A lot of people don’t realize just how limited the range of interests can be in an Autistic person. Some adults with Autism can teach themselves to “fake it” just so they can get along socially, but autistic children are pure honesty. You can love ‘em or leave ‘em, but they aren’t going to change who they are to please anyone.
When my son was small, long before he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, I knew there was something “not right” about him. Before he could even talk, he was obsessed with doorknobs. He loved everything about them. At only two years old, he loved to open doors, close doors, lock doors, unlock doors, and play with doors.
As Jeremy got a little older, his interest expanded to include weather. By four years old, he was fascinated by anything weather-related. He collected the weather page out of the newspaper every day, and The Weather Channel and weather reports on other local TV stations were two of the only three programs he would ever watch. (The third was Bob Villa on the Spanish channel, which was odd because no one in our family speaks Spanish, but I digress.)
By the time Jeremy was six, he still loved the weather, and he left his love of doorknobs behind. But he fell in love with Volkswagen Beetles, both old and new. He not only loved yelling “punch buggy” every time he saw one on the road, but he could name every part of them inside and out. I went to a Volkswagen dealership and was able to score a poster book for him, and we used the posters to decorate his room. My sister found some Beetle fabric and made him a comforter and curtains, and I made a Beetle stencil and painted a colorful “punch buggy” border around his walls.
When he was eight, we moved and left his Volkswagen bedroom behind, and though he still loved them as well as the weather, he was also becoming interested in wrestling. (Finally, something “normal.”) I made him the coolest bedroom by painting two of his walls red and two walls black, then I painted a glow in the dark WWE logo and a John Cena “You Can’t See Me” logo, and I bought a black light to help them glow.
After that, though he still loved the weather and Volkswagen Beetles, he was obsessed with wrestling. He would still say “punch buggy” every time he saw a Beetle, and even to this day, he’s still fascinated by weather-themed disaster movies. But he became a wrestling fanatic in every sense of the word. By the time he was in the sixth grade, he even had his entire class, his teachers included, believing that John Cena was his uncle! (Boy was THAT an embarrassing parent-teacher conference!)
At first, it was easy to shop for him because all I had to buy was wrestling dolls (okay, action figures!) and the amenities such as the ring, the announcer table, etc. But as he got older, he wanted real folding metal chairs and tables so he could crack his friends over the skull with them just like the wrestlers do on TV! (The sucky thing for me and the rest of the household was that none of the rest of us cared a thing about wrestling, yet we got to hear about little else, morning, noon and night.)
At about fourteen years old, he became interested obsessed with mixing audio. He also YouTubed and Googled everything about music engineering, and then he found a local studio that was willing to allow him to intern there. He learned so much that he was soon mixing music better than men twice his age who had been mixing for years. I believe it is because of his Autism that his ear for mixing is so keen.
And now, Jeremy is twenty-one years old, and he still loves wrestling. His dolls (okay, action figures!) are in a box in the garage, and though he doesn’t play with them any longer, he won’t let me throw them away. The scary thing for me is that as he got older, his research skills got better. He has YouTubed and Googled how to do just about every wrestling hold there is, and he can execute them perfectly. (Usually, whether I want to participate or not, I end up being his test dummy.) And because of his Autism, he has an exceptionally high pain tolerance, and as such, I believe he could literally fight to the death. He is also very strong and doesn’t know his own strength (kind of like Lenny in Of Mice and Men). He still loves the weather and Beetles. (Though, thankfully, he no longer watches the Spanish Bob Villa channel.) And he also still mixes audio. In fact, he has quite an impressive soundproof studio in his bedroom, and he’s not only mixed and arranged some impressive artists’ albums, but he’s also mixed audio for several radio and television commercials.
The point is, over the years, a lot of people have seen my sweet son and raised an eyebrow at his interests and obsessions. But I don’t think it’s ever bothered him. In fact, I don’t believe he ever even noticed. People with Autism can’t help that they’re attracted to certain items or activities or that they become obsessed with such things. So, rather than just assume someone is “weird,” the next time you meet someone who prefers talking about how tires are made, or the history of the coffee bean, or the various types of dinosaurs, maybe you should wonder if they could be Autistic.
That’s all for today, folks. I’ll be back the first Sunday of next month with more about Autism, and I’ll be here tomorrow with my regularly scheduled post.