Recently it was Catholic Schools Week and one of the days was Day of the Student. The kids got to wear free dress, and Rojo’s teacher showed a movie, something she never does. Rojo was excited and mentioned this to me several times beforehand, “Mom, instead of PE and geography and Spanish, we are going over to the Parish Center and watching a movie on the big screen TV!”
Now, to my knowledge, Rojo has never sat through an entire movie, he watches a ridiculous amount of TV, but they are half hour sitcoms (think: iCarly and Hannah Montana), and he watches those in bursts and takes frequent Go Bug Your Mother breaks. I wondered how that was all going to work, and hoped that at least they picked a movie that would appeal to, and be appropriate, for a bunch of squirrely thirteen and fourteen-year-olds.
When he got home from school that day, I asked, “ Rojo, how was the movie?”
“What did you see?”
My heart and stomach did a little flip.
“She has autism, and she would not shut up!”
I knew that was my Mary moment and the perfect opportunity to talk to Rojo about his own autism (and the fact that he will not shut up), but I wasn’t quite ready.
He brought up the movie again later that evening. “Temple Grandin is like me,” he said, “she didn’t want to go to college.” I knew I had to seize the moment.
“There is another way that Temple is like you,” I said, “she has one type of autism, and did you know that you have a different type of autism?”
“Does everyone?” he asked, turning the knife just a hair to the right.
“No, not everyone, but lots of people. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t smart, it means that your brain works differently.”
“Some people have Asperger’s,” he said.
“Yes, that is another type of autism. There are different types and it affects different people differently.”
“Does Woohoo have autism?”
“No, “ I answered, “but lots of people you know, do.”
I then proceeded to tell him about all the kids in his school/life that have one form or another of autism. He seemed to be taking it all in. “How do you feel about that?” I asked.
“I couldn’t care less,” he said, “let’s play basketball.”
I think he does care, and I think he doesn’t care. I think for the last two years (at least) he’s been grieving in his own way, and coming to his own understanding of his differences, his challenges, and I pray to God, his gifts.