Sunday, March 3, 2013


This morning after breakfast, Archer put on his coat and headed toward the front door to play outside. And by "play," I mean "wander around spinning, jumping, and talking to himself," which is what I think of as his "autism time" -- a decompressing or centering activity that allows him some relief from the effort it takes to maintain normal behavior the rest of the time.

He stopped before opening the storm door. Then he turned and came back inside. "Cady Gray," he called, "I think I see a bird in the front yard."

Cady Gray, avid birdwatcher that she is, came running. "I see it!" she exclaimed. "Look, mom!" I looked. It was a red-bellied woodpecker, a bird we occasionally see in our front yard, but always a very special visitor amongst our usual robins, jays, cardinals, mockingbirds, chickadees, wrens, and titmice.

My daughter, thrilled, thanked her brother for calling her attention to the bird. I echoed her appreciation. "When I saw that bird, I felt like I just had to report it to Cady Gray," he explained.

It always impresses me when Archer takes someone else into account. He does this with his sister all the time, but in most cases, it's when she is right in front of him and either expressing her own preferences or reminding him, by her presence, that she has them. In this case, though, he not only noticed something in his surroundings, but made the connection to his sister's interest in birds -- something he himself has never shown interest in. Then he translated that realization into action. He set aside his own agenda long enough to alert Cady Gray to something she wouldn't want to miss.

Such attention to what others might want doesn't come naturally to Archer. But when he's close enough to someone, like his sister, it becomes part of his process. I hear evidence of it when he talked about something a particular classmate likes or is good at. Slowly, slowly, his world is expanding.

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