioned reasoning tactic. He really does not see the merit in graduating from high school. “I want to live how I want to live. Why can’t we live like our cavemen ancestors? That was when survival was more needed than mathematics.” And he is serious.

This is what I deal with when I try to teach him algebra and essay writing. And I point out to him that at least now he can learn these mandatory things at home where it’s quiet and he is not distracted and harassed by other students. I also gently mention that I’ve made some major adjustments to be able to do this for him. But that’s a concept he can’t grasp. Even though once in a while he’ll take out the trash without complaining and then (!) he actually puts a new bag in the trashcan without being reminded (!) or he scoops some ice cream in a bowl for himself and then – on his own – scoops some in a bowl for me (!), even though he does these things once in a great while, he is still pervasively influenced by the aut, the self. Selfism. It’s not that he only thinks about himself or only cares about himself. It’s not egocentric or narcissistic. It’s that he cannot understand someone else’s viewpoint. He can’t possibly realize that, as a single parent, I go through a lot to be able to homeschool him. He can’t understand why education is necessary, beyond what he already knows. He is governed by the self. “You don’t think like I do” also means “I’m only able to think how I think.”

Mind you, this is just a mom still trying to figure it out. I think I know enough, and then months later I have another epiphany and I realize that I have so much more to learn. I know now that I will spend the rest of my days trying to understand my son’s autism. Trying to think like he does. Many parents say that having an autistic child will make you see the world differently. My son is fourteen and every day I am still realizing just how true – how profoundly true – that is.

Scouts Are the Best

Last night Nigel had a Scout meeting. I was a bit apprehensive because the last meeting did not go well, meaning Nigel’s behavior. And because I could not pinpoint what had caused his step backward, I worried that he might continue down that road.

But as I have come to learn, autism is nothing if not unpredictable. Inconsistent. And so I shouldn’t have been surprised when Nigel did really well at the meeting last night. He didn’t interrupt anyone, he only got in someone’s face once, and it was brief, he participated and paid attention. He even requested, appropriately, to show the other Scouts something he had brought with him. He needed to bring it in from the car, and the Scoutmaster said that he could do that near the end of the meeting.

And that’s when I got a little nervous. He wanted to show them a little stuffed animal toy that he had received for his recent fourteenth birthday. It was Gizmo, from the movie Gremlins, and he had barely let it out of his sight since he received it Friday night. He had been sleeping with it every night; he brought it with him to his social skills class on Monday. I knew that someone with an emotional age of eight or nine couldn’t realize that typical twelve- to fifteen-year-olds would not find his little stuffed animal to be nearly as intriguing as he did. I wondered what sort of a response to expect from them.

When the time came, Nigel went out to the car and retrieved Gizmo. He reentered the room with it hidden under his jacket and made a big deal out of keeping it a secret until he was ready to reveal it. Of course the boys were wondering what he had under his jacket. A fascinating geode? A live animal? They kept prompting him to show them, and finally he did. I held my breath.


I needn’t have worried. Once he identified what it was, they all said, “That’s cool, Nigel,” and he took it around the room so all of them could look at it, which they politely did. They did not speak to him in a patronizing manner. They did not roll their eyes or make disparaging remarks. They got it. They realized that this was something important to Nigel, and they were supportive. And I wanted to hug all of them.

So here’s a big shout-out to the Scouts of Troop 535 and their parents: You guys are so great. You make Nigel feel accepted, and he appreciates it, and so do I. Thanks so much for your patience and understanding. It means more than you know.