Monday, July 30, 2012

Dear Editor: You Read the News Today, Oh Boy

sign at the Carnegie Science Center
photo taken by me, November 2011

Dear Editor,

Sometimes the biggest kindnesses come from the smallest gestures. And you've probably already forgotten, but I need to thank you for giving my son one of the biggest kindnesses of all.

You see, my boy always seems to have an idea, a story (or two or three) spinning 'round in his head.

It wasn't always that way. It's all too easy to remember when our son, now 10, struggled mightily to hold a pencil. While other parents spent Saturday mornings watching their kid on the baseball field, we spent ours watching a therapist, coaching us and our boy's imagination into being.

As a child with autism, our boy's imagination and communication was locked away inside of him. What he had instead were his own rigid  "play schemes," (a phrase I would soon come to hate) based on his own scripts borrowed from favorite television shows. This, as is often the case for kids on the autism spectrum, proved to be a bit of a challenge socially. Eight years later, it still is.

But somewhere and somehow along the way, the two - an ability to hold a pencil (thank you, occupational therapy) and a fruitful imagination (thank you, floortime) - connected inside our boy's brain and a little writer was born. The prolific results burst all over our house in the form of stories and drawings. Pretty soon, our little guy got it into his mind that he could write his friends into his comics. Making people laugh soon became his way of connecting with his confusing world.

He arrived home from summer camp one day last week, brimming with an idea. I'm starting a camp newspaper, my little publishing mogul declared. Before I knew it, I was kicked off my laptop and the first issue was being written with the speed of a copyboy on deadline. I heard the whirr of my printer downstairs, seven copies of the first issue streaming off the press in full color.

This has been going on for the past week. He's been writing about the various games the campers play; their field trips to the movies and to miniature golf, combined with opinion pieces on whether the campers should be allowed to purchase snacks during such outings. There was an article about a friend's last day and a review of the accompanying celebratory cake ("it was scrumptious!"). There's an investigative piece of journalism about a cereal spiller on the loose in the camp.

He's been distributing this ("selling it", in his words) to the parents at camp. Every day. For the past week, I've drawn in my breath upon picking up the kids, for there are few parent-to-parent phrases that make one tense up faster than "Can I talk to you about [insert your child's name here]?".  In the case of parents with special needs kids, we're all too familiar with the questions, the raised eyebrows, the not-so-pleasant encounters in parking lots with other parents who didn't/couldn't/wouldn't get your quirky kid. It's a visceral, automatic gut reaction and you assume you know what's coming.

At least I did when the other mom motioned to me when we both arrived to pick up our kids from camp.

"About the newspaper ...." the other mother began.

"Yes?" I said, feeling my entire body go into protective Mama Bear mode, the hard drive of my mind searching the most recent issue for anything controversial.

"I absolutely love it," she said.

"Oh," I exhaled, relieved. "Really?"

"I even showed it to my boss," she continued. "I work for The Eagle. My boss is the editor."

I stopped.  Looked over at my boy, and then I saw it. His smile.

His smile. 

She had already told him, I realized. Told him that the editor of the paper read his words, and the pride on his face was unmistakable. My boy knows what an editor does, that such a person crafts the words, is in charge of the paper.

This is one of those moments, I realized. One of those moments when you realize that this is what all the Saturday therapy sessions and all the IEP meetings and all the dead-end appointments with one specialist after another are for. This is why we do all of that. It leads to this ... and why, and how?

Because of a small gesture leading to a big kindness. Because the other mom brought the newspaper into work, showed it to you, and you took two minutes out of a day filled with all the pressures of running a newspaper in this god-awful economy to read the funny and somewhat nonsensical words of a funny 10 year old boy with autism. Maybe you sensed there was something different or something quirky about him, I don't know. But whatever it was, you made a difference in the day - no, in the very life - of this kid and neither he (nor his mom) will soon forget it. We could all use a little more of that kind of kindness in our world, I think.

You read the news today.

And on behalf of my boy, I thank you so very much.

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


Melissa said...

I can't even begin to tell you how much I love this post. My heart soars for Billy, and you!

Alex @ Brain, Body, Because said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful post. It really brought a smile to my face :)

Jenna said...

What a beautiful story.. I applause your son & his newspaper! I teared up reading this, thinking about how tiny random acts of kindness make the world go 'round.

Melissa Sarno said...

Oh, this is really, really beautiful. I love it.

Lisa Gradess Weinstein said...

Well Melissa, I want to find out...are they going to allow snacks on field trips?? Come on - inquiring minds want to know! Congrats to your boy on such a great job...I think he's following in mama bear's footsteps!

onelocomommy said...

I loved reading this post - it was so poignant. What an awesome moment!

Tina Marie McGrevy said...

I found your link on Love that Max blog...wonderful story! I've been trying for 2 years to get an editor to read my work! Congrats to your son, and YOU.

Meg @ write meg! said...

So sweet and awesome.

Shell said...

Love this!

My entire body tenses when I hear "Can I talk to you about..." or "Is this your son..."

But sometimes, those phrases are followed by something totally awesome!

teamaidan said...

Wow- this is fabulous! Thank-you for sharing.