It’s “Spirit Week” at my son’s school. A designation he is largely ignoring. And that was just fine on Monday aka Pajama Day. He hasn’t worn PJs in years and I couldn’t very well send him along in his boxer shorts (especially in this chilly Minnesotan climate). Yesterday was Crazy Hair Day which did appeal to him. He was tickled to go to class with blazing blue hair, as seen below. Today’s theme is a more standard school pride schpeel - students were asked to wear the school colors or a t-shirt or sweatshirt emblazoned with the school’s name. “Nope” said my child, with complete disinterest. But a big yes to tomorrow, and the school’s somewhat sad annual Halloween alternative. They celebrate Book Character Day because someone’s uber religious parents complained about Halloween being a satanic holiday or some such nonsense. But my point to all of this is that my son does not feel the need to acquiesce to peer pressure. He has always been on his own trajectory. He only participates when the plans and interests of others intersect with his own. He is not being willful or contrary. It is simply a function of his atypical autism. Something that has been on my mind even more lately as we’ve just gone through his annual IEP Review and have yet another evaluation of some sort tomorrow. Thankfully he has been making huge gains from year to year, academically and with regards to his social behaviors. Though we’re still working on the little things, like the tying of shoelaces (damned Skechers with velcro!) and encouraging him to eat with silverware. Surely enough his hand creeps back into the scene, sometimes even picking up food from his plate only to place it on a fork or spoon. But he is finally washing his face at school after lunch. In the past he came off the school bus every afternoon with PB&J filth smeared on his cheeks.
I digress. Back to the big picture I think that we, as a society, are grappling to come to terms with the rise of autism. Or the rise in cases diagnosed. Or both. Which means that the topic is going to crop up more frequently in various forms of media. First the news outlets ran with the autism-vaccine scare. And autism has even been mocked by The Onion in this info-graphic: “Autism More Common Than Thought” And, inevitably, it’s been ending up as a poor plot device in bad TV shows. The latter generally reinforces an unfair expectation, that all people with autism should be savants of some sort lest they be uninteresting. And sure, there are well known savants, like the jazz musician Tony DeBlois. Or the artist Stephen Wiltshire, who can recreate every detail he sees after brief helicopter rides over major cities. But they are the exceptions, not the rule. Anyhow, I’d like my ramblings to be a gentle reminder that we all perceive the world differently. Sometimes the differences are subtle. Sometimes they are striking. But there are and always have been different ways of being. We are all better off when we are mindful of that reality, without inflating it. And so ends my public service announcement for today.
Bonus: Morrissey is on the mend and returned to the stage last night at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Plus: Sometime in the near future, when the craving strikes, I will give in by making a veganized version of this corn dog recipe. It’s been too long. Also on the recipe to do list? A vegan butternut squash spaetzle. And hey, vegan candy corn! Tis the season and all.
And: Tomorrow in the Twin Cities, Punch has a $3 “Return of the Dead Pizza” coupon offer, good for these “dead” pizzas. Ooh, make mine cappricciosa or quattro stagioni!