Philip had a red rubber band. I don’t know where he found it, but I did spy him picking up the green twist tie from the laundry room floor. He bent the twist tie so he could hook it on the rubber band. Then he watched them both dangle from his fingers.
This was after our evening walk. He was sweaty and covered in tree detritus. He had grabbed handfuls from the gutter and sidewalk, crumbled it in his fingers and watched the wind blow it away. Sometimes the wind blew the dried blossoms or leaf fragments back in his face. Always he laughed. Now he needed a bath.
“Are you ready for your bath?” I asked. Philip whimpered in response. That’s when I noticed the refrigerator door hanging open. Of course he was thirsty after our humid walk. He hadn’t gotten a drink when we got back because he was preoccupied with the new-found twist tie. I wasn’t watching when he later went to the fridge and found no milk. He seems to think he should leave the door open so that someone can resolve his milklessness.
“Oh, you’re thirsty,” I said. I got him milk. He took it from my hand, finally closing the refrigerator door. Since I had said the word “bath,” he climbed the stairs with the milk, twist tie and the red rubber band that he had mysteriously acquired.
He dutifully carried all of these items into the bathroom. Per our routine, he hopped up on his stool and turned on the light. I knew, however, there was no way I would be able to get him to undress for a bath. He was too distracted by drinking milk and playing with his self-created toys.
“Come with Mama,” I coaxed. He whined, uncertain why I was changing the routine. Still, he followed me into the bedroom.
I laid down on the bed and he crawled over me to the other side. He drank his milk and dangled the rubber band. The twist tie had fallen off en route.
I held up my index finger, offering it as a perch for the rubber band. He looked in my eyes, but ignored my finger.
“Watch this,” I said. I took the rubber band and stretched it between my thumb and middle finger. I held it near his ear. He scrunched his shoulders, uncertain of what I was going to do.
“Listen,” I said as I plucked the rubber band. His shoulders relaxed, he turned to the sound. I strummed it again. He grinned.
I moved the rubber band in between us and plucked it once more. A quiet “thwang” sounded and Philip chuckled. I tried to return the rubber band to him, but he pushed it back on my fingers instead. He began to strum, push and pull. If I relaxed my hand so that the rubber band went slack, he moved my fingers apart until it was taut once more.
His eyes were bright and his smile wide as he looked at me. We played together like this until he finished drinking his milk.
“Should we take a bath now?” I asked once more.
Philip hopped off the bed and ran to the bathroom.
According to the website of a children’s hospital, some of the symptoms and characteristics of autism include:
- Showing little interest in others
- Lack of social awareness
- Does not socially interact well with others, including parents
- Lack of joint attention (sharing an experience with another)
- Lack of affective reciprocity (sharing a moment with a parent)
- Limited imitation