BORN ON A BLUE DAY
I read this book in one sitting, though I skimmed through a
lot of detail. The author, being an
autistic guy, does tend to go on about the things that interest him.
I have a longstanding interest in autism, dating back to my
days as a special ed teacher. Nowadays I
think about it more in terms of the children I know, or know of, with the
disorder. Yesterday, for example, we
spent the day on a boat belonging to Technogeek’s pal, Single Dad. While aboard we celebrated the 13th
birthday of his son, who has the high-functioning form of autism called
Asperger’s Syndrome. My smart and
adorable nephew Chip also carries the autism diagnosis, as do the children of
several Xangans I read regularly.
So it was both interesting and heartening to read Tammet’s
book. He’s not just autistic but a
savant. He can calculate enormous sums
in his head instantly, tell you what day of the week any date fell on, and he
earned a world record by reciting pi, from memory, to over 22,500 digits. What makes Tammet unique even among savants
is that he has enough connection with the world to explain to researchers how
he does those things.
Well, big calculations are cool and everything, but I was
more interested in Tammet’s daily life.
He copes with his autistic obsessions in a variety of ways, and leads a
pretty normal life in other ways. The
book details his terrifying and triumphant steps to independence. I recommend it to parents of autistic kids
for the overall message: I got here, your kid can too.
What struck me the most was Tammet’s chapter about his early
life. Like many kids with autism, he was
a difficult baby and a perplexing child.
The chapter concludes:
I sit here now and write about those early years, I’m amazed to think how much my parents did for me even as they
must have gotten so little back at the time.
Hearing my parents’ recollections of my earliest years has been a
magical experience for me; to see for myself in hindsight the extent of their
role in making me the person I am today.
In spite of all my many problems, all the tears and tantrums and other
difficulties, they loved me unconditionally and devoted themselves to helping
me—little by little, day by day. They
are my heroes.
I know this is true of my brother and sister-in-law. I know it is true of Single Dad. I’m willing to bet it is true of all of you
Xangans with autistic kids. Persevere.