My 12 year old son just surpassed a decade of living and thriving with an autism diagnosis.
A freaking decade.
I sort of feel like balloons and confetti should be falling from the ceiling.
As I reminisce over the past 10 years, the autism has bestowed upon Zion a laundry list of obsessions.
Most of which are related to TV or movies, especially Disney.
Zion tends to hone in on one particular highlight from TV shows and movies…and it is most often not the most lovely thing he could have chosen to latch on to.
Squidward from SpongeBob SquarePants screaming, “SHUT UP!”
The chef in Ratatouille saying, “Welcome to hell.”
The hunter in Open Season yelling, “I’m gonna kill you!”
Zion will latch onto these less than delightful phrases and ruminate on them, sometimes for years.
He repeats them over and over and over again.
Sometimes he will say the unlovely phrase to me when I am reprimanding him for poor behaviors:
Me: “Zion, time to turn the TV off and clean up your room.”
Zion: (covering his ears and screaming at the top of his lungs) “I’m gonna kill you!”
Boy, please. You ain’t gonna kill nothin… besides my patience.
Other times he will recite the entire scene, verbatim, from beginning to end.
In the world of autism, it is called scripting.
Please believe me when I tell you that this kid has every Disney movie memorized from beginning to end.
It is pretty amazing.
And at times, I’m not gonna lie….annoying.
Circa summer 2009.
Zion was 4 at the time.
And he was completely obsessed with Finding Nemo.
If you haven’t seen this movie, you have clearly been living in a dungeon.
Otherwise, I assume you remember the scene where the school-aged fishies are on the edge of the reef, and one of them says, “I’m gonna go touch the butt.”
A thousand lines in this movie.
THIS is the one Zion latched onto.
And if he said it one time, he said it one hundred thousand times.
It didn’t take him long to figure out that saying this phrase made people giggle.
Which only made him do it more.
Soon after, he realized that actually touching people’s butts would elicit a pretty dramatic reaction from yours truly.
Which he of course found hilarious.
We’d be in line at the grocery store, with a stranger’s butt right in front of us, and Zion would look up at me and say, “I touch the butt?”
Oh dear God.
Some of the most entertaining whiplash side-eyes I’ve ever received were in response to that phrase being uttered from my son.
The last time I took Zion to the zoo, we were standing in line for Dippin Dots. It was scorching hot outside, and the line really was taking forever. There was a big ole dude standing right in front of us, and Zion just reached out and put his hand on the dude’s butt.
Of course the guy turned around and looked right at me.
Don’t look at me, dude.
I didn’t touch that booty.
And then Zion squealed, with a fair amount of glee, “I touch the butt!”
Try explaining that one.
To a Harley dude.
It ain’t happening.
So over the years, with a good dose of patience and the help of some well-trained ABA therapists, we learned to reel in that behavior.
Along with many others.
For several years I didn’t take Zion to social events because his behavior was just inappropriate.
We were hermits.
It wasn’t the best.
But I did what I thought worked at the time.
Recently though, Zion’s older sister Zoe and I have been venturing him out into more social settings again.
A couple of weeks ago for Mother’s Day, I received tickets to see the Indiana Fever play at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
I considered taking a number of different people.
I decided to take Zoe and Zion.
Places like basketball arenas can be a bit overstimulating for Zion.
But this year he has been handling new challenges like a champ, so we thought we’d give it a shot.
Our seats were ahhhh-mazing.
Six rows from the floor, right by the basket.
Zoe was in heaven.
And Zion was a little dreamboat, just taking it all in.
Right before the game started, I realized that Tamika Catchings was standing less than 10 feet away from us on the court.
I was star struck.
My favorite WNBA player ever.
What a gracious, beautiful human being.
She just retired from the Fever last season, and there she stood, just greeting people and being kind to every person who wanted a moment of her attention.
I asked my kids if they would let me take their photo with her.
As we walked out onto the court, I bent down to Zion and whispered, “Buddy, that’s Tamika Catchings. She’s a famous basketball player.”
He stared at her for a moment, starry-eyed, and said, “I touch the hair?”
Yes Zion, Tamika has long, beautiful braids.
But no, you are not touching that hair anymore than you are touching her butt.
But as you can see from this photo, he reeeeeeeally wanted to.
But he refrained.
So to you Zion, huge kudos for some self-control.
Here’s to 10 years of braids and butts.
Both touched and untouched.
You’re a rockstar, buddy.