Chi is exceptional at an astonishing variety of things when you consider that he has Asperger’s and Aspie’s generally excel in a narrow window of areas. When I think on it longer, Chi is good at numbers in general and at specific kinds of relationships. I’ve been thinking a lot about these little amazing quirks of his and I realized a few things. First, that I write a lot about his troubles and not so much about what great things he does, or just how he amazes me daily with little things. Second, that I haven’t written anywhere some of the things he does that I can’t get enough of. I remember, vividly, the raging fits and the horrible, violent meltdowns. They happen, still, when he gets overloaded or surprised. But I, also remember the really great things. Things that may seem little, but I don’t want to forget them. And, who knows, maybe someday, he’ll read this and I want him to know that even though we have had some serious difficulties with him, he amazes me and I wouldn’t trade any of these years for any others. I wouldn’t trade him nor do I wish that he were different. I like Chi, just fine thanks. It’s the number one reason that I waited so long to get him tested. I didn’t want some professional telling me that Chi needed to change in x, y, and z ways. I just wanted to help him deal with a world that is not friendly to people who are different and is not easy for people who find struggles in the mundane.
Anyway. Chi is exceptional, and here are just a few of the ways.
Chi started talking very early, around 8 months of age. By the time he was a year old he had started verbally digressing. He would learn new words and use them for a few days before dropping them and not using them ever again. By the time he was two, he spoke entirely in what I called ‘Chi-nese’. It was indecipherable to me which means no one else could understand him either. At around two and a half, he started using some English words again, but he refused to even try words if asked. He knew, for instance, that his Dad drove a Honda Civic. He would point out all the Honda’s on the road. “Daddy Car,” he would say and point at the cars with the same symbol as his Dad’s car. Then he started saying, “Daddy-Daddy Car!!” I realized this was when he saw a civic, more specifically: when he saw a Civic of the same year and model (98 and 4 door, LX). This kid could tell the difference. Eventually he did this for all of the types of cars everyone we knew drove. He could somehow tell and communicate to me in his very sparse English heavily accented with Chi-nese that he new not only the make, but the model and he could tell which model, regardless of year, was the right one.
I don’t think Chi had to relearn English. I think he just decided to start speaking it again one day. He has never mimicked. He couldn’t be bothered. He doesn’t like certain kinds of repetition. If he already knows something, he doesn’t see the value in doing it over and over again. Needless to say, he has a hard time in school. He had to go to a speech pathologist to learn how to make his mouth muscles make the sounds that exist in his second language: the English one. Even once his language was consisting almost entirely of English, he was really hard to understand. “Tuhn da wites opp in da oppiss, pweeze Mommy?” (Turn the lights off in the office, please, Mommy?) Seems pretty straight forward as I type it, but when he spoke it, unless you knew that off=opp and office=oppiss, I think you’d be lost. Most people were.
So Chi wouldn’t mimic. He wouldn’t even TRY to say “Grammie” for me which is what my kids call my Mom. One day I was explaining to him (he was about 18 months or so) who Grammie was while trying to get him to repeat after me and I said, “Grammie is my Mommy. Grammie is Mommy’s Mommy.” Boom! Light on! “Mommy-Mommy” is what Chi called my Mom until he either a) discarded it which is the most likely reason or b) he started saying “Gwammie”. I don’t really remember the exact happenings so far as that was concerned, but considering the time period, he probably stopped calling her Mommy-Mommy before he ever took up ‘Gwammie’. He loves to know how people are related to him from that time on, and he GETS IT. I don’t get it sometimes. I mean, the degrees of cousins removed? He gets it. I have to think long and hard about it. I had to research it so he would have all the facts straight. (My first cousin’s son, Jack, is my first cousin once removed, but he is Chi’s second cousin, etc.) These degress and titles matter to Chi. Plus I can say something about Nanny, and he’ll look at me blankly, then I say, “You know, Poppa Tom’s Mommy? My Grandmother. She’s like your Nana, only to me.” And he says, oh yeah!
Chi doesn’t get lost. For example: My brother and sister-in-law lived in a town about thirty-five minutes from our house. To get there we would drive down small roads that took us to a main artery through city then onto the beltline and around to their exit of the main interstate. They moved over to our side of town and we didn’t make that drive anymore. Chi was three and a half when then moved. When Chi was 6, we started this odyssey of figuring him out and helping him. His behavioral therapist’s office was in the same area of town where my Brother and his family used to live, off the same exit, but in the time span between their move and our visit to this office, the outer perimeter beltline was completed and we took that all the way around instead of the other less direct route. When we exited on that first morning when he was going for his first tests, Chi said, “Abshee used to live here!” We were coming from the complete opposite direction. Nothing about the area around us was similar. The two exit ramps are not the same. There is no big signs or recognizable restaurants or anything at these exits! He was reading quite well at this time, but he was THREE the last time we’d come to this side of town! I still don’t know how he knew and he didn’t know either. He does know how to get home from where ever we go. He’s know how to get to my parents’ house three states away since he could communicate such to me.
All places in his life are in relation to where he lives. I don’t think we will ever be able to move. That could prove problematic.
NOTE: I say it a lot. “Since he could communicate it to me.” Because I don’t believe for a moment that he wasn’t absorbing and recording all these things even when he wasn’t speaking my language.
I could go on and on, and I’m sure I will in future posts. For now, I hope you get some of a picture of just how special this kids truly is.
‘Different, but not less’ is a motto that Temple Grandin’s mom instilled in her and I want it on a plaque to hang in his bedroom and another one to hang over the fireplace in my family room. It’s fabulous and I couldn’t have said it better.