For several weeks, maybe even more than a month, Jackson has been asking me the same curious question: “Mom, do you think I’m an alien?”
“No,” I reply. “I don’t think you’re alien.”
“Are you sure?”
The first few times he asked me this I shrugged it off as playful. He’s a unique guy, so he thinks of unique stuff.
But then I realized he was serious. He wasn’t trying to make me laugh or excuse goofy behavior.
“Do YOU think you’re an alien?” I finally ask.
“Yes, I think so,” he says quite seriously.
“Because sometimes my brain turns sideways,” he says. “Or upside down. Sometimes it just leaves my head.”
It’s not pretend, it’s not imagination. He’s trying to figure out how his brain works.
Interestingly, he doesn’t say these things with distress or even mild frustration. He’s matter-of-fact, as if he’s saying, “Sometimes I eat a ham and cheese sandwich, but other times, I eat turkey.” He is making observations and relaying the information to me.
As a person, I find this fascinating. He is finally trying to discern why he is the way he is. I love the language he’s using. I love that he’s so verbal and honest. I love that it’s not holding him back.
As a mother, I feel the pull to say more, to comfort, but I’m the one who doesn’t have the words. What does it feel like for your brain to turn sideways? I have no clue.
I told my friends this weekend that I struggle with Jackson’s diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Attention Deficit? Oh for sure. He’s textbook. But ASD? I don’t know. For all the boxes we can check for ASD, there are a dozen that don’t get checked. He’s verbal, affectionate, compassionate, academically strong, and somewhat athletic. No, he can’t tie his shoes or understand inference or manage his emotions on that fast-swinging pendulum. He’s terrifically impulsive. He has no natural fear of people or places, making him the most vulnerable kid on the playground. He flaps his arms when he’s excited and goes into a violent rage when provoked.
And now, he thinks he’s an alien.
For what it’s worth, the ASD label doesn’t matter much to me since our life is not set up in a way for it to affect our education plan or way of living. However, learning how his brain works is of the utmost importance. Since we want to raise a child who grows up to be a mature, responsible, and productive young man, we have to do whatever we can to prepare him.
That means, when his brain turns sideways, we help him figure out how to turn it right side up.