Yesterday I ran into Sweet M and her father as they were walking home from speech therapy. I was in the unusual position of seeing them from behind, as they were walking hand in hand down a pathway on the NYU campus.
I caught up with them when they stopped for traffic at West Fourth Street, and took her father's hand, to make a threesome. She dropped his hand and spun around to take mine, almost as though some magnetic force dislodged her and reattached her on the other side of the group. Her father let go of my hand, and we were once again in our family unit of 2 + 1: (Sweet M + parent) + other parent.
Our family is fractured. Lots of families are. Lots of autism families are. We are a classic case: parents invested in the child and divested in each other.
As we walked home, Sweet M had something to share.
Guess what guess what guess what, ________!!?!! (Sweet M calls me by my first name.)
We had a fire drill today!!!
You had a fire drill?
Yes. Yes. And we went on the roof. I saw some sharp things—bird things. Guess — guess what was sharp!!
Wow. I don't know. Bird beaks?
Noooo! Guess! Guess!
I don't know. I give up.
The pigeon things. For the pigeons. For the pigeon mice.
Pigeon mice? Oh pigeon mites. Oh, you saw pigeon spikes! Wow, that's great.
Yes, they were sharp and pointy. They were everywhere. On top of the door. On the ledge. Everywhere!
Last week seen a news program segment about the problem of pigeons roosting on air conditioners and ledges and then pigeon mites sometimes infest the adjacent space. Pigeon mites are nasty. The segment showed an exterminator fumigating for the mites and installing spikes.
Wow. I thought. She's putting all this information together all the time, but since we almost never have the same visual referents — and she usually doesn't have the language for it — so she doesn't get to share it. (This is where I sidebar to say three cheers for TV. )
She's putting it together, and the 1 + 1 feels like 1 + 1 = 3. It's thrilling. We can't even begin to know what she knows — what she's learning and observing all the time.
Now if I could only figure out how to make 1 + 1+ 1 equal 1, or even 3.
Keywords: autism • Asperger's Syndrome • ADHD • learning disabilities • speech-language disorders • parenting • family life