“Shall we watch Sleeping Beauty Together?” he asked.

Without knowing this child, one might say only that he was polite.

However, this child knows less about pronouns than I know about rocket science. Somehow, he remembered what he had heard and was able to put a similar sentence into one that he could use to meet his needs.

This sentence broke the silence the way a train horn suddenly blasts or the large dog barks sharply for no apparent reason. My eyebrows raised way up as I turned to see him looking in from the other room. A simple request, said properly for the first time, turned into much more!

“Good speaking!” I said. “That was very, very good!” I smiled at him and he was taken-aback and smiled too. He forgot his request for me to put a movie into the VCR and felt connected. He stepped down into the living room and sat next to me on the sofa and said it again. I knew that this was good because not only did he sit with me without being asked to (or bribed to, say, with food) but “all his teeth were showing.” He has this way of showing all of his teeth and even when it is not a complete smile. He sat up straight and proud.

Belonging, the third in the list of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, may be the first need that people with autism address for themselves.

Our son does not worry about survival or safety. His needs are taken care of. But, deep inside of this supposedly “distant” person, is the need to feel a part of the big world around him.

This time, he was in charge of the question. He was not being corrected. He said it the way the big people did, without being prompted. He perceived himself as one of us. He was so proud of himself that he asked the question a few more times, just to see my reaction and to hear my response, “Yes, we shall watch Sleeping Beauty together, tonight.”

For those of you caring for people who cannot do certain basic things, the ones that we take for granted, have you seen this higher level brightness spout unexpectedly from one in your care?

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