"We think the books are hopeful and sweet because they show how anyone can be a hero."
Calder enjoys books with magic and fantasy adventures the most, like the Harry Potter and the Land of Stories series. He loves these books because the heroes face real-life challenges and overcome those challenges by entering a magical world, finding a mystical object, or discovering a new power. Calder struggles a lot with the real world. Loud sounds can overwhelm him when we are out at the store or mall. He frequently gets bad headaches and struggles with finding foods he can eat. There are a lot of things he can not do, such as playing soccer, drawing, or even getting himself dressed. He can't truly be independent or alone - at least not yet. So he identifies with these characters who have to go on a long and treacherous journey to be the hero.
But, like the characters in the stories, Calder has his own magic wand: typing. Calder's seemingly-impossible battle with communicating is not in fact impossible because of typing. Typing allows Calder to communicate with just about everyone. In fact, it is how quotes like, "We think the books are hopeful and sweet because they show how anyone can be a hero" are able to be shared with all of you.
Typing is a skill that many non-verbal autistic children don't have the opportunity to learn. We were very lucky because when Calder was five, his pediatrician told my parents she was certain that he was reading. She observed that whenever he came into her office, he would look at the signs on the wall and smile or clap his hands at those with funny jokes. We got lucky again because a local church group has a program called Special Nation, which offers a typing program for autistic children.
Calder has been typing since he was five. Even though he's a pro at it, he will be the first to tell you it is not easy. To begin, the iPad hurts his eyes. Sometimes he's not in the mood and feels like he's being forced to communicate when all he wants to do is chill out and relax. And sometimes, it takes him a long time to organize his thoughts and get them all typed out. But when the words and the mood and the inspiration come to him, Calder doesn't just communicate, he teaches, amuses, and inspires. Once, when he was in the hospital and the doctor, who was phenomenal with him, asked if we had any questions, Calder typed: "Please tell me a joke."
Because Calder can type, he can explain so much about how his brain works. He can tell us he's smart. He can tell us not to treat him like a baby. And he can help people understand what it's like to live in an autistic body. And now, Calder is starting to write stories. His very first is about our dog, Total. It begins with: "One day Total drove to the grocery store. And bought a pack of sigarettes." (Calder gets a little lazy with his spelling sometimes.)
Calder's magic wand is a gift. It lets me know him better as well as what he needs. And with his magic wand, he makes me laugh. He makes it so that I can never stop hugging him.