What I Wish I Could Tell Everyone Who Asks, ‘What Functioning Level Is He At?’


It’s no secret that Brian is an Internet fan.

He can Google-search with the best of them. He can hack people’s passwords. It’s a big joke (but not a joke, because it’s true) in his classroom that teachers cannot enter their passwords in front of him because he will quickly memorize them and add apps on to his teacher’s iPads. He can run up big tabs on my Kindle if left unmonitored.

My favorite thing that he does though is dub one of his favorite 64 Zoo Lane episodes with the audio from Sesame Street: Kids Favorite Songs 2 (another favorite).

It’s amazing to watch him. I’m truly in awe. He has it timed just right so that the zoo animals are crashing when the Sesame Street video has a dramatic clip about the meatball falling off the pile of spaghetti. He times it so the zoo animals are eating watermelon at the same time Snuffy finally gets to eat the meatball he’s been chasing.

And my favorite is when he loops the same three seconds of the zoo animals cheering to when all the Sesame Street characters sing “Elmo’s Song.” The 64 Zoo Lane animals truly look like they’re singing “Elmo’s Song.”  So much so, that the first time I saw him do it I didn’t realize he had two YouTube videos going on simultaneously.

Things like this just blow me away. It doesn’t matter how many times he does it, I drop everything I’m doing to watch him. He’s a mastermind.

Often, people who don’t know much about autism and are just meeting myself and Brian ask me innocently what functioning level Brian is at. It’s such a difficult thing to answer.

The standardized evaluations tell us Brian has “moderate-to-severe” autism. Brian is still working on 1st grade sight words in school. He needs help with self-care skills that most kids mastered about four years ago. Expressive language, and sometimes receptive language, are extremely tricky for him.

But he can work any electronic you give him, dub videos with precision, give you directions to places he’s only been once, sing songs after just hearing them a time or two, and memorize motivating words (like “Ratatouille,” “Dreamworks,” “Curious George,” and so on) and spell them.

He is utterly amazing and he really can’t be put into a box of functioning levels, much like all of the spectrum kids that I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know. It’s truly a disservice to my child to try to put him in a box and leave him there. No matter how many things will continue to be difficult for him, there will always be other things that he will excel at.

This post originally appeared on The A-Word.

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