Wednesday, July 29, 2009


It's an opportune moment to be thinking about autism. Hollywood is about to release "Adam," what could also be titled, "An Autistic in Love." ( I shouldn't really joke. I've watched the trailer three times and cry like a baby each time.

There are lots of kids on the spectrum who don't do expressions of love. They don't hug, kiss, or say "I love you." I feel lucky that Martin is not one of those kids. He hugs us, both when asked and voluntarily. He kisses us as well. He has learned to say, "I love you," and has used the phrase appropriately (meaning that he says it at the right moment, like after someone has said that to him, not when someone has asked him to pass the salad). But Martin also expresses love in ways that are - shall we say - quirky. I've noticed in particular that he wants things and people he loves to sleep in his bed. He takes objects to bed every night: speech homework, stuffed penguins, plastic letters lined up on his pillow that he configures his body around. Last night it was a bowl with a spoon, a baby carrot, a potato, and a plastic celery toy. Whatever he loves most at the moment, he takes to bed.

When I have put him to bed, he'll say things like, "You do not have to go to bed in your room" or "You must go to sleep by yourself." I figured out that when he says this, he means "Stay in my room" and "I don't want to go to sleep by myself." Martin shares a room with Sasha. For whatever reason, Sasha sometimes sleeps in a different room. When she does, Martin often takes his pillow and blanket and sleeps in her crib. For awhile I thought this was some sort of reversion, but I'm beginning to think it's a way of showing that he loves her.

So, the movie trailer gets to me because it exposes the challenge of reading an autistics person's signals of love. And the difficulties they face in reading those signals in other people. It makes me want to scream: "Isn't love hard enough already? Who needs a processing disorder to complicate all the other difficulties of relationships?" But I shouldn't be too worried. I know from Martin's life that he loves people beyond his immeadiate family and they love him. At school this year, he was part of a trio of boys who did everything together. They ate snack, baked bread, worked on puzzles. They wandered the classroom hand in hand. So, I have to remember that there are people out there who will get Martin. And hopefully Martin will learn to see when love is being shown to him.


  1. That movie looks so good. Made me cry too. I'm going to go look now and see if it's playing around here.

  2. Yet another great post. We'll see the movie and think of Martin.


  3. While I can't relate with most of Martin's ways of doing things, I do remember sleeping with my soccer ball for a few years. A long time ago, of course...

    Besides, don't we all want to sleep with what we love?