I’m back from hiatus!
And where was I, you might ask?
The According to Dude family was on our annual vacation. And man oh man did we take this vacation seriously.
Of the ten days we were at the shore, we went to the beach on nine of them. Dad took his leisurely stroll to get coffee each morning. Mom slept past 8am most mornings (!!!!!!!!). I read two books and completed multiple crosswords WITHOUT CHEATING/ASSISTANCE (!!!!!). And Dude enjoyed sleeping late, eating well, going to the arcade, walking on the beach, and reading the paper (more on that later).
After the upheaval of the past year, we relished the opportunity to be complete bums together.
It helped that the weather was absolutely beautiful. It rained for 20 minutes one afternoon, after which the sun promptly returned. It was a great improvement over last year’s vacations. First there was the one in June 2012 when we went to Florida, our grandmom died the second full day we were there, and then we had torrential rain the rest of the week. Then there was the abbreviated trip to the Jersey shore in July 2012, when violent thunderstorms chased us off the beach every single day starting between 12pm and 2pm (which is a real bummer when you don’t even get to the beach until 11am).
At the conclusion of this year’s vacation, we all agreed it was the most relaxing one we’ve had in the past 5-10 years.
It was also really nice to be around Dude for an extended period of time. Though, like any brother, he got on my nerves about halfway through the week. But that’s another story for another time.
Our first Dude observation from vacation was his sudden interest in reading the paper.
Let’s have a quick little discussion about why this is significant. In addition to having an autism spectrum diagnosis, Dude is diagnosed with intellectual disability. While attending his approved private school, his educational focus was different from what his “typical” peers received in public school. There wasn’t the emphasis on standardized math and reading. Dude’s goals were to improve his life skills such as handling personal hygiene and taking more responsibility for daily living tasks such as helping to prepare breakfast, unloading the dishwasher, etc.
Towards the end of his time in the school system, his reading comprehension was tested. If memory serves me right, he tested on a third grade level, which we were very surprised and pleased about. Dude has always been good at recognizing signs and mottos for his favorite stores and reading short children’s books, but for a while we (erroneously) thought that was the extent of his abilities.
Lately, Dude has been showing us how wrong we were.
For some time now, Dude has been obsessed with picking up free pamphlets and brochures everywhere he goes. Stopping at Wawa to grab a snack? There’s a free brochure about Hoagie Fest? Dude grabs it. Going to a concert? Dude will slam on the breaks until the program is in his hands. Dude will hoard these items and peruse them while laying on his bed.
Dad is a regular newspaper consumer, but Dude has never given much interest to this form of print media. Y’all know how the texture of newspaper can be a bit displeasing. Well, we always thought it was especially displeasing to Dude who is Mr. Ew Oh My Gosh Something Is On My Hands I Can’t Focus Get It Off NOW. Apparently we were wrong.
One morning, Dad left the newspaper on the table near Dude, who was finishing up breakfast. After his plate was cleared, Dude reached for the paper and pulled it towards him. He then opened it up and STUDIED it. I’m pretty sure he went through and read every single word and looked at every single picture. It felt to me like he was actually consuming and comprehending it.
Later in the week, he grabbed one of the papers that has a full listing of weekly activities for the town and spent an afternoon on the beach completely absorbed in it. He didn’t even want to go on a WALK because he was too busy reading.
Let me repeat.
Dude didn’t want to go on a WALK because he wanted to READ.
During one of the walks we did go on, we passed a man preparing to head out in his kayak. The vessel was sitting just at the water’s edge in the sand. Dude glanced at it as we passed and said in his sing-songy voice, “Drifterrrrrr.”
“What was that, Dude?” Mom and Dad were behind him and didn’t hear what he said.
I let out a sound of exclamation as I looked at the kayak.
“It’s the brand name of the kayak!” I yelped while excitedly pointing at it.
Sure enough, the name “Drifter” was on the side of the kayak.
On the reading level scale, I have no idea where “drifter” lands, but I certainly don’t consider it a standard word that would regularly come across Dude’s path.
He’s READING. He’s seeking out material all the time and absorbing it and wowing us with his knowledge. It’s amazing and beautiful and, as I’ll share later, really annoying at 3:30 in the morning.
Editor’s Note: According To Dude has gone social! The links to follow on Facebook and Twitter are in the sidebar. Blog posts will go up there along with shorter anecdotes/photos that aren’t quite long enough to make the blog!