Generally speaking, and I love generalizations, autistic children are described as being 'more.' I never thought about this label until a friend of mine asked me what it meant?
“They don't' seem 'more' to me, they seem so much less?” she blurted, but that's because I know her well and I have Rhino hide. I didn't need to ask for specifics but there's no harm in checking that I have hold of the right end of the stick? “How do you mean?”
“Well, they're speech is crap, [translation = delayed, two and a half years for one of them and 18 months for the other one, which means that fortunately for me, they both speak as if they're about 4, even though chronologically they're 6 and seven and a half, so it's more like having twins.] She continues, “they don't do any sport, can't even catch a ball, klutz!” [Translation = all American children are judged harshly upon their ability to amuse themselves and others, with a ball, although I am uncertain as to why this should be so important.]
“They look funny, you know, how they walk and all.” [Translation = one of them appears clumsy. The other doesn't walk, he sort of sparks, as if he's stuck his fingers in a power outlet.]
“How come he can read and the other one can't?” [Translation = he's hyperlexic which means he can read anything, way above his chronological age. The other one could read when he was three, but he sort of lost that ability when the autism really kicked in.]
“Why don't they eat proper, like, you know, all kids love pizza?” [translation = pizza is poison, well that's the opinion of one of them, but it's not surprising because he's neophobic, which means he's afraid of food, which means he's doing a wonderful job of staying alive at all.]
“How come he's so picky clean and the other one's such a grub?” [translation = autism is rarely straightforward, one is obsessively compulsively clean and the other is oblivious. It's sort of hyper-vigilance for one, something, anything, everything, is going to attack him, but the other one could be buried in a pile of manure and not really notice.]
“Why is his face still all pudgy, like a baby's? It's just too weird to have a six year old with a baby face.” [translation = he has very little facial or jaw muscle tone because he doesn't chew anything because he doesn't eat anything. That's why it's so difficult to understand what he says because he sounds as if he's talking with a mouthful of marbles. I just wish they were grapes instead of marbles, myself.]
“You can't see his face anyway under all that hair!” [translation = this is a child with tactile defensiveness, like an invisible bubble covering his head to his shoulders and nothing must penetrate that bubble or he'll bite you, though not literally. Taking a pair of scissors to that mop would be cruel and unusual punishment, and I don't want to be had up by the authorities because I'm an immigrant and don't want to give them any more ammunition towards my extradition papers.]
“It's weird how they never look at you in the eye, that would drive me crazy!” [translation = me too, but eye contact is tough for autistic children, even orientating their bodies towards the speaker can take years of training. Most of the time, if they speak at all, they might as well be talking to the ether. I don't see it as an insurmountable problem, I can think of hundreds of careers that involve no eye contact. The tech industry will be beating a path to their doorway in a few years time.]
“He's always clutching something, he's like a baby with a transitional object, shouldn't he have grown out of that by now?” [translation = it's not always the same thing, in fact it changes every couple of weeks, but without it, he's paralyzed, he has to have it with him like a talisman. It's a small inconvenience to pay to have a child feel safe, although I'd wish he'd choose bigger things that aren't so easy to lose, or less of them so that his trouser pockets are permanently bulging, as it only adds to the John Wayne effect.]
“I mean, they're brothers! Why aren't they the same?” Ah, because that would be too easy and far too boring.
post script – this was not a ‘real’ conversation but a compendium of daily comments and queries from the curious.