Individuals on the autism spectrum have restrictive and repetitive behaviours, it is a diagnosing feature of ASD but it will manifest itself differently in each individual. For our Charlie B, he loves asking questions. SO MANY QUESTIONS. He asks questions to make sense of the world around him, allowing him to process what is happening at the present moment, along with what will be happening in the future.
Our close friends and family support Charlie by patiently answering each question, I cannot give them enough credit for doing this. It is not always mundane questions that he throws at people; Charlie B has an excellent sense of humour. He can ask questions that surprise us all and almost certainly lighten everyone’s mood. During a peak hour check out shift at Aldi, he asked the checkout man if he had a cat. The man looked up with a huge smile and said “I do, he is the light of my life, would you like to see a picture?” The man told us as we passed through his checkout that Charlie’s question had been the best part of his day so far.
While serving customers at our local fresh food market stall, Charlie asked a lovely elderly man if he had a watch. The man was thrilled to be able to show Charlie this, stating that it was his favourite possession and he just loved being able to show it to someone. At our local cafe, he will approach the coffee machine within gusto to see if there are new faces at the coffee machine, new people will be addressed with “What’s your name?”, this is Charlie’s way of saying this place is really comfortable and known for me but you are new so let’s just clear this up and establish who you are s that I can feel more at ease. Our favourite staff member at The Lorn Kitchen is Kristy, she is always so kind to Charlie B. “How are you today, Kristy?”, “How are your kids?”, “Where are your kids today?” ,”Why are you wearing lipstick?” As always, Kristy addresses Charlie by name and answers his questions. Cheekily, he will then move to “Is it time for my milkshake?”
Charlie’s repetitive behaviour, which the medical model of ASD would pinpoint as a deficit, has been the highlight of other people’s day. His ‘behaviour’ was the reason someone went home happy after work or after doing the shopping. What a feat for a an 11 year old with a neurological disability.
Recently, we went to Bunnings to stock up on gardening supplies. At the check out, Charlie marched up to the check out lady, “Hi Tina, how are you today”? “Does your clothes dryer have a window at the front”? Tina, the check out lady, stopped in her tracks and put everything down and took the time to engage with Charlie. She directed another staff member to take over the cash register. Tina and Charlie had a conversation about her dryer and the items that are sold in Bunnings. As we walked towards the car, Tina from Bunnings, approached me to say that no customer had ever called her by name or conversed with her as Charlie did, she said it had made her day seeing him.
There is a lesson in this for us all. Charlie’s questions may be different, they may seem a little off topic or off tangent but he is making an effort to engage in the world around him. He is the responsible for making someone’s day a little more interesting, he is the reason someone’s shift at work wasn’t boring, he is the reason why things out of the ordinary happen. Thanks Charlie B, you’re the best!!