A few years ago Leila rushed in through the front door, breathlessly asking me, “Have you heard what happened to Edward?”
My heart skipped a beat as a wave of panic started to surge through my body but it just took one look at Leila to realise that she was not the bearer of terrible news.
Mystified, I said I hadn’t heard a thing. She cooled down instantly and announced that Edward could tell me himself when he came home.
I was dying to know what on earth had happened.
A few minutes later Edward arrived home. He looked the same as ever and after his usual quick drink of water he made his expected bee line for the computer. He didn’t volunteer any information so I asked him how his day had been.
“Fine”, he said.
“Did anything happen to you today?”.
“Yes. Lots of things happened to me today.”
“Did anything different from normal happen to you today?”
“I don’t know, but Leila came bursting in asking me if I had heard what happened to you, so what happened?”.
“Oh …. it was probably that I did well in a maths competition”.
It transpired that Edward had managed to get the highest score in a maths competition out of all the students in the school in years 9 -11. He was in year 8 at the time. I was speechless. We already knew that Edward was very good at maths but I hadn’t quite realised just how exceptionally good he was.
When Edward told me that the result had been announced in assembly in front of the whole school I felt sick to my bones.
I had images of Edward beaming with pride, looking very pleased with himself, oblivious to the thoughts and feelings of the other students who were good at maths further up the school. Surely this was like social suicide. I think I said something like, “Oh no, what did you do?”.
His response had me bursting with pride though, “Don’t worry mum, I realised that I needed to look embarrased and not smug.”
My autistic son, who finds facial expressions baffling, had figured out that the correct facial response to winning a competition where you were competing against older pupils was to look embarrassed and not smug.
Truth be told, I didn’t actually believe that he could make an embarrassed face – it was certainly one that I had never noticed him using before. Unconvinced of his success I made him show me …. as I pretended to announce the results of the maths test he bowed his head toward the ground, slightly hunched his shoulders and intentionally.made himself look a little bit smaller and awkward.
It was actually impressive.
I am of course pleased and delighted that my son excels in mathematics but his ability to learn and understand how to use an appropriate facial expression in a specific situation is perhaps an even greater achievement for him. It’s something I thought he might never master; it’s a skill which he has had to work hard at unlike mathematics which comes to him, easy as π.