We do not know when he will be able to tie his shoes.
Or to take a shower, or to dry himself with a towel.
Or to ask for help without shrieking when the wifi on the iPad stops working.
We do not know how he will make it through college (or, some days, even high school).
We do not know when he might be ready to live on his own.
And if he is able to live on his own, whether he will live on Amy’s frozen macaroni and cheese, like that character in that movie.
But last Wednesday, with his classmates, as “La Raspa” played, he was capable of marching in time.
And spinning in time.
And kicking in time.
And circling up in a group.
And of blowing kisses to the crowd when they’d finished.
And of knowing that he could.
“Look!” he says.
I emerge from the kitchen into the living room.
“What is it?”
He is sitting in his reading nook, flipping rapidly through pages in the Dark Horse Star Wars Omnibus, collecting the comic book adaptations of all six movies.
He flips quickly to Luke’s run on the Death Star in Episode IV, points at a specific speech bubble in a specific panel, then flips immediately to a scene on Dagobah in Episode V, barely stopping to tap a panel with his finger before flipping all the way back to a scene with Anakin and his mother from Episode I.
I have barely registered what he is pointing at he is flipping so quickly.
I am supposed to understand what I am seeing.
He repeats the sequence twice, so I know that he is not simply flipping and pointing at random. But he does it even more quickly than before, as if working to master a juggling trick, so I have even less opportunity to decode what he is showing me.
He is giddy with delight.
Instead of yelling at my cluelessness (his typical next step in these situations), the next time through he helps me out, speaking aloud the words at which he is pointing.
Episode IV: “Hey”
Episode V: “I just”
Episode I: “met you”
He is recreating the Call Me Maybe Star Wars mashup. Silently, in rhythm, with a book.
Part 1: From Our Family to Yours
Our kid is sweet, smart, and funny. He’s also on the autism spectrum.
All we knew was he was awesome and he was ours.
Key to the boy’s core curriculum—starting from this early age—was an emphasis on social skills. This wasn’t instruction on courtesy or manners; it was something called social pragmatics. A cognitive approach to the kinds of social interactions that come naturally to
most many. Establishing eye contact. Taking turns in conversations. Greeting someone when they enter the room.
And because we loved talking about our child, and because this actually was pretty interesting stuff, we’d share details of what he was learning, and parents of other, “typical” children would say why doesn’t my child get that. My child could use that.
Around this time, too, Christa began blogging about our family and hyperlexia, about echolalia, about invisible disabilities, and about how hard it is to survive a birthday party with an autistic preschooler sometimes.
And so many parents—strangers she’d never met—responded in comments or privately, via email, saying that’s us too. Thank you for helping us realize we’re not alone in this.
We know that many struggle with forms of autism that separate them from the world around them, across chasms of language and awareness. But with who our son is, and how he is in the world, we were discovering new kinds of connection, with other kids, and other families.
And who he is is a little Abed Nadir. Decoding his interactions and relationships in life by referencing dialogue or moments from TV shows and movies that he loves.
And Christa wished out loud for a show that he could draw upon, for context and handy quotations to apply in his normal life, where there were relatively few steam engines, or spooky mysteries to solve, or swordsmen or wizards or Sith lords.
And she would want it to be a comedy. Because long before the word autism entered our house, our family had kept close through laughter.
She imagined that other families might connect to a show like this, too. Those who had diagnoses or labels, as well as those who struggled without them.
And she realized she would have to make it herself.
Continue reading Part 2, in which I share a bit Christa’s journey on the road to Executive Producer.