The first time I really started to understand some of my son’s behavior was when I watched Temple Grandin the HBO movie. I finally knew why certain noises bother my son and why he seeks out tight or enclosed spaces (he has a special cabinet he spends a lot of time in and will often squeeze himself in between the wall and the back of the couch to calm himself). Temple Grandin created a “hugging” machine and this was exactly what my son was doing. If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it. Claire Danes actually won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Grandin in the movie.
The Science Channel has a new show, Ingenious Minds. I’ve watched two episodes so far, the one profiling George Widener (aired 2/17/11) and the one profiling Temple Grandin (aired 3/3/11), and I have learned so much about my son. Widener has Asperger’s and is a calendar savant. He is very similar to my son. We have eight calendars in the living room alone. My son sat at the kitchen table the other day and told me the exact date and the day they fell on for the week of his birthday without a calendar and he is five. Widener is also very artistic and uses numbers in his art as does my son. Seeing what Widener can do has helped me to appreciate my son’s talents even more.
On the episode with Grandin, they discussed how she could only understand concrete concepts and could not process anything abstract. I find that is the case with my son as well. We have had a lot of difficult moments when I’ve tried to explain things to him and he just could not understand. To me it seemed very simple, but to him it was impossible. Knowing why has helped me to understand my son better and to know that there are some things I need to find more creative ways to explain to him. Grandin also said that she sees everything in pictures. For example, when someone asks us about a church steeple, we generalize them all and say what a church steeple looks like. Grandin’s mind conjures up pictures of every church steeple she has ever seen. This may be what my son’s doctors mean when they say he has a photographic memory. I love coming across things that help me unlock the mystery of my son’s world. It helps me to be a better mother which in turn helps him to understand the mystery of mine.