The Hardest Question

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It always starts something like this:

Me: “Three kids; 7, 9, 11.  A boy on either end with a girl in the middle.”

Everyone else, ever: “Three kids?!  I bet they keep you busy (or some variation).”

Me: “Especially since my eldest is also kind of my youngest – he has autism.”

Everyone else, ever: “How bad is it?”

There it is.  The question.  The one I don’t really have an answer for.  How bad is it?

I usually start listing strengths and weaknesses, hoping they’ll use the information to answer their own question.

He’s “verbal-ish”; he can usually make his needs known, but he’s not one to answer direct questions with more than a syllable.  He uses echolalia pretty functionally.  No, he can’t make toast.  He needs to be reminded not to go outside in his underwear.   Will he ever live by himself?  I don’t know.  He can jump and run and ride a bike, but no, he can’t tie his shoes very well. He can read but not comprehend.  He doesn’t rock and flap and cry; but he doesn’t count cards in Vegas and he has no idea how many toothpicks just fell out of the box (Rain Man, anyone?).

He’s happy.  He loves video games, his dogs, tornadoes (on TV only), and sharks.  He’s nuts for toy dinosaurs.  He gets nervous in loud or new situations.  He wears Winchester shooting headphones half the time.  He fights with his brother and sister, and hates it when we have company.  He doesn’t give “muah” kisses, but will gladly offer you the top of his head if you’d like to kiss him.  He loves (needs) to win, and when we go for walks, he’s always a half-block ahead.

He has an incredible sense of humor, loves slapstick comedy (Tom & Jerry).  He has a low IQ.  He’s a calendar freak.  If we come over, your calendar better be reflective of the current month.  It’s no good to leave the microwave with one second left – the display must be returned to time-telling mode.  He’s afraid of showers; but loves to take a bath, provided you don’t put any soap in.

He’s not self-injurious.  He genuinely seems to care about people.  He’s starting to make remarks that show 1. he’s noticing his surroundings, and 2. he has very little filter.  He really wants to drive, so we have to hide the keys.  On dirt roads, though, sitting in Dad’s lap, he’s pretty good.  He knows just about every word of “Soul Surfer,” complete with sound effects.  Food he’s unfamiliar with is automatically “isgusting.”  He’s learned how to lie.

He’s developed his own language:

candles = deodorant

angry clouds = any cloud that’s not fluffy white

chicken = all meat

my 9 games = his three “three-packs” of DS games

red charging = when the indicator light on his 3DS turns red, indicating that it needs to be plugged in

but mama said = no, really

So, the question goes unanswered.  He’s been diagnosed for eight years, and I still don’t know the answer.  Does it really matter?  Where he falls on the spectrum doesn’t make any difference in the long run.  His challenges are still his challenges, and we’ll continue to work towards meeting his goals.

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