My Son’s Got Talent (and Autism)

“Yeah, well, that figures.”

We went to a meeting about a scholarship program for our son. It would cover the costs of a private secondary school – books, supplies, tuition and all, and also provide tutoring, even an extensive prep course.

Our 12-year-old son liked the idea, and so he asked us if we would go to the meeting at his public elementary school. He wants to study history and math. He loves facts and figures, and also writing.

We went and listened to the presentation and about how they select thirty or so kids each year for the program, which aims to shape them into agents of change in society. It sounded like something that could help our son get a good education.

After the presentation, we asked if they accept children with disabilities – our son has autism.

The presenter didn’t know, but said she would ask her superiors.

The next morning, the woman called my wife to tell her it would be best if our son didn’t try out for the scholarship. It would be too much for him to handle, too hard, too much pressure. We should protect them – that was the message.

Protect him from what, we thought. Life?

Our son is a kid who slurs his speech and misses social cues. He likes to hug people, but it is that much too long or too many times. He repeats jokes until you have to tell him, once is funny, twice not so much, and, well, don’t go beyond that. This makes him susceptible to bullying, and he’s had it so bad from kids – and a teacher – that we had to switch schools, or risk getting his self esteem beat out of him, emotionally and physically.

He’s also a boy who will listen to his sister play on the piano, and then tell us every single note she just played, or will play every song he learned three years ago, by heart. He’s a boy who will correct your retelling of a story if you get the facts wrong. He loves history, and facts must be respected. And math? He’s got it down. So much so that the very same day that we got cautioned about trying him out for the scholarship program, his school aide told us that his math teacher had told him to refrain from answering every question asked aloud to the class. Why? Because he needs to give the other kids a chance to participate, as in, you’re acing math, let’s help the rest of the class catch up to you.

Protect him?

I think we need to protect him from the scholarship program because they were going to turn him down anyway for his autism.

What does that mean? It means they lost. Our son can do better than them, much better. If given the chance.

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