A Mind of My Own
Posted by Gail | Filed under Autism
Chapter 4: A Matter of Routine (Part 2)
Steve from “Blue’s Clues” taught Malcolm to draw. He watched religiously, knew much of the dialogue by heart and studied every line Steve drew in his “Handy Dandy Notebook.” I still have a perfectly rendered rocking chair framed.
Once fired up, Malcolm drew and painted with a fury. We went through hundreds of packages of paper and thousands of markers. But, as with language, Malcolm doesn’t draw individual components that come together to form a picture. Every piece in his drawing is a part of the whole. So when he drew a schoolbus, it included a stop sign with the word “stop,” as well as “Laidlaw,” the name of the bus company. And the lugs on the front wheels were different from the lugs on the back wheels. I went and checked to see if this was a creative flourish or an accurate rendering. I shouldn’t have bothered. He drew exactly what he saw.
Malcolm could write upside down, sideways, and back-to-front. When he was in a store and saw the name of the store on the window from the inside (where it appeared backwards) he would come home and draw it exactly as he’d seen it. And he could knock off the Disney symbol animated at the beginning of videos even though it was a pretty complicated signature. While in his chess phase, he played every day on the computer, owned five or six chess sets, read books on chess and beat us all – except for Kris, his adult brother, who whooped him. Malcolm was furious and cried in frustration, because “playing together” is another area of weakness, as are losing, sharing, and taking turns. While in his dinosaur phase he learned everything he could about dinosaurs, and even wrote a speech about dinosaurs on which he pulled an A, his first in language. He also got a standing ovation from his Grade 5 class when he delivered his speech.
When Malcolm took up with Shakespeare, my husband and I watched in amazement as he absorbed The Bard. It started in grade 4 when his teacher introduced the class to Macbeth. Malcolm got the bug. I, who always encouraged him to read, went out and bought all the Shakespeare in the series they had used at school: simpler in language but still in rhyming couplets, with lots of quotes from the original. He read ‘em all. Then he started comparing the plays. Did you know that the name “Antonio” appears in four separate Shakespearian plays? How about those younger brothers who will do anything to steal the power of their elder siblings, how many of them are there? At age 11, Malcolm knew and was morally outraged at their greed.
He began to commit great gobs of Shakespeare to memory, finally checking what he knew against the original stories (we had an enormous compendium of Shakespeare) to make sure he had it right. And then there was the day he informed his father that Shakespeare was derivative of Egyptian mythology: that Osiris’s brother, Seth, had murdered Osiris to claim his power. Hmmm.
While some Asperger’s interests last a lifetime, others change at unpredictable times. And while other children have a broad spectrum of interests, for an Asperger’s child there are only one or two at work at a time. Interests would fall off the list (leaving me with an inventory of rewards) only to be replaced by something completely different. And once done with a subject area, trying to get Malcolm to revisit it was virtually impossible.
The guitars now sit unused. He hasn’t touched a piano in years. The drum set went away. Pokemon took over from Thomas. Shakespeare will re-appear as he moves through high school (I hope). He still plays chess and has memorized thousands of moves so I never again have a hope of winning. But I still play with him and he still relishes thrashing me. Angry Birds took the place of board games. One day, when I was admonishing him for the amount of time he spent on his iphone playing Angry Birds he look at me with his wry 16-year old smile and said, “It’s physics.” Did I mention he has a very good sense of humour? Not everyone gets it, but it’s there.