My son, Ollie, staring out at the Pacific Ocean, fog blurring the junctures of water, land, and sky. This is it. This is how he might describe his world. I say might, because he has never actually used those words to describe what it is like to be autistic. Those are the words that I chose. I do that a lot, use my words to speak for him, and it’s high time I stop. I have no idea, actually, if my words accurately portray what he thinks, at all. All I know, is what it is like to be his mom. So, everything I write will be based solely on my experience as his mother. I will not speak for him, and I will ask his permission before posting anything directly pertaining to him, and rely on him for input. I think I owe him that. I am not a medical expert or the voice of all parents with children on the spectrum. I am not representative of anyone but myself, the woman who counts herself honored to call this young man her son.
His real name is not Ollie. At his request, I changed it. I chose that name because as a kid, I had heard the words “Ollie, Ollie, oxen free!” whenever we played hide and seek. I never took the time to analyze it, I just said it, because that’s “what you say when you played hide and seek.”
Most of us don’t, in our everyday life, analyze every word we hear, read, or speak. It most certainly would ruin almost every joke we ever heard if we had to dissect and interpret each word, literally. We are able to understand most communication, (in our native tongue, at least) in spite of subtle nuances and hidden meanings, with ease.
There is a word for us, “neurotypical.” That is, our brains are wired in such a way, that we can understand abstract concepts, understand what someone means when they speak, based on the tone of their voice and facial expressions, and blend the world of evidence and imagination seamlessly. Seems effortless, but not everyone is able to do this without a lot of hard work. People on the autism spectrum have trouble with the abstract, to varying degrees.
So. For the benefit of Ollie, I decided to dig a little and find out more about “Ollie, Ollie, Oxen Free” Turns out, it might be because, as some theorize, there is a similar game that traces its origins to Germany. In that game ” Alle, alle auch sind frei” is said. Read that outloud. Mmmm…sound a little bit familiar? It translates to “Everyone, everyone also is free,” in English. So now you know. And, as I reassured Ollie, there are no actual oxen in the game of hide and seek, there aren’t any gigantic, horned, bovines that running are around loose….so it is a perfectly safe game to play. Ready or not, here I come!