Time for another dispatch about church. I write a lot of dispatches about church, because (1) we’re there once a week (or so), giving me a convenient, less-than-daily forum to mark progress; (2) I see Martin with other children, and with adults; and (3) Martin always seems to be engaging in adorable antics at church.
The scene: Pastor has called the children to the chancel for their sermonette before they head to Sunday school. The dialogue: I wasn’t recording, so I’m going to do my faithful best to recreate:
Pastor: “Good morning, children.”
Children: “Good morning, Pastor!”
I distinctly hear Martin’s voice amidst the half dozen children. He calls out clearly, “Good morning, Pastor!”
Pastor: “Today’s lesson was about a mustard seed, a tiny mustard seed. Do you know how some people always think bigger is better?”
Martin: “No, bigger isn’t better!”
The same clear voice, calling out. The entire church can hear him, I’m sure.
Pastor: “You don’t think so, Martin?”
Martin: “No, I don’t like bigger.”
Pastor: “I suppose when I was your age, I also liked smaller better.”
Martin: “I’m six years old, but I’m almost seven.”
Now he’s monopolizing children’s time, still clear as a bell.
Pastor: “When is your birthday?”
Martin: “It’s this month! It’s the last Tuesday of this month.”
Pastor: “So you’ll be getting bigger, like this mustard seed.”
Martin: “Um, look at my new shoes!”
Whoops. Nonsequitur. I suppose Martin wanted to keep the floor but didn’t know how to follow the mustard-seed thought. By now members of the congregation are tittering good-naturedly.
Pastor: “Where did you get those?”
Martin: “At the store.”
Pastor: “It must have been Stride-Rite. Your shoes say ‘Stride-Rite’ on them.”
Martin: “Yes, of course it was Stride-Rite!”
The congregation laughs. The pastor manages to squeeze in another sentence or two about the mustard seed, then dismisses the children to Sunday school. As their little procession passes down the aisle, Martin looks at me, waves, and calls out, “’Bye, Mommy! I’m going downstairs now,” to the ooohs and aahs of those around me.
After the service, as the pews are emptying and then during coffee hour, I am approached by four different parishioners, each calling Martin “adorable” or “cute.” Even better, one woman who knows Martin has autism comments on how much he’s coming out of his shell. Best of all, an older woman with whom I’ve never shared the diagnosis says, “Your son is so articulate!”
Wait. She doesn’t just say that Martin is articulate. She swoons.
Martin, articulate? My son? Glad I happen to be standing in church, because I’m doing a lot of praising God.
Last month at the AutismOne conference, I met this amazing Supermom from Minnesota, who is working to recover her not-yet-verbal 12-year-old son. At lunch one day with other moms, we started sharing pictures and videos of our kiddos. I called up out a particularly strong performance—a video Adrian and Martin taped from bed that morning, telling me what they planned to do with the day—and handed the Minnesota mom my iPhone.
She watched the video, handed back the phone, and said, “I don’t want to diminish the struggles I know you have, but if I watched that video without knowing more, I would think your son was typically developing.”