Seven

Hello. This is my son.

Squig

You may remember him from such posts as Holy Shit I Had a Kid! and Holy Shit My Kid Is Autistic!

Remember those posts? Remember them like it was yesterday?

Yeah so anyway. He is seven years old.

WHAT!

THE!

EFF!

INEXORABLE MARCH OF TIME??!!!!

* * *

In the years since I last discussed his condition on this site, we have learned that he has classical autism rather than Aspergers (as previously speculated). Autistic kids are often classified as either “high-functioning” and “low-functioning”, but Squig falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information has a rundown of common symptoms, starting with:

Children with autism typically have difficulties in:

  • Verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Social interactions
  • Pretend play

“A fondness for bacon bordering on fervor” is not specifically mentioned as a symptom, but Squig has that as well.

Squig is a strict pragmatist when it comes to language, and will only use it to make requests (“I want video”) or observations (“that is a dog”). He will respond to questions so long as there is a concrete answer. But he does not trade in linguistic abstraction. Ask him how he is feeling, or how his day went, and he will reply with “fine”–not because he has processed your question and formulated a response, but because he recognizes this as an acceptable answer. As with his father, he is adept at getting by without a clue as to what he is saying.

You cannot hold a conversation with Squig, But that does not preclude communication. Our most meaningful interactions are physical: wrestling, tickling, swimming, rolling skating. He is way into dancing right now.

“Difficulty with pretend play” may not seem like a big deal, and has certainly saved us a fortune in action figures, but actually has some profound ramifications. After all, the “point” of play is to practice skills. And so, as with many autistic children, Squig has difficulty learning via imitation. You can’t teach him to brush his teeth by showing him how you brush your own, you have to put the toothbrush in his hand, guide the brush to his teeth, make his do the strokes, and so forth. To get him through any complex task (and just about every non-instinctual task that people do is complex, it turns out), we use a process called chaining. Chaining involves the breaking down of a task into discrete steps, and linking them together. Rather than teach him to “brush his teeth”, we taught him to (a) get his toothbrush and then (b) turn on the water and then (c) wet the bristles and then

In the autism community, chaining is everywhere.

Sign on the Restroom Wall of the Seattle Autism Clinic

Squig’s impairments are social and not cognitive. His math skills are fine, for instance. His reading level is ridiculous. He’s currently attending a public school, with a mix of special education services and regular classroom integration, but we expect to move him to a specialized school next year.

Here he is on the first day of Kindergarten:

First Day of Kindergarten

(And because everyone asks, this is his lunchpail:

Totally awesome, I know. Though I am deeply disturbed that all of the animals on the lunchbox have associated vocalizations except for the alligator, which instead has a noise associated with an action. This seriously bothers me. WHY NO DOCTOR I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE HIS AUTISM CAME FROM!)

* * *

During a recent meeting with my son’s support team in which we were charting out his plan for the coming years, we took a moment to inventory his strengths and challenges. Number one on the list of his advantages was “charisma”.

Squig has an easygoing manner that people find endearing. His joie de vivre is infectious. Other kids are drawn to him. Like all young seven-year-old boys he has moments of defiance and aggression and omg will you stop running in the kitchen for just one second will you STOP?!! But on the balance he is just the most delightful kid to be around.

And, as a result, people will really go to bat for him. Whenever we encounter obstacles, some indefatigable member of Squig’s support team will tuck him under her arm and run into whatever endzone we are currently striving for, knocking opponents left and right. They will totally sweep the ice as he glides down the curling sheet toward a developmental house (wanted to include a sports analogy for my Canadian readers as well).

To be fair, they would do this for anyone in their care–people who work with special needs children are the most beneficent and indefatigable you will ever meet. But, even so, Squig has amassed an impressive cheering section. He is well loved.

IMG_0991
* * *

Yesterday was Squig’s birthday. I asked him what he wanted and he said, “Fritos”. I asked what else he wanted and he said, “Itsy Bitsy Spider”. Kiddo, you got it.

* * *

33 comments.

  1. Seven?? I’ve been reading DY for that long? Whoa.

    Happy birthday, Squig! Fritos are an excellent birthday choice.

