My Little Sylar

squared circles - Clocks

Image by Leo Reynolds via Flickr

My son has an (often annoying) fascination with clocks. Time used to haunt him, and be the cause of many a meltdown. Until we got him a Time Timer, which is a fantastic device for helping special needs children cope with issues around waiting and transition. Now he thinks clocks and watches are quite awesome. So awesome in fact that his collection of clocks from around the house and from everyone’s wrists, is sitting just off to the side of where I am now, and I can count five watches, one timer, one alarm clock, and two wall clocks. All together. All driving me nuts.

Whenever we go out shopping, he will want to find and stare at clocks. He’s done this at The Warehouse, Farmers, and every Two Dollar style store we’ve gone to lately. He’ll happy dance in front of them for long stretches of time, generally making people stare, but they are almost always too polite to ask what he is doing. We get some questioning looks and the occasional searching question, nothing too worrisome though, and it keeps him happy, giving me the chance to get some shopping done.

He’ll often want to talk about the clocks he sees, ask if he can turn the dials on the back, tells me which ones are working and which ones aren’t, what colours they are, and whether they are a “bong bong” clock or not (like Big Ben).

He has an amusing habit of rushing up to people who he feels comfortable with, even if he’s only met them once before in passing, and putting his ear to their wrist-watch to listen to the ticking. He frequently asks for their watches, and sometimes they’re nice enough to give them to him to run off with and look at.

At his great grandmother’s house, one of the first things he does is collect her unused wall clock, her standing clock, and her wrist-watch, place them on the couch, and lie down to watch them all. He always asks for her other two wall clocks and her other standing clock, although he’s always told he can’t have them. No harm in trying!

I’ve never liked the ticking sound of clocks. Unlike some people who find it soothing, I find it distracting and irritating. Whenever I had university exams (I had nine years worth of those things), I always carefully chose a seat away from the clocks, because hearing ticking would majorly disturb my line of thought. If I’m watching a movie, I take clocks off the wall and hide them in the ever-present washing pile so the ticking won’t disrupt me sinking into the movie world. OK, so maybe I’m a little odd too, but I just can’t seem to block out the tick tick tick..

My most recent strong association with that constant and multiple ticking, is from watching Heroes. Sylar is my favourite character on the show; he’s so multi-layered and misunderstood. Sylar is always closely associated with clocks, and frequently shown with them and their tickings. So I find myself absently thinking of my son as my Little Sylar.

You may have noticed as well that my header is of cogs. There are layers of meaning in the header image (the little cog that doesn’t quite fit the rest of society’s cogs, that doesn’t quite fit into the niche it is meant to..). But part of the inspiration was also the attractiveness of clocks and cogs to the autistic mind: Clocks are beautifully predictable, in a world full of confusing uncertainties. You can rely on a clock. The steady ticking noise, the clock-wise motion, the speed of the hands:

“Clocks will go as they are set, but man, irregular man, is never constant, never certain.” (Thomas Otway).

Well, until the battery dies anyway. But my son finds broken things amusing too, so that’s not a problem either.

My Little Sylar drives me nuts sometimes, and all this ticking does too, but putting up with a little bit of crazy, to reduce some of my son’s anxieties and to give him joy, is worth it. He’s been through various obsessions in the past, and I suspect he’ll find a new obsession soon anyway, given time 🙂

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3 Responses to My Little Sylar

  1. Jenny says:

    Wow, our little men have another thing in common! Mine is currently fixated on fireworks, so his love for clocks has not gotten quite as large. However, he has had an affinity for clocks for a long time. One of his favorite items at my mom’s home is her travel alarm clock (the ticking kind, sorry) that folds up. Even now that it has no battery he still likes to carry it around.

    I can’t believe you mentioned Big Ben! I just wrote a post about that on Monday!

    Thanks for sharing. I enjoy your blog!

  2. Richard says:

    I too have a son with Autism and his name is Sylar. Though he doesn’t have any obsession with clocks he loves taking pictures and videos, often at different speeds and often of the same thing over and over until he gets it just the way he wants it.

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