Our house, like any other with a 6-year-old, has its share of “No’s.” “No shoes on the couch.” “No getting wild in the house.” “No using the word ‘stupid.'” But there is also one that is autism-household-specific: “No talking about that anymore.”
For example, Brooks will ask: “Is MOMA like the Guggenheim? It’s similar, right? Is it similar? Not the same but similar.” And when we say “Yes, it’s similar. They are both museums,” he can easily go on for an unthinkably long period of time discussing the definition of similar and all the things he knows about that are similar, and he constantly wants us to chime in to validate his understanding of the concept.
We know that this is a combination of comforting himself with predictable facts, streamlining his sometimes disorganized thoughts, and simply his age-old habit of getting stuck in repetitive patterns. So we try to thin out our diminishing patience, and we remind ourselves that even though he still does this, he does it less and less, and that eventually, he will learn to stop talking in circles.
But last week, when the prospect of switching to the L train had Brooks particularly spooked, we couldn’t take it anymore. “Daddy, it’s going to be loud. We should take a different train. What about the 7 train at 42nd Street? That’s a really good train. I think we should take the 7 train…” And on and on and on. Out of sheer desperation, we suggested he write a letter to Mayor Bloomberg asking him to make the trains quieter.
To our surprise, this quickly put an end to Brooks’s L train rant. He needed some clarification about who Mayor Bloomberg was and what he had to do with the L train, so we simply explained that he was in charge of the whole city, including the subways.
Pen and paper could not be reached soon enough, and with only a little help from us, he transformed his L train anxieties into a thoughtful and organized letter; one of his most coherent pieces of writing to date.
My husband and I were reminded at that moment that Brooks’s obsessions have a bright side. They can be turned around in an instant from dead-end cul de sacs into fast-moving thruways. All we have to do is point him in the right direction and then get out of his increasingly accomplished way.
As Brooks grows up and trades his L train passions in for more sophisticated ones, and if he can continue to channel his intensity and persistence into organized action, he will become a force to be reckoned with. Autism or not, that’s the kind of kid we’ve always wanted.
“Dear Mayor Bolmbird,
The L train makes noise.
It hurts my ears.
Make a sualtion.
Please sotp makeg the noise.”