Tuesday, 10 January 2017
To the parents who thought my child was a genius
Picture the scene. You are pregnant and with your partner, enjoying a (caffeine free) Latte in your favourite coffee shop. As you perch on your bar stool and think about sitting on something a bit softer, you look over to see three kids and two adults sat on a set of comfy leather sofas and smile.
The little girl is giggling away making foam moustaches with the foamed milk her mother has dropped into a take away espresso cup. The two older boys are sat beautifully still, completely immersed in their iPads. As you watch with an air of anticipation at what awaits your life, you over hear what's going on with the boys. You listen carefully and can hear some sort of tuition app is being played on the tablet and it's talking to the smaller of the two boys.
A moment later it has changed.
"How many is a quarter of 12, touch the answer on the number line....correct"
"How many is 5 x 7, touch the answer on the number line.....correct"
The younger boy looks about four years old. Your eyes go wide and your jaw drops a little as you silently mouth to your partner, "OMG, that child is a genius. That is amazing."
You look over at the likely candidate for the mum and notice she's spotted your less than subtle silent comment. She smirks back at you.. and you...
Well I have no idea what you think. Because I'm the mum with the kids. Perhaps it's that it would be brilliant to have a genius, perhaps you are envisaging graduation from Yale (because obviously the child will want to travel). But I'm not smirking because I'm gloating about my genius child.
The little boy's name is David. He has not signed up for MENZA, instead he was diagnosed with autism around three years old. He is the second child in our family of five and the second one to be diagnosed with autism too. I'm smirking because you've mistaken autism for genius. I don't know what you'd think about that. But what I'd like you to know is that despite not being a genius, and being autistic, David is still amazing.
Yes, David is sitting beautifully and is focussed very well on his iPad. But it's not because of a high level of concentration, it's because he uses it as a tool to stay calm in the busy environment of the cafe. The smells, the strange lighting, the beeping till, the espresso machine, the warm room, the people, the general clanging and cluttering are all too much for his senses. Instead of crying or having a meltdown, David has learned that he can cope. He can be ok if he filters it all out, blinkers himself and focuses on a constant - his iPad. That's amazing.
Yes, David gets all the questions right on his iPad. This is not because he is very good at phonetics or his multiplication tables. David gets all the questions right because he has played this app hundreds of times. He has, through a process of trial and error, worked out that if he presses certain numbers the game moves on. He has memorised all the possible questions and their coordinating answers. That's amazing.
Yes, David looks young. In fact he is just very little - he is smaller than 99% of kids his age. He may look like a three or four year old to you, but in he's nearly six. David has great difficulty eating like many kids with autism. He has sensory issues where he doesn't like certain or any mixed textures. And then there is the whole routine thing. While the rest of us ate Christmas lunch, David had peanut butter on toast, blueberries and a pear.
He also has great difficulty sleeping like many kids with autism. David wakes several times every night and usually has six hours sleep. When you limit what you eat and don't get much sleep it's a bit harder to be rested, develop and grow. But everyday, David gets up, goes to school on school days, works through his daily challenges, his academic work and his family life. He does it all while trying to keep himself calm and enjoying his life. And that's amazing.
The little boy you saw in the coffee shop may not have been a genius, but despite what you may think, you were 100% correct. He is amazing.