Tuesday 10 January 2017

To the parents who thought my child was a genius

Boy looking out to see

Ladies, picture the scene.  You are pregnant and have come in from a lovely walk with your partner, to enjoy a (caffeine free) Latte in your favourite coffee shop.  As you perch on your bar stool and think that these days the bump could do with a bit more support, you glance 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 frothed milk her mother has dropped into a take away espresso cup.  They are having bubbly conversations about the stones the little girl has collected from the beech, that are laid out in neat rows on the coffee table.

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.

"Spell Nightingale....correct."
"Spell Octopus.....correct."

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.

He's not long come in from a blustery day at the seaside and now 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 keeps order.  First he lined up his sister's stones and then 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 phonics 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 four year old to you, but actually he's 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, and perhaps despite what you may think, you were 100% correct.  He is amazing.

Links on this topic
David's iPad - an alternative to parenting?
Using the kids iPads to play with them using 4D+ Augmented Reality flashcards


  1. It's funny what people see in a snapshot like that isn't it. I often think about how in five minutes, one person may look at us and think what a perfectly behaved child we have, five minutes later, what a terrible tantruming toddler. People judge on just a moment in time. I don't know what I'd have thought if I'd seen you in the coffee shop. I guess people just relate to their own world. And in their own world, where they haven't experienced autism, they just wouldn't even think to consider it. I'm not sure what people expect to SEE in a child with autism either. I'm not sure I know what to expect either as I haven't had much experience of it myself. All I know is that all children are unique and perfectly imperfect the way they are. And that's pretty amazing to me. #bigpinklink

    1. They are all unique and amazing, agreed! Thanks for your comments

  2. I think his mummy also sounds pretty amazing. Keep up the good work! #coolmumclub xx

  3. Awww, that's a lovely sentiment and he sounds completely amazing! I guess it's a reminder that you can never assume a situation from a 2 minute glance, even if you're making a nice comment. #CoolMumClub

  4. I wrote a post about people assuming Jude will have some sort of amazing talent because of his autism, I've even had people say to me that obviously he doesn't because he has microcephaly as well as the autism so he probably can't be like "your typical person with autism" HA I literally had to laugh at the absurdity. #ablogginggoodtime

    1. Absolutely, what do they even mean by that? Glad you laughed, l find s sense of humour essential!

  5. An amazing post hon - I think it's interesting to see the conclusions we make about other people's lives and families in small snippets but either way, you're right - he is amazing. Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub xoxo

  6. Well it sounds to me like you know your little boy extremely well and what works for him. This is a result of a mothers love and an amazing boy.
    It is interesting to hear what assumptions people make though just from a moments observations.

  7. Loved this.. As I read all I could think about was my 4 year old son Christopher (who resembles a 2 year old in size) and how his coping mechanism has been his tablet for the past year.
    My sister in law (as well as quite a few friends of ours) seem to think that because he is autistic he MUST have a "special" talent... He does indeed maybe not in the sense they are talking but among the little details surrounding his little mind in this very large, noisy, crowded world,he has learned how to control his feelings, he has learned how to communicate whithout words, he has learned how to show emotion, and the list goes on.
    Theses all came naturally to his 2 siblings and he has had to work at it since he was 2 years old and will likely be working hard at it through his whole life. He does have a special talent, he is caring, loving, honest... He is a breath of fresh air and reminds us on a daily basis not to take the little things for granted and also not to swaet the small stuff.
    His biggest talent is teaching us how beautiful the gift of life is and the beauty of simplicity.
    Mom's like you remind me how lucky we are and I thank you for that xo

  8. Your son sounds like an incredible little boy and you an absolutely wonderful Mum. Thank you for sharing with #bigpinklink x

  9. Wow David does sound amazing. I bet you are so proud. Thanks for sharing this lovely insightful piece xx #bigpinklink

  10. This is a really interesting insight into life with autism. It's great that he's developing coping strategies and he sounds like a really amazing little boy. We often have the opposite problem in that my 2yo is the size of a 4yo and so people expect her to speak in full sentences and sit quietly when she's still a baby really. #MarvMondays

  11. He sounds like an exceptional boy! I've enjoyed reading your blog and it's more than obvious how in tune you are with the needs of your children. Great job, Mama!

  12. What a beautifully written post, and David does sound pretty amazing to me too. I think everyone makes snap decisions on situations, it's something we naturally do and of course lots of times it will be the wrong end of the stick we get. Thanks so much for sharing with the #DreamTeam xx

  13. This is a great post and David sounds like an incredible boy. It's one of those cases of where you can't judge someone on face value you never know what's going on.

    Great post to raise awareness of autism.


  14. I read this post of yours a few days ago and loved it. Our special needs children are simply wonderful <3 Thank you for such a beautiful post #SpectrumSundays

  15. He does have an amazing memory by the sounds of it! Glad you have found a strategy for keeping him calm and occupied in cafes. #SpectrumSunday

  16. David sounds like an amazing little boy. How he has learned to find coping mechanisms that work for him when he is still so young is amazing. It sounds like you have boys that you should be so, so proud of :-) Lovely post, thanks for sharing it on #MarvMondays. Emily

  17. This is so well written. I think he is amazing to have found a way to cope with all the outside stimulus as well as he does. I think in small snapshot I may have made the same comment but as slightly misguided as the word genius is, your son does sound amazing.
    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday.

  18. Beautifully written. My heart feels it entirely but the words will not flow to express it. I think you understand though.x #KCACOLS (No idea why it keeps coming up as "Anonymous" when I publish the comment, my name shows in the preview! Rachel George, Ordinary Hopes

  19. He is amazing and so are you. And you should never judge - in a good way or a bad way. #kcacols


I read all your comments and appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me and our readers. I welcome any feedback on my posts and you can always contact me directly. Thank you.

Have a look at our most recent posts:

@rainbowsaretoo facebook.com/rainbowsaretoobeautiful Ann H on Google + rainbowsaretoo pinterest rainbowsaretoobeautiful bloglovin Instagram rainbowsaretoobeautiful