Saturday, September 18, 2010

Joining in

Last night, to celebrate Archer being named a star student at school and his dad's return to the fold, we went out for dessert to a nearby fix-your-own yogurt place.  Noel and I helped the kids get a reasonable amount of yogurt and an unreasonable mix of toppings, then we all sat down at a long counter by the front window to eat.

As usual, Noel and I were carrying on a conversation and occasionally pausing to respond to the kids' unrelated comments.  Noel mentioned the heat -- for him, quite a change from fall-like Toronto -- and I started telling a little story about a weather report I heard on the radio earlier that day while driving.  "Highs near 100 degrees," the weatherman said, and out loud, alone in the car, I exclaimed, "C'mon!  September!!"

"Wahhhh!" said Archer, sitting to my right.

It's his standard falsetto interjection when something is humorously out of whack.  I turned, thinking he might have dropped some yogurt on himself.  He's eating away.

"Are you okay, Archer?"  I asked.

He was smiling to himself.  "You just went, 'It's September!  That's too hot!'" he said.

Realization slowly dawned over me.  I had been talking to Noel -- but Archer had been listening.  His exclamation of jocular dismay was a response to my vigorous re-enactment of my story.

Archer is autistic.  He doesn't pay attention to other people's conversations.  He certainly doesn't make appropriate noises or responses to what they say, thereby including himself in the circle of communication.  I was confused, then amazed.  It might be the first time I've witnessed him following the tone and meaning of a discussion going on around him so well that he could unintrusively insert himself, as we do when we chuckle, exclaim, or encourage the speaker to go on from our position in a group of listeners.

Before I had time to articulate that realization, Cady Gray made the point -- because she had noticed, too.  "Archer was just joining in on your conversation!" she said.

Yes, he was, honey.  And yes, it's that simple, and that wondrous.