As previously mentioned in earlier articles, my youngest son Jackson is autistic. As a parent, there is a certain growth evolution with our children that is often taken for granted. This evolution consists of physical, mental, social, etc. This growth evolution runs a standard course with a typical child, but with an Autistic child, the course is anything but standard.
As parents of two boys – one with autism and one without, we benefit from a unique perspective. Although there can be frustrations, there is also a degree of ironic humor that should not be ignored. For example, Jackson loves milk. He absolutely craves milk. Milk is a good healthy drink full of vitamin D. We all grew up with the slogan “Milk does the body good.” The irony…..for a period of time milk was like speed to Jackson. If he drank a glass of milk, he would be bouncing off the walls and unable to focus. My wife and I probably looked like the worst parents ever when sitting in a restaurant and Jackson would ask for milk and we answered with; no…how about soda?
We obviously wished for the day that milk would not have a hyper-reaction. Fortunately, our wish came true a few months later, but then all Jackson wanted was soda. Milk is a typical beverage that a child would drink. Jackson has achieved the ability to drink milk but it obviously took a unique path for both he and his parents to enjoy him drinking this healthy beverage.
By the age of 10 years old, most children enjoy television – whether it is the Disney Channel or a show/movie targeting the younger viewers. Unfortunately, Jackson had little interest in television. Most of us can remember our favorite Saturday morning cartoons or know how a bill becomes a law as learned from School House Rocks. Although television includes many impressionable risks, there are many benefits as well.
I frequently wished for Jackson to have an interest in television – not because it is what a typical child does, but because most shows he would be watching could provide some education as well as social skills situations and hopefully some enjoyment. In addition since Jackson’s language and vocabulary is very limited, hearing the dialogue in a visual setting could potentially help accelerate his use of verbal language.
One afternoon my wife called me to let me know that Jackson was watching television. I asked what he was watching. She laughingly replied; oh you will see when you get home. I was looking forward to it. I recall sitting on the couch with my eldest son watching the Muppets or the Disney Channel. I was looking forward to doing the same with Jackson.
As I entered the house, my wife was finishing up dinner as Jackson sat on the couch with his feet up watching television. It only took a minute before I realized that my Disney Channel assumption was incorrect. I looked at my wife and said; Spanish? She smiled and said, yes it is. We have over 400 cable channels and he only wants to watch Channel 23 – a Spanish Network.
I tried to change the channel multiple times but he would always bring it home to Channel 23. I sat with him and he would giggle which would then be quickly followed by the canned laughter on the television – which implied that he had some understanding of the show. I guess I should be careful what I wish for. I wished that Jackson would want to watch television and now he does. I guess I should have just been a little more specific in my wish. Nonetheless, I think I will be putting Rosetta Stone on my Christmas List this year so that I can at least understand the storyline
of what we are watching and hopefully enjoy it as much as Jackson.
Husband, father, coffee connoisseur and lover of all things hockey. At 51 I sometimes wonder have I done enough. I have been married to my best friend for 30 years. She knows all my faults and loves me anyway, As a father of “almost always” perfect boys, I am always surprised at what life has to offer. It is messy, scary, thrilling, and always fun.