Editor’s Note: We’d like to welcome back our Pages and Patterns guest blogger, Fran Ciotoli, who reflects on the pages on her shelves and patterns in her life. This is Fran’s first “Patterns” post.
Fran is the mother of two young children, Ava and Christopher. Christopher has autism. In her “Patterns” posts Fran will share a photograph of one of Christopher’s pattern-creations, accompanied by a brief description of the creation and some thoughts on it.
As always, we invite readers to share your reactions in a comment.
One evening when Christopher was just a little over four years old, I was making dinner when my husband Joe called me into the living room. He pointed to Christopher’s latest visual map and asked me in an incredulous voice, “Do you recognize that?” I looked briefly at the three rows of magnetic letters and was about to turn away when the ASD—Autism Spectrum Disorder—caught my attention (does anyone see the irony in that?) I looked more closely and then it hit me: Christopher had recently been introduced to the computer and he had recreated the keyboard from memory, right down to the numbers above the letters, the space bar, the comma and period after the M, and so on!
I have a picture of a two-year-old Christopher lining up those same magnetic letters on the refrigerator in alphabetical order. What floored us then was that he did it backwards. (Have you ever tried to do this—it’s really, really hard!)
Playing for Christopher has almost always involved patterning of some kind. Everything and anything is carefully placed “just-so” in a way that makes perfect sense to him. Between the ages of two and four, Christopher used books, socks, pillows, small plastic animals, paper plates, you-name-it to create elaborate, winding lines throughout the house. Over time, we watched what we saw as haphazard line-ups develop into recognizable visual maps. It was at the point at which he recreated the QWERTY keyboard that we realized that Christopher thinks in pictures.
He is able to see differently than we mere “muggles,” if you will. It is not always easy to figure out what Christopher is saying, but that he is creating visual maps is clear. A very wise therapist once said about Christopher: “It is not always clear what is his intent, but that he has intent is always clear.” As I hope to show in further “Patterns” posts, his intentions and my understanding are becoming both clearer and more complex.