He runs to make his mind still, to organize himself and to get rid of the noise from this loud, confusing world. The more he's moved, the more he's introduced patterns and rhythm into his routine. Laps around the house are a daily ritual. He's made it more complex as he's developed, but the basics are the same. There is a pattern of movement -- specific foot patterns based on whatever song or chant he chooses to accompany the run, and he can not be stopped until he is ready to be.

This is James, and this is our story.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Changing the Conversation

You know when you feel every day is exactly the same as the one before, and things start to seem like they are always going to stay the same? That's the way it's been for us the last year.

James has been obsessed with exotic cars for over a year. We talk about them all day long. Every day. Questions and lists and stats and comparisons. I hear "Is this fancier than that?" and "Have you ever seen...?" in my sleep.

Because of the journey we've taken together (that I wrote about in the Colgate Scene here), I never take anything he does or says for granted. Each interaction, no matter how seemingly insignificant to the parents of another nine year old, turns into a Hallmark moment as the parent of a child on the autism spectrum.

So although I'm really bummed that I missed the moment, I'm lucky that I wasn't actually there for the thing that changed everything or it would have turned into a scene from a LifeTime channel movie.

James and I watch the show "Chasing Classic Cars" together on the Velocity channel, which is like the polar opposite of the LifeTime channel. I DVR all the shows and then pick ones I think he'll be interested in. We've been watching them for awhile, and he's finally stopped having to fast forward through them to see if there are any other fancy cars showing up in the episode, and he's just started to just watch and enjoy the show itself. That's huge for him.

So when I found out the star of the show Wayne Carini (who owns F40 Motorsports right near my in-laws' house) was having a Cars and Coffee event to benefit Autism Speaks, I knew there was no way we'd miss it. I wondered what would happen if James were able to meet him. I envisioned all sorts of rapid fire questions about Bugattis and Paganis, and I was genuinely excited to hear James ask those same questions I hear 100 times a day- because it would be to someone who understands his passion.

But this? I was SO not prepared for this.

When we got to the show there were already tons of amazing cars there. We had met up with good friends and wanted to catch up a bit, but James immediately started pulling us around the lot, making sure he mentally cataloged every car he saw. As much as there was to see in the lot, he still couldn't keep his eyes off the road, though, because cars kept pulling in. So we would lap the perimeter, him with one eye on each car we passed and the other on the 2 driveways entering the lot. We didn't stop. 

I needed a breather. So I stayed behind to keep an eye on his younger brother who had basically moved in to the mobile video game van. My job was to stand outside and hand him dollar bills every 5 minutes so he could keep playing while James circled. All the proceeds from the games went directly to Autism Speaks, so I was more than happy to empty my friends' and mother-in-law's wallets as well as my own while Tony brought James inside the F40 showroom.

Only one money transfer had taken place when I looked towards the showroom and saw Wayne Carini come out, followed closely by James and his entourage, and then a number of other people. Tony was looking at me pointing to our camera and then to Wayne. I wasn't sure if they were stalking him for a photo, but it was enough for me to leave my post (Johnny sure wasn't about to go anywhere with at least 12 quarters and an entire mobile vehicle filled with games, so I moved towards the growing crowd following Wayne.)

And I watched THIS happen:

Wayne Carini put James in the driver's seat of his famous 1958 Tojeiro
And I turned to Wayne Carini and said "thank you, this means a ton". Mr. Carini said "I think he's caught the car bug now" and I laughed that he's had it for a while and the Bugatti in the Barn episode was his favorite. I had no idea how James happened to end up in Wayne Carini's driver's seat, I was just thrilled to see James so happy.

Tony told me afterwards what happened:

While they were in the showroom, James turned to Tony and pointed in front of him and asked "Is that Wayne?"

Wayne heard him and turned and said "Yes, I'm Wayne. What's your name?"

And James said:

James and Wayne Carini
(awesome photo thanks to Jen Oliva)
And it is a really, really good thing I didn't actually hear him say this because I would have completely lost it...

"My name is James. I'm a big fan of your show. My mom and I watch it all the time".

THIS? THIS IS IT! This is the first time that James has started a conversation that didn't involve a question he needed to be answered for his own benefit, or to add information to his own internal catalog. He introduced himself to his car hero Wayne Carini, and told him he was a big fan. That's it. No questions. No probing for information from the one person who can answer all the questions he asks everyone else all the time.

I think James' interest in cars is awesome. I have a blast watching his reaction, and hearing him talk about them and ask questions of me and Tony and our friends and family. It is so much fun to watch James go up to a car at a show and start asking questions of anyone standing nearby.

But what he did,on his own, last weekend? That was unbelievably huge. It changed the conversation. This journey we are on just gets more and more incredible every day.

But be reassured that not everything changed. After he talked to Wayne, James went back to circling and scanning the roads for the next fancy car. And then all of a sudden, this pulled in to the lot. As soon as it did, James knew he had seen them all, and he turned to me and said "OK Mom. We can go home now."
Herb Chambers arriving in his Bugatti

You can see all our photos from Wayne Carini's Cars and Coffee to benefit Autism Speaks here:


Lisa said...

That would have reduced me to a puddle. What an amazing step for James!!!

Glad he got to spend a day with something and someone he is so passionate about!

Jessica said...

This makes me SO happy. :) I love that you're making his obsession into something that is helping him grow.

RWP said...

thanks for making me cry in the office :-) love you guys.

krismac said...

Thank you guys so much. I never imagined his interest in cars would lead us to where we are today, and certainly never thought it would help him learn how to interact with other people. It's all pretty incredible!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kristin,

I work with Tony and he just passed along your blog to me yesterday.

It's so passionate and I think your journey with your son is incredible. This story in particular is such a great one.

Caitlin Doherty