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What I found when I cleaned my son with autism’s room

The post below is by Lisa Smith, the mother of seven children, two with special needs. Her son Tate has autism. Lisa blogs about her experiences and can be found on Facebook at Quirks and Chaos or at

My 14-year-old son, Tate, is six feet and three inches tall, exactly the length of a twin mattress. For two or three years I have talked to Tate about getting a bigger bed, bringing it up fairly often. Each time he became anxious, adamant that he did not need or want to change beds. Tate has autism and change is hard for him. About two weeks ago, I could tell he was possibly warming up to the idea so I pushed harder. I wanted to let him decide, and this week he has declared he is ready. Today, I went up to clean his room, in preparation for the moving of furniture this weekend. We will be moving a queen sized bed into Tate's room Saturday.

Cleaning Tate’s room is always an adventure. He has things placed exactly where he likes them, and he does not like others entering “his space” either. I often clean Tate's room while he is at school but it’s July and the kids are all home most of the time. I try to respect Tate’s wishes for the most part, even his eccentricities, knowing he cannot really help having them. But, at the same time, even a kid with autism needs to conform sometimes too. A reasonably clean room is one of those aggravating things my son just has to accept for me to remain sane myself. Tate is not quite capable of keeping his room clean himself, although he is making progress. His eyes do not seem to be able to see a mess in quite the same way my eyes do. Siblings often pitch in to help with the work and it goes quickly. Sometimes Tate's siblings are better at motivating him than I am too. 

While cleaning Tate’s room I came across things that brought back precious memories, like Tate’s pet rock named Rocky. I had not seen Rocky in years. (See link below to read about Rocky.) I uncovered enough lip balm to last us all for years to come, and many typewritten lists. Tate loves lists. There were lists of movies, lists of movie personalities and lists of gifts Tate wants to receive. And, among those lists, I found something very precious that blew me away.

It was a story Tate had typed out.

It made me smile because it was so much fun to read.

It made me cringe because the spelling was atrocious.

It left me excited because it was something he did on his own, without help.

It caused me to choke up because it was imaginative, and sometimes autism makes expressing creativity and imagination more difficult, so writing a story is not something that comes easy for him.

I edited it just a bit so it is easier to read but changed none of the wording. I’m thinking he stole the first line from Snoopy perhaps but the tragic and abrupt ending is all his own. Read and enjoy.

It was a dark night. A man who is someone who can turn people into animals. Batman, Robin, R. L. Stine, C-3PO, and R2-D2, team up to stop him. They go to Kansas to find the Smith brothers a.k.a. Tate and Levi and their sister Sydney. They find out the only way to stop him is for the three related kids to go with them. Then they run into Casper the friendly ghost (who also goes with them) and Casper’s cousin Spooky who goes with them as well. And when they got there, the villain, as you all know, has released all the villains from Tate’s DVD’s. And when R. L. Stine told Batman to go to the bat cave, Robin went with him. Spooky gave Casper the way to stop the man. Tate went to look for a way to stop him. The man’s plan to take over the world is almost finished. He turned Tate into a dog. Ten minutes later, he turned back to normal. Levi opened all the DVDs and the villains got back into the DVDs and the villains were never seen again. Tate has the power to turn into animals whenever he sees the name of an animal now and Tate pushed the man to his death. The end.

The original is below:

Read more from Lisa's blog Quirks and Chaos here!

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.