This post is by Michael Lorenzen. It is submitted by request of my wife as part of a series on creative storytelling by fathers of special needs kids.
Recently, I spent a week with C1 (the son on the spectrum) at the fair. See Julie's post Photo Essay: Proud of Proud Equestrians! for details.
C1 won first place for the first time on Tuesday of fair week. He proudly carried his trophy with him as we left the horse riding stadium. C1 and I had discovered the 4-H food stand at the fair years ago and when we visit we always eat there. This year, we visited the fair every day. And of course, C1 insisted that we eat at the "restaurant" every day he was at the fair.
C1 carried his trophy into the 4-H stand. As we ordered our food, we caught the attention of a boy who was working for 4-H. As we sat done with our food (hot dog and fries for C1 of course), he sat down next to us.
The boy said, "Wow! That is a neat trophy. What did you get it in?"
C1 responded, "In horse riding."
The boy continued, "I entered pigs in the fair this year. I hope I win a trophy. I am finally going to by free of working here and showing my pigs. I will get to go on the midway rides soon."
I liked the boy. He was very open and friendly. I had the sense he often invited himself to tables and inserted himself into conversations. He promptly told me he was ten years old which is the same age as C1.
Storytelling runs in my family. It goes back at least to my paternal grandpa who could with a straight face tell the most outrageous stories and made his marks, his kids and grand kids, believe every word until they caught on. My dad carried on the tradition. He often made unusual claims to my brother and I when we were young and we often believed him. As we watched movies such as the Wizard of Oz, he would tell us the ending. When we asked how he knew, he would retort, "I wrote it!" Needless to say, we caught on to him fairly quickly but he still tells stories to this day.
I tell stories too. I am an academic librarian who is internationally known for teaching critical thinking skills. I have a doctorate and I am comfortable in front of audiences from my kids, my staff at the library, college students, and higher education administrators. And, I like to tell stories. My tales are usually segregated from the daily work flow (no tales at the Reference Desk to patrons!) but my boys and wife get no such mercy. They come all the time. It is up to them to figure out if it is true or not.
C2 (who is 6) was on to me early in life. He has doubted my stories for years. (How could a four year old be so skeptical?) However, the older autistic son does not tend to question my stories. That does not mean he believes them, but he hasn't challenged them.
That changed at the fair on this day. C1 called me out.
As I said, I liked the 4-H boy. As such, I gave him the courtesy of a story. I said, "I wish I could compete in the fair. I worked hard all year on my project and they wouldn't let me enter!"
The boy answered, "What did you do?"
I responded, "I raised a King Cobra snake. I love him and he is a good pet. But there is no class for him at the fair! He was even rejected for pocket pets in the open class!"
The boy was very sympathetic. He told me that that was unfair.
I continued by saying, "And that is not all. I think the fair is biased just because of one little incident last September. My King Cobra accidentally got out of the house. He ended up eating the neighbor's cat."
The boy said, "Oh! What a tough break."
However, C1 was having none of this. He stopped eating his hot dog and said, "Dad, stop telling stories. We do not have a King Cobra!"
I was stunned. C1 had never ratted me out in out in public before. My story to the boy was ruined! I had so many layers to the saga I could have elaborated on if C1 had not stopped the tale!
The boy looked at me and grinned. He said, "Well, I was not sure but..."
I guess I am doing a good job raising both an autistic and a non-autistic son. Their critical thinking skills are sharp. They can hear a tale, test their bull shit detectors, and sense if something is wrong.
C2 is telling stories already. The family tradition will continue. However, if C1 eventually tells stories, I know my life will have been a success. I think some autistic individuals can tell stories too. And their perspective will make them all the more powerful. Come on C1, I am counting on you! And my hat off to you, as you can tell people when your Dad is full of it. But please don't do it again...