Daniel Turns 8

Today is Daniel’s 8th birthday. He’s very excited. I’m sure he will be even more excited when he gets his presents, which are a couple plush sharks and some Star Wars toys he wanted.

Yesterday Anna noted that Daniel was talking a great deal more, and that he was sharing how his day went without being prompted. All last year, Anna made Daniel tell her three things that happened while he was at school and she made him listen to her as she told him about her day. It was often a struggle, as he didn’t want to say anything about how his day went. That, after all, smacks of smalltalk, and we on the spectrum aren’t exactly the biggest fans of smalltalk. We don’t much see the point of it.

But now Daniel is starting to talk more. He’s been telling us both a few things that have happened at school, though most of Daniel’s talk is really him asking me an endless series of questions. I’m guessing that in many ways, the average parent of an autistic child has it fairly easy when their child does this. Easy, you say? Let’s be honest, most people know a great deal about whatever it is they do, but almost certainly don’t know whatever obscure details their child wants to know about their obsessions. That means the child will have to do all the research on his or her own, and that also means they will eventually give up on asking their parents for information.

I’m not so lucky. Did you know that, other than the bull shark, which is found worldwide, that there are several other species of river shark, mostly around India and Australia? I do. Did you know that basking sharks are called basking sharks because they swim slowly near the surface of the ocean and thus appear to be basking in the sun? I do. Did you know that basking sharks annually shed their gill rakers, which they need to feed on plankton? I do. I know that the shortfin mako is the fasted shark in the world and that tiger sharks give birth to live young and that there is a species of epaulette shark that can use its pectoral fins to walk short distances on land to get back into the water. So when Daniel asks me questions about sharks, I can answer them.

None o which prevents him from asking me to look up more information about sharks anyway, including anything I have given him answers to. So don’t think I get out of looking up the information with and for him. I don’t.

On the other hand, I don’t mind in the least answering his questions, though it can be a problem when he is asking questions from the back seat of the van while I’m driving, and I’m guessing he’s less annoyed than he might otherwise be precisely because I can answer most of his questions (I’m a bit of an information junky, so most of his questions about most things).

In any case, the birthday boy will be getting a gluten-free cake decorated with sharks. Or at least, that’s how I intend to decorate the cake when I make it this afternoon.

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