Friday, June 1, 2012

Do I Have a Lot of Autism?

The 6th grader I’ve been working with all year has been bringing up the topic of autism more and more.  Yesterday, after discussing his favorite “Roblox” and other video programs he plays with every day, he asked me, “Do I have a lot of autism?”  What do I say?  It would not be the best idea to tell him that I feel he has so many difficulties in life that autism is probably the least of his worries. 
His growing fascination with imaginary characters who keep him company via the computer after school is frightening, since he has begun acting out some of the game’s monster personalities when he’s upset with perceived injustice from teachers and classmates.  It’s startling to see a mild, kind guy instantly turn into a growling, angry creature when you say something to him that he doesn’t like.
Do I mention how he might be healthier and less afraid of outdoor physical education and movement experiences if his grandparents let him play in the back yard instead of keeping him indoors 24/7?   When I ask him if his grandpa might take him for a walk he told me, “There are too many mean people around my house.”  He’s the only student I’ve ever met who has told me, several times, that being outside at recess and PE frightens him.  The day he commented that riding a bike during PE was kinda fun I inwardly rejoiced.
So, when he asks me this important question, “Do I have a lot of autism?” I take the coward’s way out and answer, “I don’t know.”  Sure, I follow up with a gentle discussion about having difficulties with different things at school, but I don’t answer his question in a definite way.  I really think we all have some autism in us, especially quirky folks like me, and who’s to say how much it takes to have “a lot.”

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