Friday, February 11, 2011

Odd Bird

If I were to draw a caricature of my son, it would be as an unusual but adorably endearing, lovable bird boy. He flaps, he squawks, he pecks, he waddles, he flits, he nests ... it is not at all difficult to imagine. It is so easy to see how birdlike he is in fact that I realize what I seem to work harder at, what takes more skill and artistry, is to draw out and exaggerate his typical boy features. It is here, exaggerating these traits, where I most often apply my perception and creativity.

When he flaps the leader of his social skills class has suggested I ask, "Don't flap your hands. How else can you show you are excited?"

When he peeps and squawks, I remind him I will not respond to him until he can tell me what he wants in a complete sentence or in a normal voice.

When he bumps into walls or into me and moves like a sparrow trapped against a window, (if it is at I time when I don't find this completely irritating) well then, I just cave in and I hug him tightly to me in a huge squeeze because I know that is what he needs. My little bird boy. He's a good egg, really.

In the realm of autism, his oddities aren't that big at all. We're lucky. Even though there are enough "classic" tell tale signs of the spectrum all over him, it took me forever to convince my Pediatrician who is also a friend that he did indeed have an autism spectrum disability. And though his high-functioning abilities concealed enough that more than one very bright adult completely missed anything odd about him, he has weaknesses that most certainly would not go over-looked by six- to ten-year olds. His odd traits grow huge in school and if there is anything eight-year old boys seem to be looking for, it is the ability to draw out individual traits at will and use them as ammunition. To be so easily drawn into caricature is a horrible liability for any kid.

Silver Lining: Adults, particularly kind and/or intelligent ones (my preferred types anyway), can be much more forgiving and accepting of odd individuals with quirky traits. We can see through them, past outward appearances. We can understand good intentions, appreciate finer qualities and recognize a myriad other distinctions. So even if he always remains oddly birdlike, I reassure myself that there are other ways he will grow out of it.

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