I asked my son Harold how he’d describe himself and he said, “I don’t know. There isn’t one word that describes me. I like gaming and stuff, and making music, and all that other stuff. There’s just not one word.” I can tell you what word he’d never use: autistic. Harold’s a very high functioning kid and the challenges of autism aren’t really his concern. He just works around them. BUT there’s stuff there that we can learn from and it’s important.
Harold is a Multi-Hyphenated Guy
Like everyone working in the world today, Harold has lots of pursuits. He plays video games. He modifies indie games, changing their skins and music. He’s a very accomplished music maker (at last count, he’d published just under 200 pieces on Soundcloud – yes, I said 200). That’s what he focuses on. He consumes media. He makes entertainment and media projects. To him, they’re one in the same. You watch it. You make it. You listen to it. You make it. You play it. You make it. They’re the same thing to Harold.
Autism is Actually Quite a Powerful Tool
I’ll tell you one thing about Harold’s autism, or how it manifests in him: he’s determined. If we say we’re going to New York City, he’s going to ask about it until he knows it’s on the calendar. If we lay out a plan to take a train, but then we decide to take a car, that’s going to risk tripping things up unless there’s a good explanation and a decent space for transition.
Harold also doesn’t mince words much. If he likes something, he won’t go on and on about it. He’ll just say he likes it. I asked him what he loved about the New York Trip. Harold said “Everything.” (That’s his answer all the time, except in the very rare occasion that he loves something more than he imagined.)
He also either does something or doesn’t. He doesn’t talk about it endlessly like lots of people (me!) would. He just does it. Or he doesn’t. I look up to him for that.
Harold has a vast wealth of knowledge on topics that interest him. DETAIL and depth just waiting to be referenced. I know that when he asks someone at a retro gaming store some esoteric question about a random product that only existed for a few weeks back in 1987, he knows exactly what he’s talking about. He stumped the counter guy at videogamesnewyork a bunch of times before he stopped asking him questions and just asked me to Google instead.
Harold’s All About What He’s Into
Okay, so he’s 11. The real world hasn’t gotten too far into the way. But I know that his mind seems to work in one mode only: that thing I’m into. He can get worried about things sometimes (like everyone), but that’s like a fraction of a percent of the time Harold puts into his brain power over his real interests. The world according to Harold is about 90% his interests and 10% the “bullshit overhead” that life puts in the way.
Imagine if YOU Operated That Way?
And when I say “you,” I mostly mean me. Imagine if you pursued whatever it was you felt like doing and you created as much as you consumed. What if you were straightforward and determined about what you wanted to do? What if you just did what you were planning to do instead of talking about it so much? And what if you stored up all kinds of knowledge to use on topics that mattered a lot to you?
I know I’d be down for it.