My son, Colin, blows me away every day. He is 28 years old and was diagnosed with Asperger’s at a young age, when the relatively unknown Asperger’s was still in a cul de sac of uncertainty. Now, Asperger’s is more well-known.
We spent Colin’s early years wondering, searching, trying to understand what it meant and what to do. I no longer think about that. I focus now on what I can do to share his creative genius with the world.
Colin is a storyteller — a really good one. He conjures up entire worlds, vivid mental images, clever plots and complex characters in remarkable detail, sometimes developing storylines, chapters, book sequels over long periods of years. Colin is a talented writer whose words dance off the page, but for the most part, his stories are in his head, and they stay there with remarkable recall.
There was a moment when it became crystal clear to me just how remarkable his brain was. It was middle school spring break on a father-son trip to the Grand Canyon. Driving across the Arizona desert, I probed Colin on his then multi-chapter novel work in progress, “Dimension Wars.” He told me there were 20 (or so) chapters, so I asked him to tell me in random order what was in each chapter. I’d ask about Chapter 3 and he would describe it. I’d then ask about Chapter 11 and he’d describe it. And so it went for a good long while. Immediate recall; no hesitation. And he’s still working on the story, never having written it down but still knows the whole story — chapter and verse.
And this is only one of the many stories he’s creating at the same time. At one point we created a list of 38 stories Colin had in his head — some short and others multi-chapter tomes.
Fast forward past high school diploma, past college diploma and the stories kept coming. And just a few months ago, he told me about the group role-playing game he leads. He plays 500 characters while the others in the game play one or two. He can tell you about each of the 500 characters without referring to notes.
The main challenge I faced as a parent of an adult on the autism spectrum was how to help direct Colin’s remarkable talents and passions. In his case, that meant him getting his stories on to paper (AKA the computer).
That’s what we did. We hired a writing coach, helped Colin create a website (www.fishandcherries.com) for his stories, movie and book reviews, flash fiction and random musings, and created a daily writing schedule. He wrote and he wrote a lot.
His head is still far too fast for his fingers — his stories are building up in his head faster than he can get them down. Staying focused can be a challenge for him, and he has faced the typical ups and downs of all writers. He is torn between wanting to work on his epic novels, movie reviews, comic books, and articles about topics that can make a difference in the world. There just never seems enough time.
I play the role of the coach, organizer and teacher. But he does the hard work of writing and creating new ideas. We work every day learning techniques about how to keep organized, focused and more productive. It’s a joy to watch. He is regularly writing for other websites — comic and book reviews for Fanbase, articles about autistic people in the Art of Autism and occasional articles for other culture-focused sites.
Last month, Colin published his first children’s book, “The Fire Truck Who Got Lost.” He wrote the text and recruited his talented friend Amber to do the illustrations. With the funds he raised in a crowdfunding campaign, we hired a graphic artist to create the book. It’s a charming story about a firetruck named Barnabus. You can find it on Amazon or on the Art of Autism Online Store.
Colin is energized by the recognition and is now playing a leading role in a new effort called the Autism Creatives Collective in the Bay Area, for creative people on the autism spectrum who want to share their talents with the world.
It’s just the beginning. Colin has a comic book in final writing stages, nine chapters of a novel already written, three volumes of a fan fiction series mapped out and a radio drama in development.
My job continues — supporting and encouraging but also playing the role of the agent looking for opportunities for Colin’s words and impacts to spread far and wide. It’s the best job I can think of, and there’s no joy greater than watching my son reach new heights every day. Watch out, world — Colin’s coming!
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