The Alligator King And His Seventh Son

Filed Under (Adam, Autism and Intelligence, Communication, Joy) by Estee on 14-10-2009

Adam had a more verbal day today. I guess that’s normal lingo for a family with an autistic child who has real trouble with verbal communication. One his “more verbal” days, he can get out phrases and sometimes full sentences. He can take his teacher to the closet, grab his lunch bag, put on his velcro shoes and proclaim “go home!” twenty minutes before dismissal. He can come home and reach for his toy alligator from the shelf and then find a smooth concave shell and say to me “crown it.” When I acknowledge that he’s pretending it’s the Alligator King from Sesame Street (yes he can watch the video about 500 times a day if we let him), Adam is very pleased. He crowns his pretend alligator a few times and moves its mouth as if he’s trying to help the toy talk. I pause to wonder what Adam thinks as he manipulates the mouth with no sound.

I imagine all the things he wants to say to me on tougher communication days, and how frustrating it must feel. I imagine all the questions he has to ask his parents regarding their recent separation that cannot yet ask, though I am clever enough to know that he thinks them and I have to behave as if to answer them all for my behaviour sets the tone for everything. I have seen and known enough to witness that he can follow every instruction and he understands more than he can express. In the movie Awakenings, Dr. Sayer asks the mother how she knows what her catatonic son is saying. She replies, “You’re not a mother. A mother knows.” It is true in my home as well. For seven years every sound, every move, every expression and I just know. Sometimes I have to be careful to listen because I actually may be paying more attention to all those other subtle behaviours instead of that speech he tries so hard to get out. I suppose my actions also speak louder than words as they model for Adam and they may have become just as important as facund explanations. Perhaps if we were observed carefully as a unit, others would see this daily orchestration that we have come to take for granted as much as those who speak take what they say for granted. In our house, the saying “actions speak louder than words,” cannot more more true.

Adam also has many abilities in helping out mom and dad, for he loves us both so much. I think it’s just one of his very precious gifts to us, and that he gives to others (although mom and dad are in that exclusive category). I know that Adam is a wonderful, loving boy who will give this gift to many during his life and I know he will bestow the new people in his life with that blessing. I guess, in a very special way, he is a lot like the king’s seventh son. In my opinion, he deserves my crown, and I hope he won’t mind the dents.


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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (, and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.