"Can you make an angry face?" I asked.
"grrr" He made the sound to go along with the face, as we have practiced so many times before.
"Good job!" I say with a smile. "Now show me a happy face."
His smile and eyes, were cast in my direction looking for approval. I smiled back at him, a smile that said, "Well done."
I often practice making and interpreting facial expressions with this eleven-year-old boy. It is supposed to help him better understand emotion. Though, sadly, I often feel its more of a monkey-see, monkey-do exercise.
I continued smiling for several minutes.
"You make me smile. You make me happy!" I paused, "I like being happy with you."
He put the thumbs of both open hands under his chin, smiled and said, "Happy!"
"You're right, happy. Now what face is this?" I closed one eye, scrunched my nose and stuck out my tongue. He paused for a second to study my face.
"Heaven Sake Kids!" He replied.
He was referring to one of his favorite CD's entitled Funny Songs.
I laughed, "that's right, now you show me your silly face."
He stuck his tongue out the side of his mouth, raised one eyebrow and squished his eyelids shut.
"Alright last one," I explained, "what is this face?" I raised my eyebrows, opened my mouth and took a gasping breath.
The boy's head cocked to the side, like that of a golden retriever when it seems to be thinking about something. He leaned in real close to me, wide-eyed and mouth cracked open.
I tried to keep my surprised face as well as I could.
Slowly he raised his hand to my forehead and ran his fingertips from my hairline to my nose.
"Bumps." He said.
I slowly ran my own fingers over the path he has just drawn. Sure enough. My raised eyebrows created wrinkles in my forehead.
He just sees the world so differently. We spend all our time trying to get him to see it the way we do. To respond to it the way we do. We label him "autistic" as if it helps us understand him better.
Sometimes I wish I could try to see it the way he does, feel it the way he does. It is so amazing to me that God can create a mind like this. It makes me want to praise Him. Sometimes, it makes me want to curse Him. If only I could understand.
Today, though, I raise my hands in praise. Thank you for the gift of this little boy, who brings me so much joy.