Martin and I were riding the subway Saturday morning. We had with us a rainbow that he had made in school out of construction paper and Froot Loops. (Ugh.) The following conversation ensued:
Me: “Martin, do you remember where you got this rainbow?”
Martin: “I made it in school.”
Me: “You know, Martin, rainbows make people happy—which kind of means that you’re my rainbow, because you make me so very happy.”
Martin: “I’m your rainbow.”
Me: “I think you are.”
Martin: “My name is Rainbow.”
Me: “Your name is Rainbow? Really?”
Martin: “No.” [Laughs.] “My name is Martin. I’m being a rainbow.”
Martin said those things, in that order. My kid said those things.
In professional ice hockey there exists an unofficial (and unsanctioned and probably unadvisable; check out The Last Gladiators) player role, known as an enforcer. An enforcer’s job is to keep the opposing team from playing too rough. For example, if an enforcer sees an opponent intentionally late-check a star player, the enforcer might respond by grabbing that opponent by the jersey and punching him several times, as a warning to leave the star player alone.
(Don’t be put off. If you’re not already an ice hockey fan, do please start watching. The combination of grace, strategy, and grit that carries a hockey team to victory resembles the traits needed to recover a child from autism. Honestly.)
Have you heard of the crazy Fred Phelps family from Topeka, Kansas? These are the people who—despite lacking affiliation with any Baptist denomination, and as far as I can tell, despite following none of Jesus’ major teachings—call themselves the “Westboro Baptist Church” and protest at high-profile or military funerals because, they claim, God opposes homosexuality. (I realize that sentence lacks substantive logical foundation. That’s intentional.)
Apparently these Phelps people threatened to show up at the funerals for victims of the recent Boston Marathon bombings. I saw something circulating on Facebook that I should have downloaded, because I can’t find it now. It was a picture of a Boston Bruins enforcer, during a game, on his knees, straddling an opposing player whose back was on the ice. The enforcer had his gloves off, which is dangerous because punches fall softer when the fist is padded by a hockey glove, and he was plainly beating the daylights out of the opposing player, whom he’d rendered defenseless. The caption under the picture said something along the lines of, “This is what we do to hockey teams we don’t like in Boston. Please, come protest a funeral.”
When Martin was diagnosed with autism, at 27 months, he could label objects and people and colors, and he could speak in echolalia, but he had no functional language. At 36 months, he had begun developing functional language but could not grasp concepts like first and second person; he said “I” when he meant “you,” and “you” when he meant “I.” By 48 months, he could respond to questions but could not engage in dialogue, i.e., carry a conversation beyond one response.
On Saturday, Martin sustained that rainbow discussion. He maintained consistent eye contact throughout. He ended by drawing a distinction between being called Rainbow and being a rainbow.
Please, come tell me recovery from autism is not possible.