The Denver Autism Wheel

Beautiful, strong, autistic, continued…

Posted on: September 29, 2010

I posted about this a little while ago, and some things have changed that are worth noting, so here I am, posting about it again. Dr. Temple Grandin set my head on fire earlier this year (see her Ted Talk on our Good News page because it will set your head on fire, too) when she spent her entire keynote at the Autism Society of Colorado discussing how to encourage people with autism to shine and engage through their strengths. It got me thinking.

Chris spends most of his time facing over and over again what he’s not good at. He’s not good at chit-chat, for example, but he has to do it every day and with people of different ages, abilities and interests. He’s not good at remembering multiple tasks in series. But he has to do that every morning when he gets up, every night when he gets ready for bed, and how knows how many times in between.

But what is he good at? What makes him shine?

Chris rocks creative use of language. He loves to hear poems, create puns, express his ideas in unique ways by manipulating the fluid structure of language. And he appreciates individuals who have figured out how to do it effectively. He really likes the Beatles. He likes Shel Silverstein’s poetry. I’m guessing that he’ll enjoy Shakespeare, too, once we’ve leapt the hurdle of Early Modern English vocabulary and syntactic conventions (try saying that fast 5 times).

I’ve been encouraging him to share some of his insights with Luke, and the other way around, too: Luke’s got a very nice typical brain…he can help Chris learn how his typical peers think about things. So they share. I talked up how great it was to have one of each. The autistic brained kid can teach the typical brained kid how to solve problems creatively. The typical brained kid can teach the autistic brained kid how to behave around other typical brained people.

So far, so good. And the best feedback I got by far was when Chris told me he had a beautiful, strong autistic brain after figuring out that glowsticks make darn good, safe fireworks alternatives. We were on a Cub Scout camping trip in our oh-so-dry Colorado brush, and he tied one on a string and swung it around in the dark. All the other Cubs caught on, and soon the campsite was alive with whirling glowsticks! Some days you’re the bug; some days you’re the windshield. This was a windshield moment 🙂

What does your autie rock at?

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