My son with Autism, my youngest, has quite a personality. With or without Autism, God blessed him with a creative soul, and with the Autism what I think would already have been a unique perspective is perhaps spun around even more. His perspective is, shall we say, unique.
Take Valentines Day.. or rather… the preparations for it.
My son, like most children in the U.S., is tasked with providing valentines for each of his classmates. He also was assigned this week to be the class’s “Star Student”. This is a program where each child gets a week to be the classroom’s “star”–they make and post a poster all about them, their likes and dislikes, etc. They also have the opportunity to bring in show and tell every day [the only time they are allowed to do this during the year] and other fun “star” activities. We had to prepare the Valentines and the “star” poster on the same day. Because of this, I think, my son decided to make his poster a Valentine’s Poster all about him and his loves.
Important point here. My son, more than just about anything else (even more than ice cream, which is saying something) loves animals. I mean he LOVES animals. He obsesses about animals. Go Diego Go! Animal Planet, the Zoo, the Aquarium… he is there, mind, body, and spirit. He wants to be a rhinocerous when he grows up, and then a tiger, a Cyclops, an Ibex, a pirate parrot, a beluga whale, and then maybe a kitty (so he can curl up in my lap and purr all he wants). I am not sure how he will accomplish all of this, but he has plans for them all.
One of his favorite activities is creating tiny little animals out of bits of foam, trash, tape, and his imagination. It is wonderful how he uses color, how he slots pieces together (like fine Amish furniture), the mechanics of it all is fascinating. And he plays with these animals. He assigns them likes and dislikes and personalities and sometimes gives them a voice… He loves them. We find these animals everywhere in our home, our car, in my purse, in pockets, in the lint screen in the dryer, between his pillow case and his pillow… everywhere. So naturally they would be part of his poster.
His poster board was green, since this is his favorite color, but the animals had to be “valentines color” which is red. So he cut out the profile of a triceratops, put it on the table and examined it. Then he carefully made a three-dimentional puma, and then, still not satisfied, looked around for a bigger piece of red foam.
“What are you doing, hon?” I asked.
“I need to make a Valentine animal for my poster,” he answered as he rummaged around on the table of art supplies and foam scraps.
“What about this Triceratops? Isn’t he a good Valentine animal?” I was hoping he’d go along with this, thinking that it would be easier to paste onto the poster than the puma.
“No! That is a dinosaur! A dinosaur is NOT a Valentine animal. He has horns. A Valentine animal is red and…” he paused to sieze a large piece of red foam he had spied underneath the construction paper, “big because he is a lovey.” (Lovey is a word we use to describe someone who likes to be cuddled – usually describing me or my son, since we love to cuddle with each other – he gets the sensory input and I get the cuddles – it is an excellent deal)
Hmmm… I thought. Big, red, and a lovey? I couldn’t imagine where he was going with this. What animal did he think best represented Valentine’s Day and loveys? Something big? Should I be worried?
He began to cut the foam. His tongue peeped out of the side of his mouth as he concentrated on his creation. A long, slightly curving line appeared, then he cut in angles, then another long sloping line…
I glanced away for a moment and when I looked back… the Valentine Sperm Whale had made its appearance.
My son held it up for my inspection. “See Mommy? See? What Valentine animal is this?” he grinned.
“Is that a Valentine Sperm Whale? He is handsome.” I kissed the top of his head as he proudly nodded agreement.
And then, I had to ask “Why is the Sperm Whale the Valentine animal?”
He looked up at me as if I were a tall, but sadly slow child. He took a deep breath and explained in his best imitation of a teacher’s lecture voice “Sperm Whales are big whales and they hold alot of love and they take care of their babies and so that is the best kind of Valentines animal you can make.” He smiled “and he is red. Red is a Valentines color.”
Well. That just explains it all, doesn’t it?
My precious lovey.