Part of being a parent is the joy of unexpected information coming out of your children’s mouths at the most inopportune moments. My youngest son, Charlie, has had more of those moments than most. Charlie was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum when he was three years old. At first, we wondered if he’d ever speak. I was sure he was deaf. He’s not, and now he speaks a mile a minute! Then we wondered if he’d ever be potty trained. This was a painfully long process, but he went to kindergarten fully trained. We wondered if he’d be able to read and write. He reads and writes right alongside his fourth grade peers, and we are beginning to see that his future will be quite bright. He had such a rough beginning, but he has soared past any limitation. We are so proud of him! From time to time though Charlie has awkward social moments, and when they happen we are usually caught off guard.
Charlie’s always been obsessed with something. It is common for those on the Autism Spectrum to focus on their favorite things and to have difficulty switching to different ideas. When he was little it was trains. I’ve embraced these obsessions as educational opportunities and so we rode trains, went to train museums, and looked at many model trains and books. As he’s grown his obsessions have changed. We’ve learned about the solar system, airplanes, robots, and lately Star Trek. Last year he was obsessed with snakes. We went to the zoo and to local pet stores where we stared at snakes for ridiculously long lengths of time. We read, googled facts, and enjoyed wonderfully informative National Geographic programs that explained the mating process of snakes. Fascinating! (Sarcasm) It’s in these unsuspecting moments that I have learned to keep a good sense of humor.
During this same time period we were visiting churches. Charlie looked forward to Sunday school and meeting new kids. After church, I would ask Charlie about his experience and on this particular Sunday I began with my questions. He told me he met a boy named Trevor, and that it was a lot of fun. He paused and then told me, “but the teacher didn’t like it when I told the class that male snakes have two “private parts.” Only he didn’t say “private parts,” he said the technical term. Trying not to choke on my laughter and shock, I told him this was a fact I’d appreciate he not share in public anymore because people will think he’s being nasty or a smart-alec. He assured me he’d keep it to himself. All kids say things that are inappropriate at times, but this was different. He struggled to understand the social reasons why this would be inappropriate, and I struggled to explain to him why it was.
Charlie is going to have his tenth birthday in a couple of days. His first five years were very intense. Although he’s had his trials, he’s conquered most. The inappropriate moments are coming less and less as he has grown and matured in his understanding. Although I’m sure we will have surprising moments again, keeping a good sense of humor has lightened the worries along the way.