One minute I’m making good-natured fun of my son; the next I am realizing we share a ridiculous amount of stuff I didn’t even know about prior to becoming his mother. Obviously, learning about ourselves is NOT the main point of parenting (!), but it sure is a side effect!
Take face blindness (prosopagnosia). I always thought I was “bad with names” or “not really great at recognizing people I don’t know well.” I assumed that everybody was pretty much the same in this regard, that it would take anyone months or, more likely, years to even begin to distinguish, for example, between the fifteen or so medium-sized, slightly sporty/preppy mothers at school with shoulder-length dirty blonde hair. Hey, if not for my flashy/freaky clothing I could be one of them and I still can’t tell them apart.
But I guess everyone else...can?
Face blindness is common in people on the autism spectrum and presents in a range of degrees, in this as well as in the general population. G’s is somewhat more severe than mine, but I know he will develop coping mechanisms. In any case, if G sees someone dressed like me with hair like mine and pinky-beige skin, he will think it is me. His mother. He might figure out pretty quickly, from other cues like voice or not being recognized, if he’s got the wrong Mom, but there are moments like that, and many similar…
Age is a tough one for him, especially because he doesn’t really care about it; Gender he usually gets (though that can be fluid, which he is totally comfortable with…). But once gender is clear, other aspects are fuzzy. The boys in his old fifth grade class, all of Caucasian descent, to me were basically either stringy or pudgy at this age, and I could not tell them apart aside from that. With a few exceptions, G seemed to feel the same.
Both G and I saw the diversity at his new school as potentially a big boost in this area, especially as compared to his profoundly homogenous prior school.
Or take another commonality: vocabulary and formality of speech. Watching G interact with his peers has taught me that most people of all ages speak much more casually than we do. By the time I realized how this might impact G, we were already far too deep into a lifetime of reading old-fashioned books to backtrack.
Here’s a little vignette that illustrates both qualities, face blindness and unintentionally hifalutin speech:
We went to check out the kids’ new school a few days ago. There were two upper elementary school age looking boys riding bikes around the playground in the company of a young man in his upper teens or early twenties.
G approached the man. “Do you attend this school?” he asked.
“No, but my friends here do,” the man replied.
G got right up in one of their faces (which one? Not sure. They looked the same to me!) and asked, “What can you tell me about this school of yours?”
“I dunno, regular stuff,” the kid said, in regular kid fashion. “We eat pizza, play on the playground…have lunch…”
“Thank you very much,” said my son. “I appreciate your input.”
The next day, Noodle and I were talking about a college friend of hers who “got religion.’
“Did you anticipate this propensity throughout prior interactions?” I queried.
Now, Noodle being Noodle, she didn’t blink an eye. But I burst out laughing. I mean, who am I to worry about my son making friends on the playground?
Soanyway, amidst this huge shifting of gears -- today being the first day of school -- I am happy to report that the very first two kids G met in his new class BOTH had “differences” from the white, able-bodied, neurotypical norm in which we were previously immersed. This will make them easier for G to recognize and, perhaps more importantly, will also render G himself less “different” in the scheme of things.
Full Spectrum Mama
* Shifting Gears I (http://fullspectrummama.blogspot.com/2013/06/shifting-gears-part-i.html) was the most polarizing post I ever wrote. In Shifting Gears II (unpublished), I couldn’t help but perpetuate that polarization. Then, in Shifting Gears III (unpublished), I began to try to break it down and make it a spectrum rather than a bifurcation. But I had to…ahem…shift gears for the new school year!!!