Sunday, 16 February 2014
Jay, my Beautiful Autistic Savant
What a beautiful boy, he looked like the male version of the Pears Soap advert little girl. Blonde curls, lily white skin, sea blue eyes and a smile to die for. Tall for his age and gangly, he was often awkward in movement and space. He was happy, spritely, bouncy and eager to learn craving more and more knowledge. He was cuddly in a non-cuddly fashion but his eyes, when you could catch them, spoke a million words. You see (pardon the pun) my beautiful Jay at age two and a half had no language but when you were lucky enough to engage eye contact he spoke a million times over beautifully to you. He could be funny and cheeky and he and I had an understanding like no other. What an honour to work, teach and care for this beautiful boy.
I had never heard him speak a recognisable word for several years but he made noises all the time; grunts, squeals and groans, growls and hysterical laughter. In his own way he understood (and found the world funnier) than we gave him credit for. He could make himself understood at all times and knew exactly what he wanted and I understood every grunt and growl. He was very good at a meltdown too if he couldn’t get his own way; make himself understood or didn’t want to comply. Throwing himself on the floor and becoming a floppy mess he could lie there forever or until a new puzzle was offered to him. I could observe him for hours; he was one of the most fascinating and beautiful specimens of the human race I had ever encountered.At two years he was stubborn and feisty; determined and persistent. He played alone, didn’t acknowledge his peers and could concentrate for great lengths of time on a topic or resource of high interest. He loved numbers, trains, puzzles, science and patterns. He disliked craft and creative projects, messy and outside play. Trains with numbers were like chocolate to him. By the time he was four he could do sixty to one hundred piece puzzles with no picture, upside down and back to front. I will never forget the day he took a puzzle box with three different puzzles inside (all mixed up) and without the pictures and in no particular order that made any sense to me (or anyone else) he sorted the pieces for the most difficult within a few minutes by throwing over his shoulder the pieces he had no use for! He then proceeded to complete the puzzle (with no picture) and with the pieces the wrong way up. He seemed to be able to complete puzzles by shape and pattern, it was astounding and a miracle to watch.
Always in his head and his world he amused himself very well and happily with his high interest toys and cruising the room searching out numbers on a daily basis. He would line up toys with numbers in order, all around the room and was very unhappy if you moved a number out of sequence. He could count to in sequence to infinity before the age of three. He recognised every number in the world around him (in and out of order) and could add and subtract very large number patterns. James was an enigma at age four.At four years he began to speak in extremely adult language and using mathematical and scientific words, although he used short sharp sentences. When asking for his milk at snack time he would ask by the literage that appeared on the four pint semi skimmed bottle, for example, 2.272 litres. Everything in his world represented a number; he spoke of no one by name. Everything and everyone was a number in his world. The staff were given numbers as names; I was number six? The only acceptable books for our Jay were books with numbers included in the pictures and storyline, which he would read (and repeat) over and over; Jay was fascinated and obsessed with rhyming and language. He taught himself to read at a very early age and could read and recognise complex words without understanding the meaning of them. There is condition called Hyperlexia which is where a child has an intense fascination for letters or numbers and the ability to read far beyond their age but has a below average understanding of the spoken word and interacting and socialising. Jay loved numbers and scientific words especially but at times I don't believe he understood what he was discussing.
Jay was the third child of a family of four children, very much loved and very much understood by his highly intelligent parents. The eldest daughter also had a diagnosis of high functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder, passed the 11+ and was on the gifted programme at the local grammar school and top of the class. Jay also received a diagnosis of high functioning ASD and a statement of educational needs to follow him to reception and assist him through his primary education and beyond if necessary.Jay would be eight or nine now; I often wonder how and where this beautiful able boy is today?
Jay was twice exceptional – Gifted with ASD - some children have a learning disability alongside their giftedness or high ability, which adds another dimension, difficulty and frustration. It is important to see the whole child and the two individual learning needs; it is important to not let the disability get in the way of the high ability of any child and vice versa. Many learning difficulties do not interfere with intellect.