Do You See What I See?

Samara has been ill this week, and not working. Last night after Martin went to sleep she came for a visit and brought new toys and books, including two bathtub boats and a ride-in fire engine. We left the boats on the dining table, and the fire engine in the front hall.

This morning, as Martin sat at the kitchen counter waiting for breakfast, he spun on the barstool. He likes to spin, and I tend to assume it’s a self-stimming behavior. (Or just plain fun. I went ga-ga for my Sit’n Spin as a kid. Remember those?) Only a quarter-turn into his spin Martin leapt from his barstool, ran to the dining table, and seized the bathtub boats.

Most of our apartment—kitchen, den, family room, front hall, dining area, reception salon (that’s a couple chairs and coffee table that I’m making sound as fancy as possible)—comprises a single, large space, so there is a lot to observe, and the dining table stands at least fifteen feet from the kitchen counter. Moreover, the dining table was stacked with books, papers, a laptop, several items waiting to be Freecycled, and sundry junk, so the bathtub boats were kind of obscured. Certainly non-obvious. I would not have noticed them; I don’t notice unfamiliar items in my home until they (1) trip me, (2) bite me, or (3) emit an unpleasant odor. But Martin, somehow, spotted his new toys in a partial second. Before I even realized what he was doing, he was on the floor playing with them. He refused to return to the kitchen counter until I told him to bring the bathtub boats along.

Now I find myself wondering: When Martin is spinning on the barstool (before we progressed with biomedical intervention, he used to spin himself without a barstool, too) or running, apparently haphazardly, around the perimeter of the apartment, is he actually noticing—processing—his surroundings at a rate faster than I could?

Earlier today I was driving the West Side Highway with Martin when a truck passed and pulled directly in front of us. From the backseat, Martin said, “That’s a piano truck.” I looked up and saw, written on the back of the truck, a company name along with “piano sales and service.” There was no picture, only lettering. Holy crap! I thought immediately. Martin can read. I have one of those autistic genius kids who just learns everything on his own. I was getting ready to phone Adrian with the miraculous news when the truck made a left turn and I saw, on the side that must have faced Martin when the truck passed us, a gigantic picture of a piano.

I do have a tendency to get carried away like that. So I’m trying not to take too much from Martin’s spotting the new toys mid-spin. In fact, I’m trying to see two sides of the event. It may demonstrate that Martin possesses a strong awareness of what’s around him and is not vacationing in Martinland as often as I sometimes think. On the other hand, it may suggest that Martin has a hyper-sense of order and, even in our disarrayed home, perceives immediately what changes from one day to the next. I’m going to keep an eye on Martin’s interactions with his environment and see if I can figure out whether it’s the former, the latter, or a combination.

Anyway, after I let him bring his bathtub boats to the counter, Martin ate his scrambled quail eggs and sweet-potato fries peacefully. About ten minutes later I went to the bathroom. When I returned, the barstool was vacant again.

This time I found Martin in the front hall, sitting in his new fire engine.

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