It was the piles of shoes around the house that alerted me that something might be different with my son Tommy.
He would also obsess over various subjects. I remember how, even a six-year-old, he could tell you how food got digested because he was obsessed with the human body. He'd sometimes narrate it as he chewed his dinner. "First," he'd say, "my food is going down my esophagus." Seeing this little kid say the word esophagus was something else, let me tell you.
I've seen a lot of his quirks throughout the years and as we watched the movie Elf the other night, I suddenly saw Tommy in Buddy. I don't know why it took me so long to see it. But here are reasons why I think Buddy the Elf might have autism:
1. Buddy the Elf has an odd appetite. Sometimes people with autism can only eat certain things. For example, at Thanksgiving, all Tommy wants are the rolls. He can't have cheese on his burgers because he says the melted cheese feels weird on his teeth. I knew one kid with autism loved ketchup and would eat it by the spoonful.
2. Buddy likes to spin around and around in the door. Sometimes people with autism like the sensation of repetitive movements. Tommy used to love being on a swing. He also used to walk back and forth for about ten minutes at a time.
3. Like Buddy, people with autism can take things quite literally. Buddy believes the restaurant that says they have the world's best cup of coffee. When the lady in Gimbels says she has fruit spray, Buddy assumes that it's something to eat. He got his Dad lingerie because the sign said "For someone special.." and assumed that's what you gave special people. When Tommy was younger, I told him to "give me a minute" and he started counting down from 60.
4. If you want to know how you look in an outfit, ask someone with autism. They are blunt because in their minds, they are being honest, and being honest is part of the rules. Buddy the Elf certainly didn't hold back. Tommy once asked someone why they smoked. "Don't you know it gives you black lungs?"
5. People with autism might fixate on something that enjoy. Tommy would fixate on learning about the human body. Sometimes he'd say random facts out of context. For example, we might be talking about his day and he'd suddenly say, "The large intestine is shorter than the small intestine." Buddy the Elf really liked the name Francisco and repeated it.
6. Sometimes those with autism might not get when it's appropriate to announce things. For example, when Tom's Mom got really sick last year, Tommy was all, "She might die." Obviously Tom didn't want to hear that, and I had to remind Tommy that it really wasn't appropriate to say things like that. Buddy burst into an important meeting, not realizing how important it was because in his mind, he wanted to shout how happy he was:
7. Buddy took it to heart when his Dad told him to get out of his life. Tommy cannot stand for people to be upset with him and will immediately take off like Buddy did. He also can get quite overdramatic. He once told me, "You don't want me as your son anymore," simply because I lectured him on not picking up the trash in his room when he said he would.
I shared all these thoughts with Tommy, and he agreed.
"Maybe Buddy was born with autism like I was," he said matter-of-factly. "Having autism isn't bad at all. We're fun people."
So true, Tommy.
What do you think? Either way, Buddy is pretty awesome, just like people with autism.