Anything But Typical
Nora Raleigh Baskin
Jason’s autism was first suspected when he was in preschool, but was not diagnosed until he was in second grade, when a combination of academic difficulties and social challenges finally forced his parents to acknowledge that their son might be different from the other children in his class. Now, as a sixth grader, Jason has had enough therapy and individualized attention to allow him to be fully included in his classroom, but every day is still a challenge for him. He has no real friends, although one or two children are kind to him. His teachers often don’t understand why he has trouble waiting in line, adapting to change, or dealing with loud crowds and bright lights.
Jason does feel safe --- and loved --- at home. He has a loving and supportive family who often acknowledge frustration and misunderstanding of his disorder, but love him unconditionally. His parents, not surprisingly, worry about him and his future. His younger brother, Jeremy, both protects and looks up to him. Even at home, though, Jason often has the difficult job of reading his family members’ emotions, a process that neurotypical people do without even thinking about it, but that takes tremendous energy and concentration for Jason.
Fortunately, Jason has one place where he feels completely at home and at ease. Although he rarely speaks aloud, he loves words and has a gift for reading and writing, and for understanding how stories work. He loves to write stories and post them at Storyboard, an online short story site where he can receive feedback from other users and comment on their stories as well. That’s how he meets Rebecca (screen name PhoenixBird), who loves his stories of misunderstood, misfit characters and his themes of difference and conformity. The two begin an e-mail correspondence, and Jason starts thinking of Rebecca as his girlfriend. But when his parents surprise him with a trip to the Storyboard national conference and when he finds out that Rebecca will also be attending, Jason is terrified. How will Rebecca feel about him when she meets him, when she learns that behind those lovely words on her computer screen is a very different boy from the one she might have imagined?