Sometime around 1988 (28 years before autism identification).
There’s this boy at school. He’s really strange.
He’s not in my class. He’s a bit younger, I think.
Most of the time, I see him on his own at break times, walking round and round the primary school buildings. Always anti-clockwise.
He moves his hands vigorously. He flaps them, but one hand seems to move from side to side, the other up and down. They’re held up in front of his face.
He makes noises as he flaps his hands.
They sound like a motor engine, and so I assume that his hand movements are a crude, inaccurate attempt at mimicking the actions of a driver behind the wheel of a car. I suppose he must like cars.
He doesn’t say much. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him speak. I’ve seen him cry, though. He seems to cry at lots of things. He wails. Wordless. He thrashes his arms as he does so. I don’t know why he’s so upset all the time.
There are times when I feel sorry for him. He looks even lonelier than I am. Or at least I assume he is – I’m often on my own too.
I like to be alone sometimes, and I often get annoyed when people try to insist that I join in with games at breaktime when I want to wander past the trees at the edge of the school grounds. And I feel lonely because everyone else is enjoying the thing we’re all doing, but I’m not. Other times, I’d like to play, but they don’t want me around. Then I feel really lonely.
At least I can talk to the other children when I need to.
But I wouldn’t know how to communicate with him. Sometimes I’ve been a bit scared of him, of his strange behaviour. I might even have pushed him out of my way once or twice. That probably wasn’t very nice of me.
All the other kids say he’s weird. Aside from a few of the more considerate girls, most are clear they wouldn’t want anything to do with him.
I don’t say much about it. I’m complicit in my silence but, after all, I’m weird enough myself. I give people enough ammunition to tease me already. Better just to go along with the consensus.
I wouldn’t want to draw any more attention to myself by disagreeing with what they’re saying about the weird boy.
[Image description: Digital painting of a white, blond-haired boy vigorously flapping his hands while walking. A white, brown-haired girl stands in the foreground, looking over her shoulder at him.]