Monday, November 18, 2013

This is autism (Pattie McCarthy)

Written by Pattie McCarthy

This is autism.

Colin Meloy (of the Decembrists) said the following about his son, Hank, who is on the autism spectrum : "I think he is deeply, deeply weird, but we are into weirdness, are open to it, and find it charming & smart" ( 

This wonderful interview with Meloy at The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism was not the first thing I ever read about parenting & autism. If only. The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism was not the first website or organization I found when I started researching the autism spectrum. If only. 

One of my three children has Asperger's. Can you tell which one?

One of them still sucks their thumb & sleeps with a blankie.
One of them flaps their fingers.
One of them screams if a stranger touches them.

One of them plays lovely & atonal songs of their own invention on the piano.
One of them has a sweet singing voice.
One of them is not really into playing music— just wants to dance to it.

One of them acquired language in the usual way.
Two of them never spoke toddler caveman language (me hungry!), 
but rather went from single words straight to totally strange & beautiful sentences
("orange fishes big water, I want to kiss him," etc.).

One of them is obsessed with tiny animals.
One of them is obsessed with trains.
One of them is obsessed with excavators.

One of them sleeps like a champ.
One of them wakes up at 5.00 am every day.
One of them still sleeps with me & my husband half the time.

None of them like to wear clothes that aren't made of natural fibers.
None of them really want to look you in the eye. 
All of them over-empathize.
All of them are hyperverbal, according to their pediatrician.

I don't mean to suggest that my autistic kid doesn't have very real challenges. But my Aspie has some things easier than my NT children— is friendlier to strangers/adults, is an extrovert, is really motivated to be a good student, is ambidextrous, is a strong reader, etc. 

I do not recognize my child in the language of Autism Speaks. 

"Autism is a method of energy," writes Emma, at Emma's Hope Book (

My child with Asperger's is an odd duck. We like odd ducks. 
When I started researching Asperger's, I noticed that many of the characteristics of ASD (particularly with regard to language) sounded like things we really value in literature & art. I started thinking my child was just super experimental, & that it was time to put my money where my mouth is & learn this new language, new energy, new way of looking. This is autism— this shit is avant garde.  


  1. "This shit is avant garde" oh that made me smile! Love it!

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