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Monday, July 20, 2015

Oh Stewardess! I Speak Autism!

There's a wonderful scene in the movie "Airplane" where the stewardess is having a hard time understanding a couple of guys who are trying to communicate in jivespeak. Barbara BelGeddes jumps in with "Oh Stewardess! I speak jive!" and hilarity ensues (about the 1:00 mark):

And this is fresh on my mind because I realized yesterday how utterly nonsensical my son and I must sound to people sometimes. I mean, I speak fluent David, but then again....I live with David. I know his quirks and hangups and the things he gets stuck on and the pieces that worm their way into his brain and take root.

For instance:

  • We go to one of two different movie theaters. Either we choose the red-left-wrong-way Regal or the blue ride-home Regal. The colors come from the neon lighting outside the building on their logo sign, and the other identifiers come with me having missed a turn for the theater once three years ago (hence the left-wrong-way-home) and the other being part of a scenic ride home.
  • When someone sneezes, he screams "Voldemort!" He was watching Goblet of Fire one day and I happened to sneeze at the exact moment Voldemort cast a curse at Harry Potter. That's all it took. Now when anyone sneezes, Voldemort is cursing us.
  • My cat's breath smells eggs. This one's a little harder to explain. And no, I didn't leave out a word. It's a line from "Pitch Perfect" originally. One girl turns to another and says, "Your breath smells like eggs. Like, all the time." David found that hilarious for some reason and started repeating it ad nauseam. We told him to stop saying that to people, so now he only says it to the cat. And he leaves out the word "like" even when we correct him. So he'll tell you that cat's breath smells eggs. And you'll smile and nod and look at me and I'll wave my hand because that one's just not as easy to explain.
  • When he orders a cheeseburger, regardless of where, he orders it meatcheesebun, all one word. That way you know he likes it without any condiments at all. And you'd better get that right. Oh Lord, you'd better get that right. Please.
  • Every movie character he discusses has a brother named Kevin. That's a tribute to his favorite uncle (and my brother), and it's cute as hell. He'll play with his action figures, Kevin Baggins and Kevin Potter and Kevin Quill (who is, of course, a Guardian of the Galaxy). It's almost like an honorary title, if you get to be a Kevin.
  • Anytime he misbehaves, I mean ANYTIME, no matter how small the transgression, he immediately asks if he lost fifteen. As in, "You just lost fifteen minutes off your bedtime, mister." That's only used for a serious infraction, but he could drop an ice cube on the floor and immediately begin wringing his hands and asking if he lost fifteen. He missed the trashcan at the mall when throwing away his napkin yesterday and I had to spend fifteen reassuring him that he didn't lose fifteen.

These are just a few of the quirky things my kid does. And I've talked to autism moms from all over and we all have stories about our kids' hangups and inventive ways of combining language to communicate. And maybe we can't just swap off and immediately speak autism to every kid out there (because they're all such individuals and they all have their own "things"), we do all speak a common language: 

We love our kids. And we love them enough to try to understand them even when they're not making sense. We love them enough to correct them and teach them the right words so they can make sense to others. We love them when they're so overwhelmed, the words can't come.

And we laugh sometimes. 

And you know what? "Voldemort" sounds a lot cooler than "gesundheit" any day.

Ellie's journey with her son David has been one of joy, patience and discovery - one that changed the very framework in which she used to view autism. Through David's eyes, she's learned that an autism diagnosis isn't the end of the world - it's just the beginning of an interesting new one.
Available at Amazon for Kindle - and Smashwords for all e-reading device.

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