For a kid on the spectrum, Boo Bear is not a very fussy fellow. He has definite likes and dislikes (likes his Ipad, dislikes anything that smells like eggs), but if I switch brands of food on him it is not a show stopper. Little things make him happy. He loves to go on long walks with me in the evenings, wandering around our neighborhood and through the nearby college campus. He likes to sit on a bench and watch the college kids walk by. His favorite haunt is the Starbucks at Target. He likes Target even though I find it a bit overwhelming. From his comfortable perch in a Caroline Cart he can watch the world go by and help me choose his favorite foods. When we have had enough, we purchase our groceries and beat a hasty retreat into the quiet of Starbucks. Here he gets his beloved juice box. The funny part is, Boo really does not care much for juice. I never keep it in the house. Even if I bought the exact same kind of juice from somewhere other than Starbucks he probably will not drink it. But, a juice box at Starbucks has become a ritual, and a reward for good behavior.
The other day we were in the checkout aisle at Target. The line was long but Boo was patient. I picked up some beef jerky as a treat to go with the juice. We waited some more. The lady ahead of us seemed to be using at least a dozen different coupons and a Cartwheel app. I noticed Boo was looking at something and I followed his gaze. He was looking at a bag of Pirate’s Booty popcorn. I had no idea if he even liked popcorn, but when I picked it up and put it in the cart he smiled. Eventually we checked out and headed for Starbucks. Once there, I handed him his juice, the jerky, and the popcorn. His eyes grew huge at the sight of all this plunder. Which should he devour first? Eventually, he decided to have a nibble or sip of each in turn and fell to, munching and sipping happily. I took the moment of quiet to enjoy an iced latte. When he was done, he sighed and leaned back in his seat, looking completely content. On that note, we went home.
So, as I said earlier, it is the simple things that make my boy happy. He likes to take long walks with me, sometimes holding my hand. He loves his trips to Target and Starbucks for a quick treat. He doesn’t want video games or a fancy car or expensive clothes. All in all, he is a very cheap date. He wants to be with the people who love him. He wants a treat from Starbucks. He still likes to sit in my lap. I run across people who think that autism is a tragedy. Boo Bear does not strike me as a tragic figure and I think he would be surprised that people sometimes feel sorry for him. He does not feel sorry for himself. So, to those of you who wring your hands about the tragedy of autism, maybe you should go find someone on the spectrum and hang out with them for a while. You might be surprised and have a really good time.