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Saturday, July 14, 2007

What is autism? And more lizards

His love of "lizards" grows daily. The three pets cluster together as he examines them minutely through the glass.

“ I am calling him 1RMA.”
“You are? Why are you calling him Erma.”
"Not Erma, 1RMA!" he bellows.
"Oh. Why?"
“Coz dat is his name is being.”
“Why Irma. Irma is a girl’s name. Is he a girl now afterall?”
“No! He is a boy, stoopid one. Dat is why he is being named 1RMA.”

I suppress a sigh. My stupidity is rapidly becoming legendary. Where did he come across that name? A bit old fashioned or is it merely American?

“Why Irma.”
“Coz it is dah name ov dah ONE dat has babies.”
“He has dah babies in his tummy bit.”
“Boys don’t have babies, except seahorses, sort of, remember, we talked about that?”

I wrack my tiny brain, waiting for connections. I give up.

“Why Irma?”
“Cos ‘I’ is like dah number ‘1,’ dey are like da same fing, and 1 is better than 'i'.”
“Fair enough. What about the rest of it?”
“He is dah first reptile muvver of dah A.”

I keep my expression blank but I suspect that my blankness is interpreted as blank rather than neutral.

He sighs, deflates a bit. I am stretching his patience.
“Here! Give it me!” he commands snatching the wipe board from my ineptitude. He writes…..... 1 R M A...... which he explains verbally means
1 = I or first
R = Reptile
M = Mother

“What does the ‘A’ stand for?”
“A is meaning Autistic.”
I take a deep breath. I look at my son. I push my shoulders back.
“What does autistic mean?”
“Agh! You are dah stoopid one! I sorry. I sorry you are so stoopid.”
“I am sorry I’m stupid too."

I debate whether to continue or let it rest. Do I really want to know the answer? Will I understand the answer? Will I provoke a meltdown?

"What does autistic mean dear?”
“Evvyfing, but it should be started wiv dah ‘A’ not dah ‘E.’ Dat is stoopid too. It is stoopid to have evvyfing start wiv dah fifth letter, it should be start wiv dah first letter of dah alphabet, dah A for autistic.”

Is this a moment of supreme depth, profound and meaningful, or the random meaderings of a small person? I have no clue. I need to talk to my sensible cynical self, before I delude myself that I'm in charge of a genius rather than autistic child who appears to be developing an imagination. [translation = autistic children are renowned for this 'deficit.'] My sensible cynical self tells me to climb down from my tree. [translation = ivory tower]

He skips off leaving me with a riddle that I cannot unravel. I await enlightenment from an unknown source. Are reptiles autistic? Are lizards autistic? What is the common denominator? Why don't I know as much about lizards as I once knew about dinosaurs? [translation = pre Thomas the Tank engine and his disreputable rabble.]

But ‘Irma’ whoever you are, and wherever you may be, I am your number one fan.

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