Collecting Memories

There was a lot of Internet surfing after Jackson’s autism diagnosis earlier this year. That and, since Catherine and I are still old-school enough, book purchasing and library visiting. The official paperwork from the School Board and the hospital made us feel like we finally had permission, officially, to read up on the condition we–and Jackson–would be living with for the rest of his life.

One thing that popped out of our “studies” was a characteristic trait shared by many on the autism spectrum: specialization. Neurotypical people are bound to have interests. Movies for some, Roman antiquity for others. But among many on the spectrum, these interests are pushed to the extreme. Interest in movies morphs into a capability to recite whole flicks by heart. Interest in Roman history just isn’t enough, as someone on the spectrum becomes able to recite a list of the museums exhibiting particular pieces of pottery and art.

And so at our house we’ve been living our day to day with an oft-raised eyebrow between the parental units, as we silently query one another whether Jackson’s latest quirk might not become the speciality. The years old, deep infatuation with trains seems to have subsided, so I guess we won’t have to hear about Thomas the Tank Engine in perpetuity.

In its place over the past few months has grown a need for Jackson to gather. Collect. And horde. The latest version of this need has seen our boy gradually undecorate the Christmas tree “because decorations are to ‘feel’.” (Yes, his words. Also telling, since those on the spectrum experience different sensory perceptions.) But before the ice and snow started to fall, the collections tended to be of the outdoor variety. With a unique “this would look good on my parents’ bookshelf” twist.

Exhibit A: Said bookshelf.

Exhibit B: Same bookshelf two days after Catherine and I moved all “collectables” upstairs to Jackson’s room. Note the reemergence of a tiny little piece of value: a newly collected kernel of corn. #innocence

We’re not sure if this is Jackson’s specialty surfacing already, but it sure keeps us in clean-up mode.


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