This isn’t the clearest photo ever taken, but it’s going to be one of my favorites for a long, long time. Colin started looking at one of Zoey’s books and she noticed. You could see that she was interested in reading with Colin, but he is an older boy cousin who doesn’t pay a whole lot of attention to smallish girl cousins.
“Colin,” I said. “I think Zoey would like to read that book with you.”
“Oh, sure.” He said and popped out of the chair.
“No, I think she would probably like to sit with you. Just slide over a little.”
So there they sat, and Colin read her the book and laughed with her.
When Colin was Zoey’s age, we were just beginning to learn about autism and what it meant. We wondered if Colin would be able to speak like everyone else. We were told he would probably never master skills like riding a bike or tying his own shoe. We thought that Colin’s sense of humor would never be funny to anyone but him. We were encouraged to be grateful for whatever physical touch he would be able to handle.
My practical Scandinavian Minnesota heritage gives me a “let’s make the best of this” attitude. I spend a lot of time writing to you about how proud I am of him and very little time writing about how tiring and frustrating the challenges of autism can be. I wonder if he will ever stop talking to himself in public. I wonder what kind of career will be a good match for him. I wonder if he will ever care about learning to drive a car or getting a good grade in science. Will he ever sleep through the night? Will he ever have a friend?
April is autism awareness month. I encourage you not only to learn about autism and what it means, but to figure out and teach others how to interact with autism spectrum individuals in public and in your own life. Current research suggest that even though autistic individuals look as though they care little for social interaction, they really do. They just don’t know how to go about it — and even when they do, they can only handle so much.
As Colin neared the end of the book, I was going to suggest he read her another one. Unfortunately, by the time I formed the words in my mouth, the book was over and Colin popped out of the chair and into the other room to be by himself.
But maybe asking any nearly 15 year old kid to read more than one book to his toddler cousin is asking a lot.