The Boy With The Wily Grin

Filed Under (Communication) by Estee on 01-12-2011

Adam sits at the kitchen counter. I don’t have a proper table in my kitchen so he sits on a high stool at the counter, his chest meeting the edge. It used to be that his chin met the edge of the counter just a year ago. He’s grown.

It’s an early winter evening and the sun has gone just set. As usual before dinner, he’s eating sliced green and red peppers or cucumbers. “Vinegar!” he implores with a firm voice. His other choice condiments that go with everything are mustard and Tabasco sauce. I stand on the opposite side of the counter because I like to see his face, as if we were sitting across from each other at the table after a typical day. Even though we don’t have deep conversations verbally yet, we do have meaningful exchanges. I’ll ask “Adam how was your day?” and he might say, “It was fun.” Unless I bring out the typing devices, that may be it for our verbal social exchanges. He still needs prompting to sit down at his device and “talk” to me. I talk to him nevertheless and I’m okay with not always getting a reply back most of the time. We can discuss what he wants for dinner without the devices and he has chosen spaghetti this night. I am unpacking what’s left over from his Toy Story lunch box. He left the raisins, I sigh, and ate only half a sandwich. I continue to mumble about the uneaten parts of lunch and look at him. He searches my face.

“Ffffff…” His eyes turn mischievous. “Ffffffffuck,” he says tentatively, looking straight at me with a wily grin.

“What did you just say?” I ask, trying to be stern, but the way he looks into my eyes is something a parent with an autistic child doesn’t take for granted. I know I should be scolding him, but I am surprised at what I think I heard.

“Fffffuk,” he says again ever so quietly, now showing his big front teeth.

“Adam, what did you say?” I ask again. “I hope you are not using a bad word.” He’s still smiling the oh-yes-I-am, smile. I’m not pulling off my proper parental serious-face and tone well. I try to hide my laughter. “Adam!”

“Fick,” he changes his word deliberately and giggles. Shit, I can’t help giggling too.

And there it was. My nine-year-old testing out a bad word on his mom to see what she was going to do about it. So much for teaching my nine-year-old socially appropriate language.



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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.