My son may be eleven in years, but his tastes aren’t always age-appropriate. It was something I struggled with when he was younger. Like many parents hoping for things “to turn around”, I dragged my feet on allowing him to hold on to the loves he had as a preschooler. It felt like I was doing something wrong.
There were plenty of things to push me off like the infants on the toy packages and the screeching saleswoman who chased me around a store as I carried a jack-in-the-box calling out “how old is the baby?” They all did their part in making me self-conscious about “giving up” on him. In the same way I ridiculously felt that using a communication device would dissuade him from speaking, I convinced myself that giving him the toys he loved would only keep him in that childlike state.
In reality, Lucas is a person and a wonderful person at that. There are things he doesn’t and may never understand, struggles he will have for the rest of his life, and challenges that we have to face together. His toys and hobbies should not be one of them. I want him to be happy and these things make him happy. If you have someone in your life with autism, they might like these things too.
They also might hate them. Then again, if you have someone with autism in your life, you know that already.
Wow. Three devices? Yup. There are two more out there somewhere. I will probably find them under his bed when I changed the sheets.
My boy loves iPads and most people know that. It’s why I started the list with them. They can keep him calm or rile him up. You never know which one it will be until he begins tapping away. Whether starting and stopping YouTube Kids, laughing as he knocks the bricks down from the page in the “Monster At The End Of This Book” App, or asking me to trace the letters on Elmo’s ABCs so he can unlock new videos, screens are his passion.
The only issue is making sure he doesn’t get too engrossed in them. Do you know the scene in New Jack City where Chris Rock is crying as he takes a hit because he’s so locked into his addiction? We have moments like that with Elmo singing in the background. The trick is to know when to take it away. There is a fine line between love and obsession. We walk it every time he starts swiping.
Lu-cas. Would you give me a hug? Arf! Arf! Lu-cas…
See this dog? He talks. In 2014, I programmed it to know my son’s name and that he likes chicken nuggets. Since then, we have heard him say it 1000 times.
Lucas has loved Scout from the beginning. He struggled with pressing the button on his paw at first, but has since discovered he can just slam its paw into the floor. That’s what he does until it cycles to “Lu-cas, can you give me a hug?” As Scout starts and stops his sentences with each slam, it’s like listening to an ‘80s rap remix.
My son likes to make sounds for stimming purposes. These random noises can, at times, resemble words. They are rarely purposeful but sometimes fit. In one of our favorite moments of accidental language, Scout asked if he could get a hug and Lucas loudly went, “Noooooo!” My daughter and I still laugh about it to this day.
I say certain books because the ones you see pictured here are pretty much it. With the exception of one or two others, these four rule the literary roost in our home. If they ever build a Lucas Guttman Library, it would just be a thousand copies of these. They include Matthew Van Fleet’s Heads, Cat, and Tails. Also, he loves the hard-to-find, but easy-to-rip-apart Frog & Friends.
They need a thousand too because he tears through them like a madman. Pop-ups and other interactive features that encourage OT are the main selling point to them and, as he interacts with them, they often get ripped to shreds.
How did he learn to love these books? Through us. Since he was a baby, he’s had these stories read to him in a rhythmic way. I tickle him at certain parts of the reading or use a silly voice. It’s carried on for years and, because of that, they are at the top of his reading list seemingly forever.
Certain Handheld Electronics
Another “certain”. You’ll notice a pattern here.
Often kept in the car, these V-Tech pushbutton annoyances are something he can’t get enough of. They ring out on repeat from the moment we start driving until he tosses them aside to look out the window. Like the others, they have been in our lives forever.
The reason for the word “certain” is that he likes ones that have little LED screens on them. If they don’t, they might as well be garbage. There has been a slew of discarded presents through the years that I was positive he would love.
Mandisa’s “Good Morning”
In preschool, Lucas had an amazing teacher. He loved the class because of her enthusiasm and ability to reach him. I never forgot all she did for us.
I can’t forget even if I wanted to because she had introduced him to the song “Good Morning” by Mandisa. They began every class with it and she told us how much he gravitated to it when it came on.
Years later, he still stops short to listen if it comes on. In fact, we play it on his drive to school and he refuses to get out of the car until he’s heard it. He also taps my shoulder and makes me rap along to the spoken word interlude. I always get a smile.
A few years ago, I made a poster of the CD cover with lyrics to the song and hung it on his wall. When he saw it, he kisses it. Honestly. After writing about it, a friend of mine Tweeted it to Mandisa:
She asked that I kiss him for her and I did. It was a highlight for us. He’s a huge fan.
I don’t know what it is about Raffi. There’s something about his voice that just reaches into my son and speaks to his soul. He can get him up to dance or he can lull him to sleep. Sometimes he can do both with the same song.
We have seen Raffi’s concerts thousands of times. Seriously. A year ago, I added them to our private YouTube to make it easier to play and the count is over 400. That’s in a year. My kid’s eleven.
Everything about this concert is committed to our memories. I know all the ad-libs, jokes, and audience call-outs. Lucas does too. Know how I know? He taps me when the parts are coming up that he knows I sing along to. If “Shake My Sillies Out” comes on, he scrambles to find me to come and jump up and down with him.
A few years back, we went to a live Raffi concert and, to our surprise, he did the same “improv” comments that he did in the 1984 concert we watched on repeat. Leaning back in his theater chair with his eyes bugged out, Lucas kept glancing at me as if to say, “Yo. Are you seeing this?”
I was. It was amazing. Nothing has ever been able to touch Lucas the way Raffi’s music has. It’s been unbelievable.
This was the hardest one for me to deal with during the whole “age-appropriate” struggle early in Lucas’s life. To me, Sesame Street represented babies. It’s how we would insult each other as kids. “You watch Sesame Street.” Ha ha.
Today, we all watch Sesame Street. My daughter told me that once, at her friend’s house, an episode was playing for her little sister and she could recite it all.
Daddy, I knew every word. They were like “how do you know?” I said I had seen it a million times.
She has. Making the memorization even more solid is that Lucas only likes certain – there’s that word again – episodes and videos from the Street. Music Magic, Ernie’s Dance Video, Me Am What Me Am…there’s about ten of them.
Put on the wrong Seasame and you might as well put on the Spanish Evening News. He’s gone in a second and you hear “Lu-cas…will you give me a hug?” from the other room. That’s how you know he’s gone.
The struggle I had was one that I overcame and I am so glad I did. Elmo is one of his most beloved TV characters and I can’t fathom keeping him from that. Lucas deserves to be happy more than anyone else I know. If Elmo makes him happy, I want him to watch him constantly…not matter how much I want to stomp that little red monster into the ground.
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