July 2, 2008 9:59 pm
Back when MJ was a toddler, he showed an intense interest in lights and switches particularly those on cars. Lights on cars were great, and switches to turn them on and off were even better. The pervasive interest was an early sign of Asperger’s that we didn’t fully recognize at the time. We just accepted it as part of his personality.
When he hit five, we began noticing issues with proprioception. OK, we couldn’t really not notice because MJ had several falls and broke his arm three time in a period of about 18 months. We grew accustomed to the sight of MJ wearing a colorful cast on one or the other of his arms. His last break was a major one requiring surgery and several casts. He chose red for the first one, yellow for the second, and green for the last one. He told us that he picked the colors because they are the three colors in a traffic light, starting at the top, and we recognized that an interest in lights continued to be part of MJ’s personality.
We went about six years without any further breaks, until a week or so ago, when MJ wiped out on his bike when he hit a patch of sand on the street. We had the easiest of 3 trips to the ER this year and MJ is now sporting a bright green cast, chosen in honor of his favorite video game character, Luigi.
This weekend, I installed a new garage door opener. MJ picked it out as he knew the fastest and quietest model based all the ones he’s seen in neighborhood. Because of his arm, MJ couldn’t help much with the installation, but he stayed with me almost the whole time, did what he could, and correctly pointed out several of my mistakes. As work progressed, I could sense his growing anticipation of hooking up new switches and programming the remote controls. He was especially eager to test out the LED sensors that stop the door from closing on someone or something and was very disappointed to find that we didn’t have the correct light bulbs to install. When I finally finished, MJ tested the door about 20 times and, with remote in hand, showed it off to everyone he could find.
MJ’s grown a lot and many things have changed, but in some ways it feels like where we were six years ago. MJ’s in a cast and enjoying lights and switches. Some may look at the situation and feel sad. I find it comfortable and even happy. My wife and I know how to handle broken arms and we can also take a household project and turn it into an activity that brings a lot of joy to MJ. Six years ago MJ simply liked to look at the lights go on and off. Today he’s proudly helping to hook them up and program the electronics. It’s simply a big kids way of playing with the lights and switches.
As David Byrne sang with the Talking Heads: “Same as it ever was . . .”