Back when she first began to suspect her son was on the autism spectrum, former English professor Priscilla Gilman found books, websites and pamphlets insisting that children with autism "lack a sense of humor, empathy, aesthetic sensitivity, and spiritual awareness."
One of the first clues Gilman got that showed her how misguided those beliefs can be came when she noticed how much her son Benj appreciates the Christmas specials that have held a special place in his mother's heart since her own childhood.
"He laughs uproariously at Heat Miser and Snow Miser's antics in The Year Without a Santa Claus," writes Gilman, the author of the memoir "The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy." "As especially moving moments draw near, Benj gives me an expectant look. When the Grinch's small heart grows three sizes that day, Benj tears up, puts his hand over his heart, and leans his head on my shoulder."
The theme of acceptance that runs through the narrative arc of characters like Rudolph, the Grinch and Charlie Brown wasn't a message Gilman initially thought her son could absorb.
But ultimately, she found that Benj's attitude toward the Christmas movies turned out to be a "marvelous paradox," in which he found transcendence "in just those situations that might be expected to highlight his limits."
"Watching the specials," writes Gilman, "has become an opportunity for Benj not only to express but also to discover, and then to practice, his capacity for deep feeling, awe, and wonder."
READ MORE [Real Simple]