Saturday, January 7, 2012

Autism Pirate…the story behind the photo

It is a look I will never forget. It was spring. My friend Barbie and I decided to take our boys to the fabulous St. Louis Zoo. In our world the zoo is not always the best place to go, but we planned ahead and we were up for it. The day began like any trip to the zoo does by struggling to find parking. I of course was unwilling to pay ten dollars to park in the zoo lot so we found parking in front of the fountain by the World’s Fair Pavilion. As soon as we got out of the van, Rye starts begging me to get into the fountain. I immediately say no way and begin predicting the exact schedule and expectations for the day. “Please mom please I have to get that sword” I brush it off as typical Rye silliness and tell him there is NOT a sword in the fountain. For those of you who don’t know Rye, he is obsessed with swords. He will make a sword out of anything. “Mom I promise, please!” It takes a while but we finally make our way into the zoo.

We have a GREAT day at the zoo. All the boys are pretty well behaved so we stay all day. By the end of the day we are tired and really hot. Since we had such a great day I decided to let the boys stop at the gift shop on the way out of the zoo. Wyatt quickly picks a stuffed animal to add to his ridiculous collection. I’m encouraging Rye to pick something and he says “No mom I don’t want anything I want the sword from the fountain.” I tell him that there is not a sword in the fountain and he should pick something. He refuses so we leave. We begin walking to the van. As we are approaching the fountain and I can sense that actually getting into the van before dealing with the fountain issue is not going to be easy. 

As we approach the fountain we see several families playing on the “stairs” of the fountain. Barbie and I decide, okay fine you can play in the fountain but only on the stairs where the other children are playing. The boys are thrilled they are climbing and splashing and I have to admit it felt great after a long hot day at the zoo. After twenty minutes or so I begin predicting that it is going to be time to leave soon. The countdown begins. “Mom please I have to swim out there, I have to get the sword.” Then he says it. “Mom believe in me mom, I can do it.” Seriously are you kidding me! If there is one thing that a child with autism can say to a parent that will get them to do anything, that is it. I’m tired, hot and so ready to leave. “Fine Rye, just do it”. He practically dives into the front pool of the fountain and starts swimming, and continues swimming like twenty feet. The other parents around are beginning to give me “the look.” You know the one. Are you seriously going to let him do that? I ignore them as usual because they have no idea what I’m dealing with at this point. I am praying that when Rye gets to the middle of this fountain and he doesn’t find a sword that he won’t have a meltdown.

For those of you not familiar the fountain it has steps behind a giant pool that is about the size of a large basketball court. I am allowing Rye to swim to the middle of this fountain which I am pretty sure is not allowed and could possibly get me arrested. I’m not worried about safety, Rye is a fish, a fantastic swimmer. He can do all four strokes and has taken lessons for years but he is clearly in an area he should not be in.

I watch him swim for what seems like an hour and praying that this all ends well. Before I know it he is in the middle of the pool. He jumps up and throws his hand into the air like a true Musketeer with a look of accomplishment I will NEVER forget. He yells “I told you mom!”

In his hand is a stick that looks like a sword that it is a least two and half feet long. There it was the sword in the fountain. I am shocked. The look of accomplishment on my boy that day is one I will never forget. He was truly happy. He swam back to the stairs, proudly showed me his sword, climbed to the top of the stairs and I took his picture. The Autism Pirate photo. I was so proud. Then I told him to hurry up and get in the car before the police arrested us both!

When it comes to parenting a child on the spectrum, trust your gut and trust your kid. Don’t let anybody judge you. If you think it is something that needs to happen, you are probably right. Believe in your child, sometimes they do know what is best. 



  1. Tara, as soon as I say that picture of Rye I knew it was that day at the zoo. I remember that day like it was yesterday and the dread we both felt knowing we would have to walk by that fountain to get to the van, but it actually turned out great. I didn't know that Rye told you to "trust himthat "he could do it". I know how proud you must have felt when he got that stick! We miss you guys and hope we can do something together soon.

  2. We miss you too! We have to be better about getting together. Yes he kept telling me to trust him in his best Luke Skywalker voice! He is big on "trust" you know. Trust the force... lol!! Thanks Barbie!!

  3. Awesome story!!! Love it!!!