Perfect squares / by jen geigley

Bowie was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exactly one year ago on 4/4/16. I will always remember that date, even though I am terrible at remembering dates.

That day, I took Bowie to his autism evaluation at Blank Children's Hospital and to make a long story short, was given the ASD diagnosis by our (now) beloved, wonderful Dr. Noble.

After it was over, I didn't know what to do next. What was I supposed to do now? I had a stack of papers in my lap and lots of work to do – waivers to apply for, waiting lists to add our names to and a bunch of things I could not quite wrap my brain around just yet. So I looked at my super cool, brilliant boy ... knowing he was the exact same kid that he had been a few hours before. And decided he deserved ice cream. Maybe we both deserved ice cream. So we stopped by Orange Leaf on our way home. Okay, frozen yogurt ... not ice cream. Close enough.

Later that day, our family went to Target to pick up a couple of things. (What an extremely normal thing to do after such a defining moment in our lives, you say! Life goes on.) Bowie loves to collect the small plastic zoo animals they have in the toy section, so we let him pick one out. At the checkout lane, he was fidgeting with the tag on his animal (because he hates tags) and was urgently saying 'cut it with scissors.'

Almost immediately, our tall, young cashier bent over and cut the tag off the toy animal. He said 'That tag is bugging him, huh.' and proceeded to make lots of comments about the things we were purchasing. Lots of comments. I looked up and thanked him for cutting the tag and he told me it was a special day. That took me aback ... because yeah, it kind of had been a special day for us too. A day that had not exactly sunk in just yet.

He said "Well, today is a square root day, which is really rare. 4 x 4 = 16, 4 is the square root of 16, 4 and 16 are perfect squares, and it's 4/4/16. He went on about this and then I realized ... I was pretty darn sure our cashier was on the autism spectrum. (I later wrote a letter to Target in praise of this cashier and confirmed this.)

I realize this is a completely random, fragmented story, but this cashier could not have been in a more perfect place at a more perfect time. He was a young adult on the spectrum. He worked at Target. (Yay Target, by the way!) And he was just doing his job, but was also incredible and bright and interesting. And he was unintentionally helping me understand and accept a million things all at once. That everything was going to be alright ... now and in the future.

It's kind of the low-lying constant question in the back of every ASD parent's mind ... what about the future? Then you remind yourself to focus on the now. But that question comes back. This cashier provided a bit of foreshadowing I didn't know I needed. Every single person on the spectrum is totally, completely different. But knowing that kind of makes me want to meet them all. Life with autism might not be a piece of cake; it might be different but it will be alright. Bowie is doing fantastic things. And he will continue to do fantastic things.

We've learned a lot this first year. We've had a lot of ups and downs. And we've had a little refresher on square roots and perfect squares. 


* photo by Alexandra Crahan Photography