I sometimes wonder -- and worry -- about how I represent Oliver in this blog. Oliver has autism and
that fact is a central part of who he is. But when I relate to Oliver, when I parent him, and when I write about him, I hope I emphasize his humanity above his autism. So sometimes I wonder if someone reading this blog would recognize Oliver upon meeting him. Would they be surprised by how very much autism affects our boy and us, his family? Or would they be surprised by, well, how normal we are? Because both are certainly true.
For example, I wonder if it would surprise someone to know that occupying and monitoring Oliver is a full-time job. The iPad has been a tremendous, wonderful gift to our family because it is something that engages our boy and so I can give it to him for a half hour and know that I can read the paper or make a cup of coffee. But there are very few other activities that engage Oliver in the same way. So a lot of my time is spent doing things with the boy. There is a lot of good in this, of course, but sometimes, what I wouldn't give for him to have the ability to get completely lost in a book or a movie. So that's part of the context behind the conversation I'm about to relate. The other part is simply that I'd like to understand better how high the hurdle is before us.
Here's the conversation:
Me: Oliver, I would love it if you could sit and read a book every now and then.
Oliver: I can read.
Me: I know you can read and I'm so proud of you, Oliver. I just think you would enjoy reading stories to yourself. Do you think you might like to do that?
Me: Why not?
Oliver: Because it is too hard.
Me: Do you think it is easier when I read the stories to you?
Me: What if I got you recordings of books? That way you could listen to the stories.
Me: Do you like to listen to the recording of poems that I've been playing?
Me: Do you have a favorite?
Oliver: Yes. I like the one about the woods.
Me: I'm not sure I know which one you mean. Do you know the author?
Oliver. Yes. Robert Frost.
Me: Oliver, do you think you could try to tell me again why reading a book is so hard? It seems like it is easy for you when I ask you to read a page or two. You can read about 10 times faster than I do!!! I'd love to understand why a book seems so hard.
Oliver: Because I have to make pictures and then read them. It's too hard when there is a whole book.
Me: Do you keep those pictures in your head or do you forget them.
Oliver: I forget them.
Me: But you told me this morning all about matter and we looked at those pages weeks ago.
Oliver: Because those pictures are still in my brain.
I've had some version of this conversation with Oliver at least three times. It seems that he somehow captures an image of the page first and then decodes it? I'm not quite sure I understand. What is clear, I think, is that he is reading the whole rather than the parts. And when I say "clear," I mean that I can barely conceptualize how this works for him.
Thoughts? Ideas? Anyone?