Thursday, January 17, 2013
Joys of Autism: Character Embodiment
Today, the Beast is David. Yes, I know that's his name, but he really thinks that he is the David of the Bible today. At breakfast, he regaled me with the tale of how he killed the giant Goliath. He spent a lot of time on all the gory details, making sure that he mentioned as many times as possible that he was the hero of this story. He likes to be the hero. It gives him a sense of control in a body that doesn't always do what he wants. People watching him retell the story would see only a boy awkwardly moving around, but in his head, he is David, and he is awesome! In his mind, he executes every military movement flawlessly. In his world, nothing is impossible!
I call this joy of autism "character embodiment." Most days, my son is "not himself." Just yesterday, he was Anakin Skywalker (before he became Darth Vader, of course), and last week, he was a ninja warrior. Most kids love to dress up and pretend to be various favorite characters. But David lives his characters. His entire day revolves around what that character would do and how that character would act. He sinks completely into his role and does not come up for air for days, sometimes weeks, even.
Character embodiment is a joy of autism. It is a window into his thoughts and feelings. He may not tell me he loves me very often, but David the soccer star might give me an awkward punch on the arm and inform me that I'm his favorite teammate. I'll take that! And the tales he weaves like a master storyteller entertain me to no end and make my heart smile. It's just a bonus that I can easily convince him that Anakin did indeed need a lot of sleep and would absolutely go to bed right now.
On the days that our Beast is withdrawn, quiet, and somewhere far away in a world of his own, I pray for David the warrior or David the ninja to make an appearance. When one of his characters shows up, I know we haven't lost him completely.
And hey, who needs cable when you've got a David/Anakin/Spiderman/ninja/soccer star to entertain you?