My autistic son struggles with his fine motor skills, so art-work has never been something he particularly enjoys or excels at. As he learnt to hold and move a pen, he became a great little scribbler. It started out random, with no obvious or expressed intent behind the marks on the paper. But one day I’d noticed he was particularly involved with his drawing, and decided to ask him after he had finished, “what is that?” Not really expecting an answer, I got one anyway, “a wheel!” And it did kind of look like wheel… it was circular at any rate. I decided this was such a great step forward, and quite symbolic of the hidden aspects of the autistic individual, so I’ve kept that treasured picture.
He doesn’t do much art, and when he is in the mood he prefers to have other people draw things for him. I’ve got into the habit of regularly asking him what he’s drawn whenever he has made the effort. Sometimes he’ll tell me a picture is of his brother, or similar, but most times I get no answer at all.
On Monday I went to pick him up from kindergarten. He had drawn some colourful squiggle and I asked his support worker if she knew what the picture was of. She said no, and I assured her (in that confident way that us mothers have) that it was of something, and I’d ask him what it was when I got home. He was far too busy making sand-cakes for the play-oven at the time to pay attention to such questions.
So I got him home. I took out his kindergarten art-work, and sat down beside him on the couch. I made eye contact with him and I asked slowly and clearly, “what is this?” as I presented him with his picture. He paused, and looked at me sideways – like I must be crazy to have to ask. And he told me, clearly, simply, and without doubt…
“That’s a scribble.”