LIFE IS A SPECTRUM

As of a couple of weeks ago, Billy has developed a fascination for maps. His favorite is the map of the United States of America, and he quickly memorized all the states. The laminated map you'll see in the video above was once on the wall, but after repeatedly picking it up off the floor and rehanging it, I finally just let him keep it on the floor.

He lays on top of it, puts his eyeball practically right on top of his favorite states -- "Texas, Okla-HOHM-ah, Tennessee, and Ha-WHAH-eeeeee" -- for some reason.

Let's keep in mind that he still hasn't developed the communication skills to tell me where we ate lunch today ... at least, not yet. But he can name all 50 states and locate them on the map, which is more than I can do. (FYI, he can't read the names yet ... at least, I don't think he can.) And he's started on the countries of the globe.

Autism and memory are fascinating to me. Some kids like to memorize the names of every dinosaur known to man; others like to memorize dates or license plates or can easily memorize the TV guide, seemingly at a glance. One fascinating autistic child whose dad I've met online can tell you one what day of the week you were born instantly, just by knowing your birthdate.

Too often these remarkable talents are dismissed as "splinter skills," a somewhat pejorative term, in my opinion. Aren't all amazing talents "splinter skills?" Just because you aren't equally great at everything, that doesn't mean that the strengths and talents you have shouldn't be recognized as such.

Billy digs maps -- at least, at the moment -- as well as planets and satellites. He memorizes everything the GPS system says -- to the point we have to turn it off or drive ourselves crazy. I can imagine him in about 20 years, filling a date's ears with factoids about the Cassini-Huygens orbiter/probe. Or reciting the directions to her house like a living, breathing GPS system.

Look at it this way: At least they'll never get lost.

Reader Comments

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Love it! My brother memorized all the stats for every football player in the NFL as a kid. At 25 months, my son M has learned the alphabet and has spelled a few things that make my husband and I wonder if he's beginning to read. Yes, he can't communicate many things to me, but communication is communication and if right now that means the ABCs then that's amazing to us and we love it :-)

franklin

Stop waiting until the weekend, when you can party or let loose, until summer, spring, fall or winter, until you find the right person and get married, until you die, until your born again, to decide that there is no better time than right now to be happy.Happiness is a journey, not a destination.So love like you have never been hurt, work like you don't need the money, and dance like no one's watching.wearing<strong> <a href="http://www.franklinmarshalloutlet.org">franklin and marshall</a> </strong> when we want to anywhere please stop waiting.

You American women (and all western women, white women) are mentally ill and hopeless. Have fun growing old alone with your 10 cats, losers.

That is really impressive! (Your son, not John-who-needs-to-get-laid. :)

I remember being fascinated with a map puzzle of the U.S. that we had when I was about 6...I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to locate all the states on the map without being able to read the names! Billy's pretty impressive!

Hugs,
Wendy

He's amazing

Talent is talent - I don't care if you have other disabilities or not. Billy is brilliant! When my cousin, who we now know has Asperger's, was a toddler he was obsessed with certain letters and numbers. I was convinced that he would someday earn a Nobel Prize for some theory using those letters and numbers. Still am!

Yup

Hello. I am commenting to you from 10 years in your future. It's pretty good here.

Griffin's map is still on his wall. He somehow messed up Lynn's birthday when we met. First time ever. I think it was all her fur and big feet that threw him off.

We have maps taped all up and down our hall at home~ looks like a home schoolers paradise! LOL We use maps to cross-reference our hikes. Okay, I use them. But, every now and then I can get Matt to listen as I explain, "We live here and we hiked here. See how close the trail is to our house! Do you think we could walk to the trail?" Or, "Look how much of our neighborhood is shaded in now! We really are learning our area." Or, "Grandma lives here and we live here. That's why we drive I-80. See I-80? It's almost a straight line to Grandma's house."

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Today Billy staged a race between a small plastic pig from his toy farm and a tractor. It went on for quite some time. During this race, which went around and around the dining room table, he hummed the "William Tell Overture" (the Lone Ranger song). The pig won -- which might have had something to do with the fact that the tractor was pulling a trailer carrying an astronaut and Linny from the Wonder Pets -- but that's not the point of the story.

toybarn

Billy is really starting to explore his imagination. He's starting to make up his own games and tell stories with new endings -- in his own way.

Many of you have been on this journey with us since I started this blog -- and some before that. You know already that we're practicing Floortime therapy, which encourages us to follow the joy of our child. Imaginary play is highly encouraged by this philosophy of autism therapy, because it encourages not only communication, but also problem-solving and thinking more abstractly.

Billy is getting it. He's making progress.

He's still a pretty concrete thinker. He can memorize anything – and I mean anything – that has a name or a number or a specific concrete label. He's not yet four and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of road machinery.

So tell me how a kid who can identify a “steel wheel soil compacter” at 50 yards is incapable of knowing when he needs the bathroom. He's messing with me. I'm telling you that he could use the potty if he wanted to, if it didn't amuse him so much to see me unravel at the seams.

But I guess knowing when he needs to go to the potty – or telling you what color a carrot is, if there's not a carrot in front of him – is still hard. Telling you what he did earlier in the day or yesterday, understanding those vague concepts of time, is next to impossible ... for now.

It's like he lives absolutely in the moment, completely immersed in whatever or whoever he's with. He's not worried about what's going to happen tomorrow, and he's not bothered by what happened yesterday. He is totally with that pig as he crosses the finish line.

I could learn a lot from him.

Reader Comments

A pig, astronaut and tractor

It's fantastic that Billy is engaging in imaginary play with toys, Amanda!
That's quite an accomplishment!
My son, who's 4 and 4 months now, does not do that yet.
(I'd love some tips on how to encourage it. Though his therapists and I have tried...)
Much like your Billy though, my son has a great memory and memorizes names, numbers, song lyrics etc.
Also, much like Billy, he is completely in the moment most of the time, for good and bad.
He's gradually starting to occasionally reply to some questions about what we did the day before, so I'm hopeful.
Anyway: way to go Billy, and Billy's mom!

From Amanda Broadfoot

Thanks so much!

It's taken a while, and the progress has been slow, but we're big proponents of the Floortime/DIR model. I still find myself trying to force games on him sometimes, though, and that never works out well. When that happens, I just take a step back, observe what he's doing for a while. Then I join him and do it too -- like today we drove the dump truck around the play room, filling it up with chalk and dumping it out again and again.

Then I had him dump it out on one of his little people and I made him say, "Ow!" Billy is big into comforting someone who is hurt, so he would try and kiss it better. That didn't, of course, stop him from dumping the chalk on top of the little person again and again. As long as they get a kiss, apparently they can endure anything :-)

If you haven't read it already, I highly recommend Dr. Greenspan's book "Engaging Autism." In it, he lays out the Floortime model and describes his research and theories. It's all based on real science, and basically puts the power in the hands of the parent.

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