There are things that Ned likes to do that can look odd from the outside I suppose but I like them. I like that he is much more free than the rest of us. Descriptions of autism often include words like “closed off” and “own world” but when I look at him and see him spinning in circles or running back and forth or jumping and clapping, sometimes he seems as free as a bird. No social restraints. No embarrassment or caring one jot what someone might think. If he wants to dance, dance he will. If he wants to be tickled he plonks himself on your lap and says “tickle me please”. No coyness, no games. Sometimes I think he is the most free of us all.
He flicks his fingers in front of his eyes. I don’t know what he can see but I imagine it’s that the light dances for him. His own personal strobe. He has echolalia which is the repetition of words or sentences he has heard. I more often than I would like hear my own voice coming back to me “This way Ned, This way Ned, This way Ned, This way Ned”.
His new thing is rubbing noses which feels a bit like being suffocated by love. He also likes to say “Hello Mummy” and I must say “Hello Neddy” and that happens about a million times a day. He likes to put his forehead to yours and stare into your eyes which is beautiful unless he has been eating spring onions which is more often than you might think.
He likes you to draw things for him. Weird things, and by weird I mean boring. Nationwide, TSB, Lloyds bank. Endless mazes. Many, many lifts and tills and cafes and shops. There are hundreds of them laying around. Our house looks like someone is about to execute a bank robbery and planning how they will do it in a series of shit pictures drawn in pink biro.
He has a camera that he loves. He takes so many pictures that he has to empty the memory card several times a day. He likes you to video him leaving the room and then coming back. Although the gap in between can be five minutes or so which really screws with the tension. “I want to see it please” is his most used sentence. If you follow our story on social media you will have already heard it many times.
That damn camera. “Oh bloody hell Kit, just stop it” it moans in a voice that sounds disturbingly similar to my own. I really must be more careful. He’s going to get me in trouble one day.
Using a sentence I once thought I might never write, he loves his brother. I’m certain of it now. It’s is a relationship that took nearly three years to get started and is based largely around them running in circles and shouting “Poo Bottom” but it is a relationship nonetheless. Kit has learned what makes Ned laugh and performs like a determined little monkey. He never gave up and it’s paying off. They baffle one another equally but they are working it all out between them. I peek around doorways and watch them and whisper to Kyle to “come watch!” while Kit runs up and down the room holding hands with Ned. Stimming by proxy.
He seeks sensory input as if everything is muted and he needs more. More noise, more texture, more colour, more spinning, more taste, more smell, more crunch, more wet. He must run faster and climb higher and squeeze tighter. The volume must always be at 11.
But he knows what he wants and what he needs much more than I do. He has it all worked out. Dance if you want to dance. Sing if you want to sing. We could all learn a lot from him. Autism is not always closed off. Not always locked in. Maybe, if you look a bit harder, it might actually teach you to be free.