Monday, November 16, 2009


Last night, Martin asked me to play "Old Testament Go Fish." Having never heard of this game, I asked Martin how to play it. He preceded to deal out a set of laminated flashcards, each with the name and a symbol for a book of the Hebrew Bible. He directed me to pick up my "hand" of cards. Then he looked at his hand, got a big smile, and asked me if I had Zechariah. Since Martin, like so many kids, can't keep his hand to himself, I could easily see that Zechariah was the top card in his hand. So I told him, "No, I don't have Zechariah." "GO FISH!" he yelled. Since there was no stack of leftover cards in the middle, I wasn't sure what to do. Martin showed me by promptly laying down his Zechariah card. He then expected me to ask him for a prophet card already in my hand. We continued back and forth until all our cards were in the middle. When the game was over, Martin said, "That was a wonderful Old Testament Go Fish." I nodded in agreement.

I can't tell if Martin simply hasn't learned the rules of play for Go Fish or if he knows them and is riffing on them. I pretty sure I've seen him it play the real game before. That means he adapting the game to a way he wants to play it. And that means he's being a fairly normal kid. I noticed another example of this behavior lately. Martin was holding his little sister's doll, an object she refers to as "baby." When I asked Martin if he had a name for the doll, he said, "Her name is Daby."

While this kind of behavior is standard in typically-developing kids, it's striking and new for Martin. It reveals a flexibility with the world that surprises me. Martin usually lives within a coherent and bounded world, one in which certain things follow upon others, schedules rule, and expectations are high that everything stays on track. Martin has always struggled with the introduction of new things. But lately he's showing signs of willingness.

Two nights ago, I took him to the international students' talent show at the college where I teach. There were dance groups and music performances. One student had some particularly sweet moves and I leaned over to tell my husband that it reminded me of a Michael Jackson number. Martin heard me, looked surprised, and said, "an Andrew Jackson number?" "No, not Andrew Jackson. Michael Jackson," I replied. In the past, Martin would have insisted - to the point of tears - that the student and his dance looked like Andrew Jackson. He would have forced his point that the world was as he wanted it. But the other night, he simply accepted the new idea. "Oh yeah," he said, "Michael Jackson."

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