Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Autism stories: The little professor

In some cases you will find brilliance in the deep dark recesses of the autistic mind. It is incredible to see some asperger kids display their incredible talent and just do it so naturally and so innocently. I always wondered how someone could recall from memory landscape scenes from the mental photographs they envisioned in their mind and draw the images as close to perfection as humanly possible with their hands on canvas creating life like replicas of the scenes upon viewing and studying them. It is truly amazing and inspiring. Another amazing feat that autistic savants seem to take to that is equally impressive and purely mathematical in nature is the ability to multiply large numbers in their minds and calculate with such precision. There are autistic individuals who can recite pi out to over 22,000 digits with pinpoint accuracy. It just amazes me what autistic individuals can do and how it seems so natural to them as if anyone could do it in their eyes.

If you were to observe an autistic child you would see over time how they view things and how they relate to their surroundings and to others. The most significant thing that is common with most asperger kids is the repetitive behavior and the fixation on something that interests the child. I have vivid memories of my son when he was a toddler having an interest in naming the make and model of all the vehicles on the road. He would have an accuracy rate of approximately 90 % and he really took great pride in identifying the vehicles correctly. To this day he also is fixated on ordering things in proper sequence and also having to know how many pages their are in books he is drawn to. I remember when we were at the mall with my son and a friend and he was about 4-5 years old he ran to the automotive section of the book store and was interested in looking at the pictures of the cars and studying them for name, year and model. I was quite amazed that at such a young age he would even know where to go to find the automotive section.

Another thing I learned from seeing my son and what interests him is the need to know things. He loves compiling lists of just about anything. He can recite the names of all the states of the United States in alphabetical order and he can tell you if they are located on the east coast, west coast, north, south or central part of the country. I remember him also compiling a list of all the presidents of the United States from other lists he searched for on the internet. He loves to personalize his lists and attach his name to it such as Matty's list of Walt Disney movies or Matty's list of Pixar movies. He can spend hours at a time compiling lists. He also enjoys music and setting up music playlists with his favorite artists. One such artist is Elvis Presley and he has a wonderful playlist of all his songs. I enjoy listening to his music lists and when I was working late nights at the office his music playlists certainly came in handy helping me to continue my work with nice music playing to keep me going. I often thank him for compiling such lists and he seems to enjoy creating these lists.

I also noticed my son has a very sensitive side and is very aware of violence on television and will not watch the tv because of it. We are very fortunate that he tunes the bad aspects of tv out opting for educational programming and the weather channel. He could watch the traffic and weather channel every day without growing tired of it. When he wants a change of pace he will watch Sponge Bob Square Pants or the old Tom and Jerry cartoons. He also loves to watch his growing collection of Walt Disney and Pixar dvd movies. He can recite the lines in movies word for word and always know it ahead of when it is said. He can watch the movie once and recall it from only seeing it the one time. I am certain that he does have some aspects of a photographic memory.

After talking to my son and observing him I have come to view him as the little professor because of his desire to learn and accumulate knowledge and recite what he has learned. It can be the words in a story or the dialog in a movie or the lyrics in a song. He also has an appetite for reading books and just loves when his mom reads to him at night. He is old enough to read on his own but he also love to hold on to the precious time of his childhood when his mom would read a bedtime story and he still enjoys this time and so does Maria. It is a mother-son bonding time and I think it is wonderful that they have this time together.

I remember when I was an engineering student back in college and how I accumulated a fair amount of mathematical textbooks including my calculus textbooks. I remember when my son got a hold of them and he would enjoy knowing the number of pages there were in the book and then he would look at the sections of the book. I remember offering to teach him a little bit about differentiation and integration and its application in the real world. He seemed interested and contemplated the possibility of becoming a math professor one day.

Another love of my son is the world of maps and charting out streets and towns with houses and stores. Matty loves to draw maps with streets and draw on rolls of paper that seem never ending. He draws the names of the streets and strategically locates houses, stores and all the common buildings such as schools, hospitals, fire departments and police departments. He is always thorough with his maps. I saw his interest in these activities so I purchased the program Sim City for him where he can build entire cities on the computer.

I am amazed with autistic children and their abilities and potential and I see it with my son also. I try to always encourage my son to always strive to learn and explore and always maintain a desire to do his best in everything he tries. I believe my son has so much potential and he just has to be pointed in the right direction and encouraged and mentored just like any kid who has a desire to learn. Matty is our little professor.

Edward D. Iannielli III

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Please feel free to read my writings and leave a kind message or suggestion. Thank you. Emily