Thursday, September 3, 2009
A Make-you-smile Autism Story
I've blogged about my autistic grandson before. He's five, and has been living at least a half continent away for a year and a half, so I have to keep up on how he's doing through reports from his parents.
Here's a story that my son, Wayne, posted on Facebook the other day about his son, Wayne Jr. (WayJay). It made me smile, and I thought there might be other people who would enjoy reading it, too.
I got home tonight and my wife, Shea, and I were sitting at the table, talking about the events of the day. I had quite a bit to talk about because of a bruha-ha that was going on at the shop. While we were talking, I noticed Wayne was walking around the room with a toy airplane. It was a USAF jet of one kind or another. (I have never cared enough about warbirds to learn the identifiers for each one.) Anyhow, Wayne was flying it around the room making airplane noises; more to the point, he was making jet noises.
I commented to Shea that it was cool that WayJay was playing in an appropriate manner (using the toy as an airplane and KNOWING that it was an airplane).
I watched him for a few minutes, and all of a sudden, I thought, "Why is my son playing with a jet? Everybody knows that jet pilots are knuckleheads. Real men fly single engine Cessnas." So I went out to the garage and got into one of my aviation boxes and pulled out a toy 172.
I walked into the house, took the toy out of the plastic covering, and handed it to Wayne. He stood there for a minute with a plane in each hand, and then he showed that he is truly my son: he pitched the jet over into the toy box and started playing with the 172.
WayJay flew the Cessna around for a few minutes, then "landed" it on the ottoman. He then said "DADDY" and "took off", making a circuit around the room with his newfound airplane. Once again, he returned to the ottoman. This time he did something that was really cool.
To show you how cool it is, I have to explain that, for as long as WayJay has been alive, I have tried to make a go of it as a banner tow pilot. I was towing banners the day he was born, and WayJay grew up out at the airport. All the planes that I towed with had a 4 cylinder Lycoming engine, and anyone who had been around those engines knows that starting one is more art than science. They have a very distinct sound; they crank-crank-crank, pop-pop-pop, and then they roar to life.
So, back to Wayne: the plane is on the ottoman, and I hear WayJay go, rrrrr rrrr rrrrr, pop pop RMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM and the plane takes off. Shea looked at me and said, "Did you hear him imitate you starting the airplane?" We laughed about it and sat back to watch what he would do next.
WayJay then flew the plane around with his pacifier hooked to the back of the airplane by its lanyard. He was towing it with the plane. My little boy was pretending he was towing a banner! He then went over to the ottoman, made the plane dive down and pull steeply up as he dropped the pacifier onto the floor. He had just imitated me doing a banner drop.
There are two cool things about this story. First, it's been over a year since WayJay has seen me tow a banner. He's pulled this from memory. The second, and coolest, thing is that imaginative play like this is unusual in autistic children. For Wayne to switch from zooming around in the jet to pretending to be banner towing with the 172 shows not only that he understands the function of an airplane, but that he understands that different planes do different things. Most of all, he knows his daddy flys a Cessna 172, and he's a wicked good banner tow pilot.
Follow this blog! Click on the 'Follow' button on the left sidebar. Coming up in the near future, if I survive camping in the rain over Labor Day, is a posting on how to make sopapillas. Oh, and we're doing Navajo Tacos while camping, and I'm planning on blogging about that. You won't want to miss it!