Thursday, December 30, 2004

Idiot Girl at Inn N Out

I've been reading the new book by Temple Grandin, "Animals in Translation." Grandin is interesting because she is autistic and has enough language and ability to generalize to talk about what it is like to be autistic. My daughter Bevin is not autistic. She belongs to that broad spectdum of disabilities that autistic belongs to, however. And I learn more about her when I read about autism than anything else. Autism is diagnosed on a spectrum--it's like you get points and so many points add up to autism, a few less to autiistic like, and a few less--you have my daughter. Little language. Profoundly out of it.

Grandin is a gift because she can talk about what it is like to be inside a mind that must be something like my daughter's. As she talks about her experiences, I often feel a sense of recognition.

One thing that she focuses on is the way that she thinks in pictures. That she doesn't have memory or thought stored away in language. She has that memory, that experience, that wisdom stored away in pictures.

An instance yesterday that reminds me how profoundly--and weirdly--visual my daughter is. (My fondly named "Idiot Girl"--the source of my name.)

I took her driving yesterday. Left to sit at home, she'll either cover her head with a blanket and sleep. Or roam the house, clearing off surfaces, stuffing things in closets, beg for soda. Driving, she is amazingly engaged. She looks around, at the cars, at the scenery. And she will not fall asleep. It doesn't matter how far or how long you drive.

But to the incident of yesterday. And to the visual memory. We were driving yesterday. And we stopped for lunch at Inn N Out Burger--a popular chain in California. I set us up at a counter with high chairs and a view out onto people waiting for their burgers. She thought it was great fun. We ate our burgers, fries, and she took her drink along. When we returned that evening we went out for a drive to visit friends with my husband and his son. They decided to stop for a burger at an Inn N Out Burger. All of these chains are set up in exactly the same way. Bevin trounced in with great confidence (she is great for ritual, repeated experience). Before I realized what was happening, she recognized her chair--the second chair from the right in the middle bar with the high chairs. She threw her self into the chair with great gusto. And greated the three teenage boys sitting in the remaining 3 chairs (of the four) in the group. "Hi," she smiled.

She had remembered her place, the pattern. The three teenage boys were beside the point. This was her place, her chair. The place she gets good food and has great fun.

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