Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Autism Diaries: where are your "twos"?

They're gone. Suddenly and completely. Just as it is sometimes with a suddenly shaved-off mustache, we didn't notice it right away. But something was different--calmer, quieter--and, looking back a few days after the change, we realized it dated to the day he turned 18.

J has been obsessed with the number two ever since we moved into a house with two staircases and had the rickety back staircase removed. The brief excitement of two staircases, with all the options for farcical, running-around-the-house mischief they afforded, was over. A fixation on which houses in our old Victorian neighborhood still had two staircases turned into repeated questioning about "how many staircases does x's house have?" (where x = anyone who lives in a house with two staircases), which, as we tried to minimize how much this question disrupted other conversations in progress, we generally answered, quietly, by signing the number two:

This "two" eventually turned into a floating signifier which J no longer solicited via staircase questions, but simply by requesting it outright: "Sign 'two'" or "Give me your twos." Or, as a work-around for the quotas we imposed, "Sign 'V'" (signed "V" being an ASL homonym for signed "two"). Or, when he eventually realized there was yet another homonym, "Sign 'peace.'" Seemingly morphing into J's inshaAlla, it became his routine sign-off on text and email messages: "I'm about to shower. Sign two." Except, of course, when he was pretending to be someone else.

For he long knew that "twos" made him different, and, in particularly that they could compromise his ability to get through a job interview and not get fired. Accordingly, he gradually managed to narrow the people whose twos he requested down to myself and his father. But we never expected them to go away entirely.

But gone they were, starting, as it turned out, on the day he turned 18. It was as if he'd made a quiet resolution some time ago about growing up--a resolution about which, for fear of causing a relapse, we didn't dare query him. But one month has passed, and the twos are still gone. So it now seems safe, if not to query J, at least to write about them here.

It's a milestone moment in two ways: both the end of a ten-year obsession, and the clearest indication of how much self-control he's gained in these final months of his childhood. There's even a bit of sadness: in a weird way, I'm missing those twos and the eccentricity they signified. More practically speaking, I'm missing what had been a handy negotiating tool--"Ok, then no twos for one week"--though I realize that seeking out more internal motivations is a good development for all of us.

Not that the obsessions are completely over. A new one appears to be coming out of the woodwork, but I'm guessing that he has a bit more company here:

"...if you pay me ten dollars!" It looks like we have new negotiating tool.

And then there's that other obsession: the one that has him forever starting conversations with guests at parties and staff members at restaurants and other establishments. The one that keeps him talking and socializing and scheming when there's nothing else obvious to talk or socialize or scheme about. Dating back as it does to when he was three months old and first able to express volition, it will, I'm quite confident, never go away:

Nor am I sure I want it to.


C T said...

My two-week-old likes to stare at our bedroom ceiling fan. I noticed her focusing on its dark stationary star-like shape almost as soon as we came home from the hospital. Her face clearly showed wonder when I turned the fan on! Go, ceiling fans!

Deirdre Mundy said...

Has he considered a career in HVAC? He could work with all sorts of fans and ventillation systems, and a deep knowledge of fans would seem less quirky coming from a repairman......

And people would pay him MORE than 10$!

Anonymous said...

I love the twos, and can imagine its bittersweet to see them disappear. So great that it's 2, V, and peace.