If you follow me on facebook then you have seen my posts about our journey with Joshua, our 12 year old with asperger's syndrome. Asperger's syndrome is on the autism spectrum. Kids with asperger's are fascinating. Some folks call them "little professors". Oh, yes, they have their social challenges, but they can also be highly intelligent in some areas. Children with asperger's often will fixate on certain things. It's like a light goes off in their head and they go through a stage where they have to know everything about a certain topic. It could be a sport, a movie, a T.V. show, or school subject...you just never know what it might be, when it will start, or how long it will last.
When Joshua was younger, it was Thomas the Train. He had to watch every show. He knew every character in the series. He collected the different trains and the different play sets. He read every book or we read it to him. He knew, and still does know, everything about Thomas the Train.
Later he moved on to helicopters. It was amazing! He could literally tell you everything that you wanted to know about almost any helicopter you could think of. Since heightened senses are also something that an asperger's child has, that brought a whole new dimension to his knowledge. He could (and still can) hear a helicopter coming before any of us could. He could then tell you almost exactly what kind of helicopter it was by the sound.
Other topics that have caught his interest are bowling, football, and, most recently, WWE wrestling. Yes, as in professional wrestling! Let me tell you the story.
I think that you all know that Sarah and I are directors of a ministry called "Good News Mission" to the low income housing area and really all of the low income folks in the town where we live. There is a little old lady that comes up to the mission by the name of "Miss Glenda". Miss Glenda is the Grandma of the projects located right across the street from where we live. She is always helping someone out. She even gets up at four o'clock in the morning and walks through the projects picking up cans and sweeping the sidewalks! She is an amazing lady.
She is also a lady who loves watching professional wrestling. She would come up to the mission and try to talk to the boys about wrestling, but, since my boys were never permitted to watch it, they really couldn't hold a conversation with her. Well, we decided to allow them to watch it so that they could talk with Miss Glenda and, sure enough, after a while, it became one of those things that caught Joshua's interest and he had to learn everything he could about it.
One year he received a huge, thick, wrestling encyclopedia from Sarah's mom for Christmas. He devoured that thing. I mean he took that with him everywhere he went and read it over and over again...and it truly was thick! It actually fell apart and we had to buy him the new updated one.
One day we were on the way to therapy when Joshua asked if we could play the flag game. He said he would describe a flag and I needed to guess what kind of flag it was. Well, since I had no idea that he knew what any flags looked like, my curiosity was piqued and I agreed to play. The first couple of flags were pretty common flags like the United States flag of Canada. Then, however, he began to describe flags that weren't as common but still recognizable like the flag of Japan. I was amazed, because I had no idea he knew all of these flags. Finally, he described a flag that was blue with a shield on it and a "little British flag" up in the corner. Well, now I was truly shocked. First of all I didn't even know he knew what the British flag looked like let alone a blue flag with a shield and a little British flag in the corner! I guessed a couple of countries that are related to Britain but was wrong every time. Finally I gave up and, in an exasperated tone, Joshua said "Dad, it's the flag of Fiji!". I countered "Joshua, how in the world do you know what the flag of Fiji looks like?" To which he answered "Oh, well that's where Jimmy Snuka, the professional wrestler is from."
It seems that beside the description of all of the WWE wrestlers in his encyclopedia, was the flag of the country in which they were born. He knew all of the flags from studying them in that big thick book!
Well, I decided to "strike while the iron is hot" and study everything we could about geography and other countries since that's where his interest was at the time. That was a decision that I am glad that I made. That incident happened a few years ago, and we have bought him geography book after geography book and he has really taken to them.
A couple of weeks ago we were playing a geography game online. The further you got, the harder the questions were. One level was all flags, and, of course, he got everyone of them correct almost without fail. I wasn't surprised at that. What I was surprised at was when they played small audio clips of languages and you had to choose what language it was from a list of four languages and he got almost all of them correct as well! Even the complicated languages like Russian. He didn't even look at the choices, he just listened to the clip and told me what it was. He didn't know all of the words, mind you, but he knew enough of them or could tell by the accent of the speaker.
Once again, we are "striking while the iron is hot". He announced to us that he wanted to learn a lot of languages but the first ones he wanted to learn were Spanish, French and Russian. So, our young fifth grader is now learning Russian from a set of books that a missionary friend of ours that served in the Ukraine gave to him.
I could tell you other fascinating stories about his love for countries and languages but will save those for another day. Could we, however, have found Joshua's calling? Time will tell. Until then, we are praying that God will continue to guide us in Joshua's and all of our boy's learning so that they can be all that He wants them to be.