There have only been a few times when Ethan has allowed us to specifically know what is happening in his little brain. Most of the time we are left guessing when his reply to our question is, 'I don't know.'
So, for the most part, we are left making assumptions based on what he is doing - more on that later.
The other day Ethan announced 'Mom, I had a funny dream.' He added, 'I just helped Nephi kick Laban's butt.'
(If you're not familiar with the story it comes from the Book of Mormon: Nephi, a righteous man, was seeking to obtain religious records - scriptures - offering Laban silver and gold for the records. Laban, a wicked man, sought to kill him for the riches and to retain the records for himself. Finding Laban in a drunken state Nephi was commanded by God to slay Laban so that Nephi's people would not dwindle in unbelief because they did not have the written word of God. Obedient, like young David when he slew Goliath, Nephi slew Laban, cutting off his head, using Laban's own sword.)
This was a rare glimpse into Ethan's mind; a chance encounter to know what happens in his head. We jumped at this opportunity, and asked more questions.
'What happened?' we asked.
'I cut off Laban's head with a pocket knife, like this . . .'
He then proceeded to reenact taking the pocket knife, holding it above his head, then swinging it down in one full sweep to complete the act.
'Wow, really? A pocket knife?'
That didn't make sense and we couldn't figure out what movie that could be from, though we know that pocket knives are like swords in his mind.
'Mom, I did this . . .'
He then reenacted the scene taking an axe, holding it above his head, then swinging it down.
'An axe? What movie is that from?' I asked.
'Really, I don't remember that part of the story.'
It did make sense, since in Chicken Run the evil women running the concentration-coop would take chickens and cut their heads off before she turned them into pot pies.
'Mom, like this . . .'
He then reenacted taking a sword, and poking Laban in the stomach.'Put on this mask,' he continued, 'You will wear it till you love it!' He held his imaginary sword in the air, and said, 'All for one, and one for all!'
The Man in the Iron Mask, that's a switch, but it makes sense. That story is the only one where a sword is actually used.
His story telling went on for about five minutes, rehearsing the scene over and over again. Going from pocket knife, to axe, to sword and back again.
This was a fascinating glimpse into the mind of autism. Remember this Temple Grandin thought from a previous post
Being autistic, I don't naturally assimilate information that most people take for granted. Instead, I store information in my head as if it were on a CD-ROM disc. When I recall something I have learned, I replay the video in my imagination. The videos in my memory are always specific . . . each case is also part of my visual memory. I can run these images over and over. . . Unlike those of most people, my thoughts move from video like, specific images to generalization and concepts.
Autistics have problems learning things that cannot be thought about in pictures. The easiest words for an autistic child to learn are nouns, because they directly relate to pictures. . . Spatial words such as "over" and "under" had no meaning for me until I had a visual image to fix them in my memory. Even now, when I hear the word "under" by itself, I automatically picture myself getting under the cafeteria tables at school during an air-raid drill, a common occurrence on the East Coast during the early fifties. The first memory that any single word triggers is almost always a childhood memory. I can remember the teacher telling us to be quiet and walking single-file into the cafeteria, where six or eight children huddled under each table. If I continue on the same train of thought, more and more associative memories of elementary school emerge. I can remember the teacher scolding me after I hit Alfred for putting dirt on my shoe. All of these memories play like videotapes in the VCR in my imagination. If I allow my mind to keep associating, it will wander a million miles away from the word "under," to submarines under the Antarctic and the Beatles song "Yellow Submarine" . . .
I also visualize verbs. The word "jumping" triggers a memory of jumping hurdles at the mock Olympics held at my elementary school. Adverbs often trigger inappropriate images -- "quickly" reminds me of Nestle’s Quik -- unless they are paired with a verb, which modifies my visual image. For example, "he ran quickly" triggers an animated image of Dick from the first-grade reading book running fast, and "he walked slowly" slows the image down. As a child, I left out words such as "is," "the," and "it," because they had no meaning by themselves. Similarly, words like "of," and "an" made no sense.
When I read, I translate written words into color movies or I simply store a photo of the written page to be read later. When I retrieve the material, I see a photocopy of the page in my imagination. I can then read it like a Teleprompter. . . When I am unable to convert text to pictures, it is usually because the text has no concrete meaning.
Certainly, this isn't the sweetest story he could have engrained in his mind, but we'll take what we can get. The story is one of pure obedience and faith; a story of good versus evil. Besides, he always chooses to be on Nephi's side, the side of good!