“Gunther is scared,” Roman stated matter-of-factly. We were tent camping in Acadia National Park over the Labor Day holiday, and were all snuggled in for the night when it started to rain. Loudly. We managed to fall asleep despite the steady drumming, but were all woken up around 4 in the morning by thunder and lightning. Romi does not like lightning, especially when he’s in a metal-reinforced, water-soaked tent, with only highly conducive trees for cover. Oh wait- that’s me. But Romi didn’t like it either. And he let his stuffed Uglydoll, an ice bat by the name of Gunther, take the fall.
Last month, waiting on the summer school bus, Roman was petting our Yellow Lab’s head, and haltingly said this, flooring me: “Rooney has Awe-ta-zum.” That was the first time he’s ever uttered the word Autism. Roman sees Rooney as an extension of himself- so it figures that his dog would have it too.
Last Tuesday, first day back to school, Romi was NOT getting on the bus on it’s first pass by our house. He retreated deeper and deeper into our neighbor’s yard as a stream of morning commute cars piled up on either side of the bus. His aide and even the driver kindly stepped out to entice him on. “Let me see your new shoes!” “What’s that toy in your hand? Come show me!” “I’ve missed you! Will you sit by me?” Roman simply looked up at me and said: “I need space.” Message received, so I politely waved them on, asking them to pick him up on the return trip.
Other recent Romanisms include “I feel a bit blurred,” “my stomach feels like gasoline,” and “that makes me feel nervous.” He shared that his bedtime buddy, socktopus Squilliam, “doesn’t like darkly.” Meaning: please turn on my night light. And when he says he is “really starving,” that translates to: order up for a spicy salami sandwich on lightly toasted bread with yellow mustard, a side of chips, and yes I’ll even eat the baby carrots if you deliver it all on a plate to me in the next 5 minutes while I continue onward in quest to memorize all the lines in Paranorman.
Could it be that my little man is scaling a developmental milestone? The one where actual feelings are communicated? Anxiety, fear, nervousness, and possibly the realization that he is a little “different” than other kiddos? (Thank gods!)
It is often said that kids with Awe-ta-zum have splinter skills. So while Roman may excel in gross motor skills like riding a bike, a horse, and a scooter, he does not partake in fine ones like handwriting without a fight. Or the promise of pretzels.
But identifying and expressing emotions? That is a long overdue splinter skill for the Romanator. As a younger child, he would have growled when be bumped his knee, bolted in the opposite direction when anxious, thrown his shoes (into the ocean if handy) when upset, or yelled (with probable addition of choice cusswords) if challenged to *the horror!* follow our routine instead of his current heart’s desire. Now I imagine him donning a British accent and eloquently stating how he feels, in between tea and scones.
Okay, we’re not there yet. But a stomach that feels like gasoline? I’ll take it! As long as no one lights a match.