Why don’t people talk about the positive aspects of autism?
By Patty Adams Martinez
As a mom, when you hear your 2 year old — who has a speech delay, trouble looking people in the eyes, and a preference for playing by himself — has autism, you are overwhelmed and scared because you want the best for your child, and you don’t know what the future holds. Every kiddo on the spectrum is so different that you really have no idea what the diagnosis will mean for your child. You know your sweet, silly little boy with the big smile and love of music and letters is still the same as he was the day before, yet directly after the diagnosis all you can do is worry about the unknown.
You immediately read books and blogs, reach out to mom groups — because you want to understand your child, support him, do what’s best for him and his education. You tend to only hear the challenges he’ll face and the “obstacles” he will need to overcome. In those early days no one seems to speak about the positives that come with autism — at least for some on the spectrum. It’s all worst-case scenarios.
I’m here to tell you there are many happy chapters to my son Logan’s story. I’d like to share 4 myths that Logan busts!
Myth 1 – Children with autism are not empathetic
Logan is now seven. He is incredibly empathetic and doesn’t want to see other’s feelings hurt. If he sees a child in distress, he immediately goes to their side to try to help stop the tears and return a smile to their face.
Myth 2 – Children with autism are not intelligent
Academically, Logan’s advanced in math and reading, has a strong recall of facts, a super-sized imagination, an ear for music, and a great talent for art. His mind can easily wander, except when he is thinking about something he really enjoys. In that case, he can get hyper-focused on the tiny minutia involved with the subject. He can recite little known facts, or even a full video he watched on YouTube on a subject of interest.
Myth 3 – Determination and focus is misconstrued as obsession
His favorite topic of the moment: Sonic the Hedgehog. His fascination with the lightning-fast video game character has prompted him to draw a picture of Sonic every day until the movie comes out on February 14, 2020. He posts all his pictures on Instagram at @sonicaday.
Logan has already been drawing his blue buddy for more than 200 days and counting. As a mom of a kid who is naturally restless and needs to keep moving, frankly I’m impressed —and thrilled — with his ability to sit still long enough to draw a picture each day. Add to that, he’s actually really, really good. He has a nice sense of color, movement, and perspective. He’s able to capture a wide variety of facial expressions and feelings. After a trial session, a former art teacher placed him in a class with kids nearly twice his age, saying he would fit right in.
Myth 4 – Autistic people have no imagination
Logan’s interest in art doesn’t end with Sonic. At 6, the avid reader decided he wanted to collaborate with me on his own book. He drew all of the images for an A to Z picture book called Kitties Don’t Eat Quesadillas, which I wrote the words to.
Our inspiration was our cat Izzy. Already a picky eater, when Izzy became sick, she stopped eating foods that she normally liked. So, Logan, a fellow picky eater, thought: Why don’t we give her a quesadilla? It was solid logic for a six-year-old. He’s a picky eater and he likes quesadillas. Maybe Izzy would too? But I laughed and said: “Kitties don’t eat quesadillas!” A fan of the Dragons Love Tacos books, Logan immediately blurted out: “That would be a great book title!” And we went from there.
Kitties Don’t Eat Quesadillas
The descriptions of why the cats wouldn’t like certain foods are largely based on Logan’s own tastes. Logan has lots of sensory issues when it comes to eating. He carefully inspects the look, feel, and smell of foods before he’ll even think about placing it into his mouth (and most foods never make it in). He’s not alone. Many kids on the spectrum have similar issues. But even children without IEPs have very—ahem—discerning palettes that their caregivers have to learn to understand and to live with.
It was just supposed to be a fun family project, so we only made copies of the book for us and his Grandmas. But when friends and family saw Kitties Don’t Eat Quesadillas, they were proud of Logan’s hard work (as were we!) and encouraged us to self-publish it. We did, agreeing to give 25 percent of profits to Rock N’ Rescue and 25 percent to North Shore Animal League — two animal rescues we have adopted cats from.
The book is dedicated to fellow members of the special-needs community, whose children struggle with sensory sensitivities surrounding food. We know meals can be a daily struggle. We hope this book will help start those conversations of why being picky isn’t always a choice (for cats, or humans).
In promoting this book, we have been told that Logan has been an inspiration to other kids, and that they are now setting lofty goals for themselves and what they want to achieve — which is amazing. He’s also inspiring adults, me included. He sees no boundaries. If he wants to do something, he thinks he can, and so he does. He doesn’t doubt or second-guess himself. He doesn’t let what others think sway him. In fact, he has become a leader that others want to follow.
The future is still unknown yet exciting!
People who have seen some of Logan’s artwork (including pieces that aren’t cat or Sonic-related) have asked if they can buy one, or commission him to do a piece for them. Let me reiterate that he is seven.
My husband and I are excited to see what the future holds for Logan, and what art he will create next. Long gone are those fears I once had as a mom, wondering How will he function in the world? I am now certain he will be just fine. He will have struggles — as all people do. But he was born not to blend into the background, but to stand out. And that is exactly what he’s doing.
Patty Adams Martinez is a writer, editor, and celebrity booker. She is the former Deputy Editor for Allure and NYLON magazines, and her work as appeared in publications such as Seventeen, Parents, and The New York Post. She is currently collaborating with her son, Logan, on their second children’s book — a follow-up to Kitties Don’t Eat Quesadillas.