LIFE IS A SPECTRUM / Autism Question Time

There was a time, not too long ago, when Billy never asked a question. NEVER. Then, around the age of 3, he started SOMETIMES wondering about stuff that was missing: “Where’s Mama?” or “Where’s Daddy?” or more likely “Where’s Thomas and Percy and Gordon and Rheneas and…?” And another year passed.

I watched other parents roll their eyes as their toddlers badgered them with questions in the grocery store: What is that? What is that? What is THAT? But WHAT. IS. THAT?!

I wasn’t sure if I’d ever hear that kind of passionate curiosity from Billy.

Asking questions can be tough for autistic kids. To ask someone else a question, you have to first be aware they are in the room. Second, you have to understand that they have information you need. And then you need to be able to verbalize your need for information in the appropriate form. It took us several years to make our way through steps one and two.

And I can still remember the moment, after years of speech and ABA therapy, when Billy asked the first question that showed real curiosity. He was in the bathroom, looking at a “magazine” (Toys R Us catalog). Then he pointed at a picture and asked, “What are they doing?”

The floodgates were opened. (Considering the location, maybe that’s an unfortunate choice of phrase on my part. Still, you know what I mean …)

Questions remain difficult. Sometimes they’re quirky and frequently oddly phrased. Sometimes he wants information that I simply do not have. Neither does any other human being on the planet Earth. His curiosity, now unbridled, runs the gamut of its own spectrum. But I take each question, however difficult, as seriously as possible and give him the best answer of which I’m capable:

BILLY: Can I watch Berenstain Bears for one hundred minutes?

ME: No, but you can watch TV for 10 minutes.

BILLY: Is brown angry?

ME: That’s a good question. (Is it? I don’t know, but I’m buying myself time.) Brown is not a very happy color, it must be said.

BILLY: Who was the man on “The Small World?” (We rode “The Small World” 5 times at Disney last summer, and unlike my son, I do not have perfect recall of everyone who rode with us.)

ME: Sorry. I don’t remember. If we see him again, we’ll ask.

BILLY: Can I have one hundred M&Ms?

ME: You can have ONE M&M when you sit down nicely for homework.

BILLY: Why is homework? WHY?

ME: Homework helps us learn new things.

BILLY: Can I have a gun?

ME: No.

lemur8

Question: Are these pets? Answer: NO.

BILLY: Can I have a lemur?

ME: No.

BILLY: Can I have one hundred lemurs?

ME: Definitely not.

BILLY: What are YOU feeling?

ME: A lot of things. Love, a little anxiety, humor – that means something is funny – and happiness.

BILLY: Can we go see Colin Powell?

ME: Sure, buddy. After homework. (Thank you, YouTube.)

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