Saturday, July 26, 2014

I will read a book all about me.

Last night at bedtime Ryan was nothing like sleepy. Our rule is that after we say goodnight, Ryan can read or play quietly in his room and tuck himself in when he's ready. Usually he chooses to read in bed with a flashlight.

"What book do you want?" I asked him.

He smiled and replied, "I will read a book all about me."

He asked for my book. The book I had written for him when he was five and scared and flying blind and wondering how my baby's future would unfold. It struck me as very important at the time that Ryan should know that he is autistic: that his brain is organized differently than the average brain; that there are lots of people in the world with brains similar to his; and that Different does not mean Less.

I wanted him to grow up hearing - and someday understanding - the word Autism. I wanted to lay the groundwork for a lifetime of pride in himself and his unique strengths and contextualization of his own challenges. I had been appalled by the frequency with which I would find myself in a conversation with another adult while in Ryan's presence and the other person would whisper the word "Autism" the same way they might curse under their breath.

At this point, Ryan's vocabulary does not include the word Autism; it also does not include most contractions or properly-used gender pronouns, so I'm not worried.

Opening my book, Ryan first lingers on the dedication page, which depicts the main character doing a cartwheel and features the words "For Ryan." Then he "reads" aloud, reciting whatever word-sounds he remembers.

Instead of reading "Ben has autism, Ben is awesome," Ryan says "Ben is awesome, Ben is awesome."

Good enough for now. Good enough.

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