    Special ed teachers are the absolute best, aren’t they? I place them on a pedastal inhabited by few others (including NICU nurses). Thank goodness for them all.

  2. Sounds like a fantastic kid! I too can’t believe it’s been seven years since you let it slip you were going to be a dad. Way back then I figured you were going to be totally awesome at it, and it sounds like you sure are.

    Also, as a special-ed teacher (well, assistant… I get to hang out with kids like the squiggle in their regular ed classrooms) I agree that I’m the absolute best. And also, yay boardmaker!

  3. I started reading DY just around the time of Squig’s birth; I can’t believe how fast the time has passed either.

    I’m so glad you guys have found the support you and the kid need and that he seems so happy and healthy.

  4. happy birthday, squiggle. enjoy those fritos!

  5. Seven?! Oh god, I’m old.

    My wonderful little nephew, who is 2, was just diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. He doesn’t speak, and won’t make eye contact when trying to communicate. He is, however, a lovely happy bouncy little boy who loves to run around and get snuggles from his family.

    I know every child is different, but thank you for writing about your experiences. It will, if nothing else, help make me a better aunt. :)

  6. I’m also amazed at how long I’ve been reading this blog. It’s not like I’m related to you or in some way dependent on your for money. I must actually enjoy it. How odd.

    If the Squig can relate to some imaginary person on the internet wishing him a happy birthday, pass my birthday wishes on. If not, just buy him some Fritos for me.

  7. Incredibly cute looking kid. I can’t believe it’s been so long.

    It sounds like he has great parents, too. Wishing you all the best.

  8. Happy Birthday Squig!

    Try the Chili Cheese flavored Fritos. They’re the best.

  9. I’ve been reading this for 7 years? Happy birthday Squig!

  10. I read about his first day of kindergaten shortly after we began to learn that our little guy is Autistic. Thanks for sharing. For whatever reason, it;’s very helpful and enjoyable for me to read about your guy.

  11. Happy birthday to the wonderful Squig! And three cheers for his great dad!

  12. I’ve *only* been reading since shortly before the “Holy Shit My Kid Has Autism” post, which makes me a young pup around here. i like to think (pretend) that my degree of appreciation for this blog makes up for my failure to get in on the very ground floor.

    Many happy returns of the day to the Squiggle! and to his parents, for bravely enduring …whatever had to be endured to conduct that young chap into this world, seven years ago! (I think this goes mainly to Squiggle’s mom – the whole “having babies” thing just freaks me out)

    The phrase he “is a strict pragmatist when it comes to language” is somehow incredibly intriguing to me. Possibly because I’m a word-nerd by profession, possibly because I’ve been sick all day and am in a fog. But it’s an interesting idea.

    The lack of “pretend play” abilities is also quite interesting to me, since my dissertation deals with play and pretend quite extensively. As a person who relies heavily on my imaginative life (the adult equivalent of pretend play, I guess), it’s ironically hard to imagine NOT having that capability. But it also makes me wonder what operates in its place? Something *must*. When other kids are off pretending/playing, in their own minds, what/where is young Squiggle?

    Possibly, eating Fritos in preparation for some roller-skating (because how awesome is roller-skating!). Happy Birthday to him and his parents, who all seem to be pretty fantastic.

    PS. awesome lunchbox, despite the menacing alligator.

  13. Nothing like living with a small rapidly changing human being to force you to notice the passing of time. I remember when I realized I had been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer as appointment television for seven years. Still, I can’t imagine it had quite the same impact.

    Similarly, I remember when my boyfriend showed me this website and I was like “Defective whata? It’s like a humor thing?” And he’s all, “it’s a blog.” And I’m all, “what’s a blog?” That too was a very long time ago. Now we’re married and working on baby #2 and I can’t believe there was a time in my life when I didn’t read blogs and watched TV on schedule…

  14. This is the nicest thing I’ve seen on the interwebs for years and he is the luckiest kid in the world to have a dad like you.

  15. Happy Birthday, Super Squig! I hope you don’t mix your two gifts together because that would be gross.

    And hey, we are coming there! In May! Some hanging out will be in order. Details to follow through some social media channel or other.

