If you pay attention, you can learn a lot from your children.
Our youngest son, Paul, has autism. He’s now sixteen years old. As I’ve watched him grow, develop and overcome challenges, he has taught me much. And, along the way, he’s managed to entertain me, too.
One of the ways he struggles is with speech. In fact, for the first few years of his life he never strung together more than two words at a time. And then he was usually just repeating what you asked him to say.
So picture this scene. Paul is four years old. He’s in the back seat of the car as I pull up to the speaker in the drive-thru lane at MacDonald’s. I roll down the window to order. Before I could say a word, Paul sticks his head out the window and says, “Cheeseburger plain and French fries, please.”
With that, his secret was out. We knew he would talk about food. For the next few years we encouraged that. He talked about food. A lot. Food happens to be a favorite topic of mine as well, so we had conversations.
“Paul, what would you like for supper?”
“Paul, did you have a good day at school?”
“I want more ice cream, please.”
“Paul, Georgia plays Tennessee today. What do you think about that?”
“Cook noodles. I want noodles, please.”
In recent months, though, Paul has had a breakthrough. He has started singing along with the songs on the radio. It’s been a hoot to hear him singing, “Celebrate good times, come on!”
“It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flat bed Ford slowing down to take a look at me.”
“I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.”
Paul was breaking out of his shell. To encourage him, I taught him famous lines from movies. One was the famous scene from A Few Good Men.
Jack Nicholson: “What do you want from me?”
Tom Cruise: “I want answers!”
Jack Nicholson: “You want answers?”
Tom Cruise: “I want the truth!”
Jack Nicholson: “You can’t handle the truth!”
So, it was time for Paul to see his doctor. I told him of the progress Paul was making with his speech.
The doctor was proud. Beaming, he looked at Paul and asked, “Paul is that true?”
Instantly, Paul shot back, “You can’t handle the truth!”