1 year ago

Emmett Things

I still hesitate to write about Emmett. I don’t write as specifically about his brothers. But his brothers are neurotypically normal. Emmett is the mystery who we are just finally getting to know. I hesitate because while I have come to see that the world needs to know more about what Autism is, I also understand that Emmett remains a human person, with his own precious dignity.  I fear that writing about how he navigates the world with a disability in some way objectifies his personhood. I don’t think I do that, but I don’t know. Maybe my word choice somehow does. Maybe using the word “disability” is harmful. He can read what I’m writing, right now. He’s standing here, reading what I type out loud. He laughs when I type funny things. He laughed as he watched me write this story.

I have read numerous times from autistic bloggers that the day they realized there was a name for why they were the way they were was the most liberating day of their lives. In the many moments when Emmett and I are reading together, I have found gentle ways to talk about Autism with him. I don’t know how much he understands, but I hope that eventually he will get it and find peace in it. The same peace I felt when I was told I have AS: Ah, there’s a reason for all of this, I’m not just mad. I continue to write about him, to share to the eyes that will read, but also to Emmett.

You’re my heart, little Bear.

Property of C. Svellinger

Emmett turned 6 just before Christmas and in these short weeks since, his conversational development has noticeably picked up speed.
He still has trouble finding the words to express himself. For example, we were at my brother’s house, celebrating the Epiphany, and there were a number of families there which we did not know. A little boy sat down at the table next to Emmett and engaged him in conversation:

“What’s your name?” He asked.  Emmett covered his ears and said “NO.” So I explained to our new friend that Emmett likes to meet new people but has a hard time finding the right words to say, because, as a matter of fact, he loves words, and aren’t there so many to choose from? I asked the boy his name, and the boy, instead of saying his name, spelled it. “T A D!”  Emmett enjoyed that. He had been sitting with us, his hands hovering over his hears as he listened to us talk. He looked Tad in the face as I asked him to say hello.

“HI TAD!” Emmett exclaimed with a flourish of his hands.  He was excited to say this. The moment passed, and Emmett seemed very pleased with this very small social interaction.

Property of C. Svellinger
At home, we do a lot of practicing. Emmett takes lines from every movie he’s ever seen, and he appropriately inserts them into his daily obstacles. Below are a few of my favorite most recent ones. Comment below if you can pick out the movie Emmett uses to speak from. :)  (sometimes he uses multiple movie quotes to piece together a sentence)

Jude was crying, and it was time for his nap. I was trying to finish a school lesson with Lexington. Emmett was sitting in the room with us, seemingly ignoring the whole scene when he spoke up, “It’s alright, Judie, you’ll be okay.”

I stopped mid sentence to watch. Jude threw himself on the floor and wailed louder. Emmett sighed, “Welcome to the club, toots.” and left the room.


Emmett in frustration to Lexington while playing Nintendo: “Watch where you’re going, sir!”


Emmett in frustration to Collin and Lexington while playing with LEGOs:  “You insolents!”


Emmett refusing to eat a cooked carrot Craig was offering him during dinner: “It’s the trash bags, Dad.”


To me while I handed him his lunch: “Doctor, you’ve done it!”


And finally, my favorite:

This week, Emmett caught strep throat from me. A sick kid with autism is a completely different world than a regular sick kid. Instead of laying lethargically on the couch, complaining that his “neck hurts”, it’s literally the opposite. I knew something was wrong the morning Emmett slept an hour later, but came downstairs and immediately began running laps in the living room, bouncing off the couches and rebounding from the walls. He was asking for food more frequently than usual when I noticed the telltale swollen glands protruding from his neck. He allowed me a glimpse of his throat and yep, tonsils the size of golf balls.

From what I understand, this kind of behavior is generally typical for someone who has a different reception of pain and difficulty explaining it to others.

I got him to a doctor asap, got him started on some medication, and finished out our day in our pajamas. It’s been a few years since Emmett has been ill with more than a cold, but I remember well enough that bed time doesn’t come easy when he’s sick.  And sure enough, after we’d put the boys to bed, Craig and I listened as Emmett loudly jumped around the room bellowing the Toy Story song “Strange Things [Are Happening To Me].”

I can tell you right now without a doubt, that song choice was not an accident.
That’s all for now.


  1. I feel like he has such a great sense of humor! I admit to not knowing most of those quotes, but nevertheless a few of them made me laugh out loud. Sweet Emmettt.

  2. I’m glad you share about Emmett. I like him!

    I’ve heard the saying that if you know one child with autism, then congrats, you know one child with autism. I fully acknowledge the truth of that, but I also want to be able to be a friend to the people who walk into my life who are on the spectrum. Your sharing helps me have more of an idea how to do that than I had before.

    PS: I gave my husband one of your Chesterton cheese prints for Christmas and it was a big hit. You have beautiful handwriting and I love your aesthetic sense.


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