    Until then xo to you and yours ~MRR

  16. Happy Birthday! Thanks for the update and sharing your joy with your DY friends.

  17. Happy Birthday! Thanks for the update and sharing your joy with your DY friends.

  18. Happy birthday to the Squig! I’m glad to hear the update on how he’s doing; every so often I find myself randomly wondering how things are going, so ty for that. It’s great that he has such strong support behind him, both at home and at school. You guys are terrific!

    I love that “steps to take a wiz” pic, btw. :)

  19. First off of course, Happy Birthday to young Squig, the little fella is lucky enough to have the same birthday as myself, but even luckier to be nowhere near as old.

    Love the blog and this post. I’m only new to fatherhood, but can instantly recognise the love of a father for his son. My little bean is just 6 months old and maybe I have the same tests ahead of me, I just hope I can deal with them with as much patience, humour and love.

    Cheers from London, Dan

  20. I came her to hand out stars and [this is good]s, but I guess I’ll have to settle for “Happy Birthday, Squiggle!”

  21. Forget labels, forget challenges. Everyone in the world faces them to some degree or another. Soo..

    Happy Birthday Squig! You are an awesome kid, not because of your challenges but because of them.

    Your parents are as lucky to have you as you are to have them.

  22. Happy birthday, Squig!

    Love the updates, can’t believe I’ve been I’ve been coming here that long. Well, I can. Posts like this are worth a thousand surfing hours. Best to the whole family.

  23. It’s a lucky thing that the universe linked you two.

  24. I’ve been reading this blog for a while, and after reading today’s entry, I just had to comment, for this is just getting too bizarre. It’s almost like I’m reading about me in some parallel universe.

    My son’s 7th birthday is on Feb 27. He has been diagnosed with ASD, and we found out about it almost at the same time you did. I remember going through the emotional roller coaster and then reading you going through the same things made me feel like I wasn’t alone.

    I’d know they were close in ages, but until today I didn’t realize how close their birthdays were.

    Happy birthday to both our Squiggles!

  25. I have been reading your post since before Squig. My daughter is one year younger than your son.

    He sounds wonderful, he looks absolutely adorable (and always has) and Fritos sound like a great birthday present!

    Happy Birthday!

  26. We’re in a similar situation with our son, and it’s always interesting to get a look into someone else’s experiences in that area.

    Also, I don’t think elephants say ‘trumpet.’ I think it falls into the same category as the alligator’s ‘snap.’ (As you noted – the quirky apples don’t fall too far from the quirky trees.)

  27. My daughter will be turning 19 this weekend and she was diagnosed with PDD/NOS when she was 6. I just wanted tell you that things will get easier for him. We did ‘social stories’ instead of chaining with great success. She’ll be graduating with both an NHS cord and a musical honorary cord in June and is attending a community college in the fall.

    Best wishes!

  28. Your story about your son reminded me of a poem by Les Murray, an Australian poet, who also had a son with autism. I thought you might be interested to read it:

    http://www.clivejames.com/poetry/murray/fifteen

    I heard Murray read it once, and it was not something easy to forget.

    Hope he had a great birthday.

  29. Love this post.

    Also, YES, the alligator “Snap!” bothers me too. The same way that texture books include “shiny”. THAT IS NOT A TEXTURE. “Smooth” would be a texture. GET IT STRAIGHT, PEOPLE.

  30. What a delightful tribute to you & your son. Masters of the universe.o.

  31. […] — “Squig” for short. Baldwin’s son turned seven last month, and I found the post about Squig’s birthday so moving I’m going to excerpt a bit of it here. During a recent meeting with my son’s support […]

  32. I’ve been reading since the “toothpaste in my eye-fuckin’ tuesdays” post. still love it.

    I’m always glad to hear updates about squig, since it allows me pause to think about what my younger brother has seen growing up. He’s never been diagnosed, but now that he’s an adult, and hindsight being what it is, we’re all confident he has some aspect of ASD. Having people who *want* to support your son is a fantastic blessing. my brother was on the other side of that, and it has made many things in his life considerably more difficult, including his feeling successful and confident as a human.

    always glad to read your musing, thanks for many years of chuckles and board game recomendations.

  33. There is nothing wrong with having a fervor for bacon. It’s one of life’s little treasures. You are a great dad! Love your stories and your little guy! Congratulations!!!

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