Crow is 7, awesome, and rather intensely autistic. He loves Thomas, Pixar, Disneyland, Fruit Ninja, construction equipment, and numbers, and has a smile that lights up the world.
It took a long time for him to speak, and now he’s quite verbal but not really conversational. Language is hard for him, so he uses a lot of scripts and mimicry right now. I’ll take it, we generally manage to communicate pretty well even if no one else would understand it.
YouTube is high on the list of Crow’s favorite things, and if you’ve ever wondered who is watching all those videos of people showing off their entire Thomas or Cars collection – that’s my kid. He loves toy collection videos, and I’m pretty sure that’s why he frequently adds, “Thanks for watching!” when he says goodbye. He also watches videos of kids playing with toys he owns, and I see him mimicking them later with his own toys. It’s like his own little lab where he can access test subjects at will. Crow also loves watching counting/countdown videos, and he recently veered into the thrilling category of Geriatric Exercise Videos – think ‘woman in a cat sweatshirt lifting her arms over her head 100 times and counting aloud.’ Thanks, Internet!*
Numbers are a big part of his brain-schema – I believe he sees numbers before anything else, and so rather than seeing a whole thing or experience, he remembers the numbers. When he was younger and had very little language, we once spent a frustrating couple of days of him pointing at the stack of DVDs and demanding “25! 25! 25!” I felt so helpless because I could not figure out what 25 was, and clearly it was entirely obvious to him. When I finally gave him all the DVDs to sort through, he handed me a Sesame Street video with a tiny 25th anniversary logo on the cover. Duh. 25. The real breakthrough for me was when he summed up an exciting day as, “20, 11:35, 8, 156” and repeated the numbers several times. We had gone to the Mercado 20 theaters at 11:35 to see a movie in theater #8, and then we’d gone to In-n-Out where our order number was 156. Once I saw that, I knew to start noticing important numbers so I could respond when he brought them up later, and his joy at being understood was amazing. He doesn’t do this much now that he can communicate more easily, but we still point out our order numbers and room numbers and addresses, and I know he’s filing them away. If you ask him what his current high score is in Fruit Ninja on a given device, he will tell you immediately, and be delighted that you asked. His score is higher than yours. He mostly learned from watching high-scoring YouTube videos – he’d trace their moves on his iPad and then try them out in the game. I love watching him figure out the world.
*YouTube Pro Tip: if you think you’re being clever by using The Final Countdown to score your countdown video, you’re not. It’s been done. And done. And done. Also, Crow singing The Final Countdown is kind of adorable.