Day 305 of 365
This picture was taken two years ago, when my son was still about my height and would still hold my hand a little. My son and I have done winter walks together for years. It’s when we talk. Well, mostly he talks, and I listen. But I think it’s important for me to make time in my day to just be that present for him. I am always multitasking far more than I would like to be. I like that our walks make me slow down and just enjoy that kid’s company. In five years, he will be out of here, and I am certain, if the world just hangs in there, that he is going to travel a lot, one way or another. He’s in love with the idea of all of Europe, and he will have to check it out in real life–like all of it.
Today, on our walk, we talked about geography. He told me he wanted me to teach him something about all of the states in the United States, and, in turn, he would teach me a little something about every country in Europe. I told him that was a great deal!
I started and went through all of the states in alphabetical order, which I can only remember because of the song. As I talked about each one, I told him a little about the state in terms of something he might know, so it would stick for him where it was located. And it was great to also ask him what he knew about a state, which led to a side conversation about stereotypes. Then, he told me a little something I could maybe relate to for each country in Europe because I am terrible at European geography. It was all a treat.
I love these walks. On a walk a few months ago, he talked non-stop about World War I. I learned more than I ever wanted to know. My son is neurodivergent, as am I.
When we got home from that same walk, the chickens ran up to see us, and I started talking to them.
“How do you tell apart the ones that look the same?” my son asked.
So I told him, in detail, how I tell recognize individuals from the same breed. I told him about how Juliet and Bianca are identical, but that Bianca is much sweeter and has a birthmark on her leg, how Betty is the perfect Rhode Island Red, like could be a show chicken maybe, how Joan has a fancy comb, and how Vivaldi is bright red–like the composer.
I told him Pumpkin is the orange chicken “abducted by aliens” (This is a hilarious story I will have to write soon.) and that the orange chicken with more gray is S’more. The orange chicken who has little speckles of almost blue is Circe. She is a very interesting chicken and actually loved her brother more than any chicken I had ever seen. They were inseparable long after most brothers and sisters go their separate ways, but her brother was a rowdy rooster and couldn’t stay. I worried about Circe, and, truly, she’s never been the same since. I should not have named her Circe!
My son asked about all of the buff-colored hens. I told him Mary Jane is the one that is super big, that Emily has a giant comb and Charlotte always looks worried, that Saint Saens is the chicken he named after the composer when she was a baby many years ago. I told him that she has one tiny white feather on her left side that doesn’t match any of her other feathers.
“You have autism too, don’t you, mom?”
“I do,” I said.
“Cool,” he said.
*As an aside, I just want to post a note about life on the spectrum. It is certainly more complex than just talking extensively about a topic for a long time. There are perks I am thankful for but struggles that can be challenging. If you are curious about ASD, you can read more here.
3 thoughts on “Winter Walks and Chicken Talk”
Crystal, thank you for sharing a very personal part of your story.
I think sharing helps destigmatize and THAT is so beneficial for people with ASD. You can see the strengths in your own family that comes with ASD but there are social challenges for many.
I have a young family member who at 5 years old…I can clearly see is on the spectrum.
I worked in an elementary school for 16 years so I’ve seen a lot of developmental issues. The spectrum is very large and varied and what makes us different should not make us unacceptable.
That said, sometimes social skills are NOT easily learned and anxiety can get out of control… challenges for sure.
I love that your son has found his strengths and that you as his Mom are nurturing them. You seem to have found your strength in writing and your therapy in chickens. Koofo to both of you… and thank you again for sharing. 💕
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Pat, thank you so much! Yes, I was thinking about how important it is to share about ASD. You are so right in that there is such a spectrum and so many challenges. My anxiety in social situations used to be so high that I couldn’t remember what people were saying to me. I made it through college by taking notes verbatim as my professors talked. I didn’t pay attention, I just wrote down every word. Then, when I would get home, I would read over the notes, so I could process without the anxiety. I still struggle sometimes, but I didn’t know I was on the spectrum until I was in my early 40s. It helped me to know and understand and give myself some grace. When my youngest was going through the process of being diagnosed, that’s when I came to realize I might be on the spectrum as well. I was very fortunate. Because of my work in academia, I had a colleague who specialized in helping children on the spectrum with behavioral therapy, and she coached me up about what to do with our son. It’s a process, but he does pretty well in the world overall. It’s a process though for sure!
Good for you for rising to the challenge and addressing your son’s issues. It does sound like he is doing well. You also persevered without support…. too bad you had to struggle so much on your own.
My 5 year old is the daughter of my foster daughter who is from Zimbabwe, went to college with Koren and became part of our family as she has stayed in the states, received her PHD from NYU and is now a head scientist at a major pharmaceutical company. Her daughter was seven weeks premature and Mom had toxemia. The pediatrician does not see issues with the child but the Kindergarten teachers are starting to give bits to Mom. Conversation is robotic, language started at age 4, potty trained at 4, can read anything since 4 years old but comprehensive is questionable. She is in very good schools in the Boston area so hopefully her needs will be met there.
Mom is in dark with this.