Dmitry Laughs


I still have some lingering claw marks on my neck. They’re faint– you can barely notice them– but even after a good night’s sleep to heal I can still see them in the mirror. And they make me smile.

Last night I spent an hour or so outside, watching football on my laptop. It was a lovely evening in Southern Arizona, and the house was quite loud and stuffy. My 7 year old, Nikolai, and my 6 year old, Ivan, can be incredibly noisy, even for little boys. My sweat is drying in the pleasant, dry desert breeze, and forgotten indoors is lingering heat of the day and my staunch refusal to turn on the air conditioning (It’s mid October!) and the exothermic reaction that is 3 frenetic little boys.

My youngest is Dmitry. He’s 3, and autistic. The developmental pediatrician says it’s “classic autism”, and that his intelligence appears to be normal, even though he’s virtually non-verbal.

Dmitry isn’t violent. In fact he’s the most gentle child I’ve ever known. He is remarkably strong. His grip is raptoral, especially if he isn’t emotionally prepared to release his brush in the dollar store checkout line so the nice lady can scan it out. He doesn’t bite, at least not out of malice, or scratch or kick or punch.

But he still caused these scratches on my neck. I smile because it was while we were roughhousing in the backyard grass. He loves being outdoors. He climbs up onto my back, his tentacles slithering around my neck, his peals of laughter echoing through the neighborhood, and I dump him in the grass and wrassle until I’m tired. As I return to my chair and open the computer on my lap, he slips behind me. A catlike whisper as he climbs the chair, a strangled yelp as he wraps his little kitten-clawed fingers around my neck for another go.

I’ve read a lot about autistic children, I’ve studied quite a few through home videos, ABA training videos, psychologists and expert rehab workers. Sometimes I just nod sagely, understanding what those parents go through. Other times I have to laugh! There is an adage in autism world: “If you’ve seen one child with autism, you’ve seen ONE child with autism.” The variance among children can be astounding to the uninformed, and baffling even to the researcher. Dmitry is no exception.

Dmitry is quite low on the “sensitivity” scale. So low, in fact, that he would be described as “hyposensitive” by neurological developmental specialists. We didn’t bother to seek a “sensory processing disorder” diagnosis from our DevPed because it tends to be part-and-parcel of the autism experience.

I am very thankful for this hyposensitivity. I can roughhouse with him, swing him around, give him big squeezes, brush his hands and back with stiff bristled brushes, and generally calm him and make him happy and make him laugh.

Did I mention he laughs? A LOT. Sometimes at nothing, or whatever impenetrable bizarre bazaar is going on in his head. But he laughs, and his eyes sparkle, and he looks RIGHT INTO YOUR EYES when he laughs.


3 thoughts on “Dmitry Laughs

  1. Peggy Orcutt says:

    Enjoyed reading it. Our grandson is Autistic. They are amazing children. He was 3 when he started saying words, otherwise it was his own language.

  2. This is beautiful Michael…made me laugh too as I think of his precious giggles

  3. […] upside down with a brush in his hand. I credit his withdrawn, internal autism wonderland for his incredible benevolence, and his roll-with-the-punches attitude (another autism mold-breaker). That hyposensitivity makes […]

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