I’ve known more than one boy with autism who, sooner or later, starts to show an affection for things that are usually associated with girls. My son is now one of them.
Braden is 10 and has autism. And he loves horses. There’s nothing feminine about horses per se, but Braden also likes horse books and horse toys. Most boys his age are more into toy trucks, Lego Bionicles, and action figures.
I know another boy with autism, around the same age as my son, and he loves the color pink. You can imagine how the boys at school give him a hard time. I also know a boy with autism, around age 17, who loves everything Disney. He especially loves the princesses.
As the Dad of a boy with autism, how should I react to this?
Well, I’ll tell you how I react. And I welcome feedback and comments.
Internally, I must admit that I feel a blow to my masculinity. I’m a man. I guess it’s natural that I feel this way. I’m hoping my son isn’t going to develop an affinity for fluffy, pink, silk-lined dresses next. But alas, let’s not go off the deep end. The kid likes horses, not Barbie dolls and fairies (unless, possibly… they’re on horseback).
Cowboys ride horses. Horses are cool. Have you seen the Budweiser Clydesdales? Those horses are incredible! And Braden loves real horses. We take him to see horses everyday and a couple of the horses we visit, feed, and pet are big draft horses, just not quite as large as the Budweiser Clydesdales.
Someone recently asked us what they can get Braden for Christmas. And something horses is the first thing we thought of. But, instead of saying, “Hey, why don’t you get him this pretty brown horse with the long flowing mane he can brush!” I said, “How about this cool 4D model horse that lets him look inside a horse.” It lets him see the internal organs and bones and even take out the horse’s insides. Radical! Uhhhh, I mean, EDUCATIONAL!
I guess my inclination is to get my son the most violent, angry or manly version of whatever girl thing it is that he likes. If he likes the tooth fairy I’d probably want to get some insane, crazy FANG fairy!
You get my point.
But I’m a macho jerk thinking of myself instead of my son. The truth is – if my son wanted the horsie painting kit, plush pink horse, or the pretty horse with the long flowing mane, I’d get ‘em for him. I’d suck up my pride and make my boy happy. I would do it whether I liked it or not.
And, in similar fashion, if my wife needed me to go purchase her feminine hygiene products I would do that too… under the disguise of a hat and dark sunglasses. Shhhhhhhhh, don’t tell anybody.