As a child I loved reading. Loved opening a book for the first time, the smell, the newness. No better feeling than bringing a new book home and seeing how late I could stay awake to finish it. And Enid Blyton books were the best books of all - Mr Pinkwhistle, The Magic Faraway Tree, Adventures of the Wishing Chair. I remember as the house slept, a small boy hid under the duvet at night with a torch, escaping into secret lands...
The Boy can read. Pretty well too. For years it was a skill no-one knew about, just another thing to keep from the rest of the world. Young children are taught to read aloud, but he could never master that. He refused to sit and read with anyone. The process of reading the letters and then forming words was tough enough, never mind having to say them aloud to someone afterwards. For a long time it was assumed he just couldn't read at all.
He loved picture-books though. Even from a very young age. They say a picture paints a thousand words, and for so many of those with autism, there's never been a truer phrase spoken. He could spend hours looking at pictures, taking in every tiny detail, writing silent masterpieces and volumes only for him. At night time, there was no bedtime story, not in the conventional sense anyway. He would just sit and turn the pages, drinking in the pictures, creating a story in his head that was ten times better than the stupid words could ever be.
And then one day when he was playing the video game Lego Star Wars, I snuck into his room and realised he was reading the instructions on the screen. Secretly, away from the prying eyes of the world, he could read. How he'd learnt to will forever be a mystery...
And now his secret is out there he continues to read well. At school he even reads out loud to the class. But whether it will ever be a source of enjoyment for him remains to be seen. At the moment words are just a means to an end, there's little pleasure in them, they're simply a source of information - a gateway to the visual world, not an escape from it.
The other day, he was off school for one reason or another, and so we did some lessons at home. One of them was English. I said that we were going to take it in turns to read to the class as he normally does, and to go and choose a book. And he came back with The Magic Faraway Tree. Dad's favourite. And as he sat next to me and he started to read I looked down and saw his chubby finger following the words, and I was transported back all those years ago. It could have been me, hiding under the duvet, getting lost in the Land of Do-As-You-Please with Moonface and the Saucepan Man.
Secret readers together.
This blog is about bringing up The Boy. He's 12 years old and autistic. It's written by The Dad. It's my words, my view. Other people will think differently and have different opinions. Good.