I've read about children with autism who display splinter skills or outstanding abilities in specific areas, but I haven't really focused much on those chapters of the books I've read, concentrating mostly on survival strategies, success stories, and how to understand and practically support children with autism. But lately, I've been led to wonder more and more if my own son might have some exceptional skills that might not be so common amongst "normal" children, which leads me to think I might have to educate myself on this some more.
Aside from his creative storytelling and bookwriting prowess, all on his own initiative and with absolutely no prodding from O or myself, B has fantastic visual and organisational memory, as if he has a very neat snack of folders and boxes in his mind, and he knows exactly how to store and label each shred of information into the right one. He learns and memorises lyrics of songs after hearing it only once! He can re-tell word for word a story he has read at least once or twice. He remembers road directions and map graphics precisely. He hasn't forgotten anything I have taught him in 7.5 years, well, except for house rules like "Tidy your room" or "Finish your food before you leave the table," but THAT's understandable.
Me, I just take everything in a blurred and haphazard way, shoving each memory, thought or experience in a general "inbox" till bedtime! But B, well, I think I need to come to grips with the fact that my son might really be different in a physiological way, that his brain is really wired differently from the rest of us, and not necessarily in a subnormal way, either.
On the 26th February, Mrs D, B's drama club teacher since 2005, took me aside after the after-school session and asked me, "Listen, Mrs Andres, have you heard from B's teachers about whether he may have some special abilities? I mean, is he super-intelligent or something?" I stared at her blankly and said, "Well, no, they say he's just average, just like other kids his age. And I'm quite happy with that. Why?"
And then she told me with excitement and seriousness in her voice, "Well, today, for improvisation and teamwork, I introduced a new and very complicated game called RESCUE ME. I had spent a lot of time before the session trying to figure out how to explain the mechanics to the children, as it's not just a complicated game but complicated to describe to anyone in the first place! I thought that I could count on the Year 6 children (ages 10-11) to catch on first and model it to the others, especially the Year 3 kids (ages 7-8) including B, who I thought would be quite slower to understand the complex instructions due to their being younger."
She paused for effect and said, "To my utter surprise, B was first one to actually get it! During the trial run, I was amazed at how he showed that he understood all the complicated rules perfectly, and knew how to strategise using those rules. Even the Year 6 kids didn't get it on the first try, and everybody else had trouble catching on. But B, well, he never got tagged, he never got 'captured' and he always knew exactly what to do... Three times, he really was leading, he beat everyone, even the Year 6's... It showed how focused he was on me as I explained the game initially, and it showed me his fantastic capacity for attention and quick understanding, even if it had been only explained to him once. And I tell you, I think it's amazing."
I congratulated B and asked him, on the drive home, to explain the game to me, but I couldn't understand it, for the life of me.
Another time last week, he came home spouting new knowledge about rocks and soils. Geology was their new science lesson in "curriculum choice" studies, apparently. He quizzed me on the three general types of rocks (igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic) and then left me agape by telling me each sub-type under those three! He wasn't just reciting from memory but actually linking and cross-referencing one with another. He immediately wrote and drew a graphic "poster" about his favourite rocks and soils, their characteristics, an example of each, common uses, etc. When he showed it to me afterwards, I said, "Wow, B, I didn't even KNOW this when I was your age! And here you are, making a poster about it and teaching me about it. You're a very good and enthusiastic teacher!" I told O about it after he came home from work, and he couldn't make out how B was able to do that, as well.
Last Friday, he came home telling me that they had spent time praying the Stations of the Cross in church that day, and that someone had explained all the stations to them in the school hall later on. He said, "Nanay, there are 16 stations of the cross, did you know that?" And when O came home from work, he told him the same thing. When O said he thought there were only 12 (my hubby does complain of poor memory, bless him), B responded by reciting ALL SIXTEEN stations in order, and with descriptions! He asked us for some cardboard boxes which he then cut out into 16 squares, and he made his own stations of the cross in his little corner of the living room, complete with labels and drawings. He had just learned it in school that day, and he had it all memorised by hometime!
Oh, my dear B, what goes on in that curious and bright little mind of yours? How I wish I could get inside it and see, just for a while, how you think. It boggles me to think how you keep outdoing yourself each day, amazing us with your abilities. You may be more gifted than any of us yet realise or imagine, but truly, what I want you to know is that, special gifts or no, YOU and E are the most precious gifts your Tatay and I have ever received from God. You are the gift, B, and we love and accept you for who you are and who you are yet to become.