It’s no big secret that our kids with autism tend to get hyper focused on one thing. For Logan , this has meant a lot of things. When he was a preschooler, this meant owning every Thomas the Tank Engine ever manufactured. Elementary school brought a ferocious fascination with dinosaurs. His knowledge and ability to tell you the correct name for every single dinosaur was unmatched. As the middle school years came to an end, it became quite apparent that botany was emerging as was herpatology. The million dollar question Michael and I had was could he make a career out of it? Would he be able to make a living in his adult years?
We have always allowed Logan to pursue his interest unabashedly. If he wanted to learn everything he could about trains then so be it. You can have many a job in the train industry. Dinosaurs? There are paleontologists in the field or at museums. As a matter of fact, his vast knowledge of facts would make him a wonderful docent at any museum. We have often told him that which usually makes him roll his eyes and walk away. Botany? Michael reminded me that the botanists at Disney make a very nice living. Herpetology? Well, that remains to be seen. Seriously zoos are always looking for people who are willing to handle reptiles. That is a trait not for the faint of heart for sure.
The key here is to let him learn and pursue these interests without any condemnation from us. If he was interested in the topic then we were willing to help him learn more about it. I personally find trains really boring. As in put you to sleep boring. Logan’s little preschool eyes would light up at the sight of a train. Since he was non verbal at the time, we grasped at anything that would make him interact with us . Trains were it. Boring or not, I would play trains with him all day if he wanted. We would got to the train park in a nearby town where the trains come along the tracks throughout the day. We visited train museums , I could personally sing every Thomas the Tank engine song ever penned. Dinosaurs were the same way .
Botany brought a spark of a shared enthusiasm for the two of us. I love to piddle out in the garden. I don’t do it well or as often as I should but it is my happy place. Here’s where the tables sort of turned for us. As Logan began emerging from the fog of autism, he wanted to spend time with me. Thus, he became interested in something that interested me. Stop. Do you know how phenomenally cool that is to say? It was also a great way to engage Grampa in a conversation. Something Logan struggled to do as he didn’t know Grampa that well. Sadly, Grampa died before that relationship could blossom . We encouraged Logan to work through his grief and learn more about gardening by tilling up a portion of our yard allowing him to have his very own vegetable garden. He and I work in the garden together to this day. While not his number one passion at the moment, it is still one he enjoys.
Herpetology wins the favorite passion honor. Clearly not a passion for me. Undeterred, Logan asked for and received a snake for Christmas one year from his uncle. Now, he has 3 snakes including a male and female that he hopes to breed. He’s responsible for the care and feeding of them as well as buying any needed supplies. Santa was gracious this year in bringing him two much needed tanks. I don’t have a clue as to who thought that up. We do splurge and pay for him to attend the Repticon expos when they come locally. This in part because the whole family enjoys going to see the reptiles although the spiders creep Madison out.
Back to the original question, could he make a career out of these? I think the answer is yes. Not only could he successfully support his family being a gardener /farmer and/or herpetologist but he could run his own business doing both or either. Given his quirkiness due to his autism, this may be an excellent choice. We are not only learning about those two subjects but also how to be a successful entrepreneur. How to raise chickens and grow food to sell to others. What people are looking for and how much to charge. In this day and age, you sometimes have to think out of the box for a career choice. Whatever he chooses, I hopes he remembers how much fun it was to follow his passions. In the end, that was the most important lesson of all.