So, David Blane and other card trick wizards of YouTube, I hate to break it to you – your popularity hasn’t just soared. Those latest million views are just one boy with Autism.
We’ve ‘done’ Sharks. We’ve ‘done’ Minecraft. We’ve ‘done’ World War Two. We’ve learned everything there ever is to know about every ride, current and historical, at Alton Towers – their specs, their dates, their everything. I know far more about certain subjects than I ever would without it being my connection to my child with Autism. They’ve been the ‘specialist subjects’ the world, wrongly, thinks sits alongside the savant of High Functioning Autism.
Where another child will satisfy their curiosity fairly quickly, Boo needs to know absolutely everything about his latest field of interest. At age 5 his teacher said he will ask 4 more questions beyond that of any other child “it’s lovely, but intense” (you’re telling me…). A friend, who thought I was just making a big deal of the average NT child when I said the toddler ‘why’s’ were driving me insane, told me she was in awe and saw what I meant after looking after him for just one hour. When he’s on a mission to find out stuff, tunnel vision happens, and nothing else will get a look in. Therefore, if you want to connect, there’s no choice, you have to get in the tunnel too.
And sod the mundane of life. As another teacher once said “really, in Boo’s world, there isn’t room for the basics of daily life the rest of us care about, such as shoes”, after he literally left the house for school one day without them.
For the most part I’ve been ok going along for the ride (with the exception of the ride on the virtual Minecraft rollercoaster the boy built, I thought I’d be sick…). Fortunately his ‘special interests’ to date have at best been fabulous excursions in to wonder for the whole family, a way for him to learn and develop, and have his ‘place’, and at the very worst, bearable.
So I should be grateful. It could be worse. The latest obsession could be Steam Trains, or Star Trek, or Sports Cars (we’ve skirted that one, deflected to Kiwi Dad). It could be something that I really, no matter how hard I draw on my acting abilities, cannot summon up any interest in. So really, the latest ‘special interest’ could be worse. And he’s good. Damn, he’s good. With a repertoire of around 30 card tricks and growing, he’s definitely got skill.
Even better, this is his party trick. It quite literally gives him a way in to social situations I should be proud of, and thankful for in the bewildering social world that is Aspergers. And what’s more, without realising it, his attempts to perfect sleight of hand means he’s practicing fine motor skills (which he is desperately poor at) without even realising it – a silent battle I’ve been waging for near on a decade. I should be grateful. I want to be grateful for this latest obsession, I do.
But please, for the love of all things, if I have to watch another card trick, and summon up the praise and joy, and enthusiasm, I will inwardly (not outwardly remember, due to the eggshells!) explode. It’s. Doing. My. Head. In. It’s bringing out a not-very-nice flaw in my character: lack of patience. It’s got to the stage I can’t even remember what specific card I’m meant to be remembering in trick number 197 of the day because I’ve had to remember so many others. Please. Stop.
And I feel guilty. I feel guilty I can’t summon more enthusiasm, on repeat. I feel guilty it’s causing Boo to retreat in to this interest rather than draw us in with him. I feel guilty I’m an audience who’s not rooting for the act. And I know I must try harder to join him where he wants to go, because maybe next time he won’t ask me.
I did encourage at the beginning. I was definitely wowed at what he could do. But it’s lost it’s shine and I’m struggling.
So, in the hoping that this special interest will pass soon and be replaced with something of some vague interest to me, I’ll smile, encourage, and do my best to remember my three of hearts from my nine of spades over and over and over again.