Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Scrambled States of America

We haven’t done any extensive traveling as a family. When it comes to vacations we’re more likely to blitz five or six crazy fun things into a three day weekend than strategically carry out a well-planned and trip-ticked three week holiday. Everything has been by car; in Southern California you can take in quite a bit in a two to three hour car drive! During these excursions, Wylie has always been keenly aware of our surroundings. He is quick to point out “Welcome to” city signs and he announces them with formality like a resident tourism official. Because of his awareness, I’ve always had the impression Wylie viewed our travel from a video game perspective—kind of like we were navigating a virtual reality map.

Last fall, we did take a trip that saw us extend our normal three hour adventure by a factor of five--passing through five states! I knew this would intrigue Wylie so on our semi-monthly trip to Barnes and Noble, I picked up a whimsical little book called The Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller. (If you have children 12 or under this is a must have book for your child’s library!) My intentions were simple—I wanted to take advantage of the learning opportunities our trek would provide. I figured since Wylie was the most interested (of the three children) in the cities we passed through on smaller trips, he might naturally be the most interested in the geography of our western states. To say, now, that Wylie is interested in U.S. geography is like saying Picasso was interested in painting! Ms. Keller’s little book ignited a passion for geography in Wylie that quickly burned into an obsession!

We all have hobbies and interests—reading, music, golf, gardening and the like. Asperger folks don’t just have hobbies—they have obsessions or current topics of interest (CTI). Their interest can become dominant and almost all-consuming. Quite literally, these topics populate the person’s conversation, thought-life, dreams and reality. For Wylie, our United States, their capitals, nicknames, locations and other pertinent facts about them took over his conscious and subconscious thought! And, I must say, we all benefited.

The Scrambled States was rarely out of Wylie’s hands. The fresh, crisp corners of the bright green cover became dog-eared in record time. And, it served quite nicely as our map on the way to Colorado and back. Since that time, Wylie’s penchant for states’ trivia has become almost legendary. It is not uncommon for Campbell to brag on Wylie’s knowledge when introduced for the first time (a fact that reveals Campbell’s character while it compliments Wylie’s). And, on more than one occasion, an unsuspecting adult dinner guest has been sabotaged by the sly nine year old and his current topic of interest. Just last month, our family of five was enjoying dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant and playing a little states’ trivia just for fun. Upon stumping us unilaterally Wylie asked:

“Do you find yourself saying ‘you gotta be kidding me?’”

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