I wasn’t sure how Dylan’s scheduled activity would work today. He was due to visit the Christmas Market in our home city, a place with which Dylan is familiar and for which he has routes and routines. Dylan, I thought to myself, would have his own expectations about what should happen; the outing could turn tricky.
This morning I emailed various warnings to the care home manager. Dylan would expect to visit cutlery dragon in the Millenium Gallery, I said. He likes to get something from the pasty shop and sit in the Peace Gardens to watch the fountains. He might want to call in WH Smiths and Waterstones. Oh and he will point to Vulcan on top of the Town Hall and shout ‘a man, a man!’
Although he knows the word ‘woman’, Dylan tends to apply the male generic to representational art. In particular, any human figure with arm held aloft is ‘a man’. This includes the Statue of Liberty. ‘This is damaged’ my daughter said to me the other day, showing me the Lady of Liberty in Dylan’s room. My daughter reminded me that, although Dylan has claimed the statue, it is actually hers; she bought it on the top floor of the World Trade Center in 2001. ‘Dylan has had such pleasure from it’, I told her.
I’m not sure whether Dylan shouted ‘a man, a man!’ today but he did, I am told, point to things which appeared to be familiar to him. He was, however, quite happy to break with his usual routines and to fit in with the group. As far as I know, he didn’t even visit cutlery dragon. This is more evidence, perhaps, of Dylan’s ability to approach an activity as if for the first time, providing the context is different: the ‘lack of generalisability’ that people with autism are said to display. Part of me envies Dylan this specificity: how wonderful it must feel for the familiar to sometimes be made new and the ordinary shaken into fresh shape.