The Outside Peeks In

I often wonder how Nate seems to those who know him least. At times I see him from the outside, watching as he sits at the kitchen table with guests and converses. He can pull it off occasionally, and often we’ve heard comments such as “I didn’t realize Nate was autistic. He seemed quiet.”

Frequently, people hear what they want to hear and those mistakes in the receiving are always to Nate’s advantage. Once, a good friend who popped in every day entered our house through the back door by the computers where Nate and I huddle together.

“Hi, Nate,” she chimed happily.

“Who are you?” Nate asked.

“I’m good. How are you?” It never would have entered her mind that Nate wouldn’t know her, so she didn’t hear that. Score one for the big guy!

Last week, Karen told me that she had run into a local couple, friends of ours, one of whom has known Nate from his very first CSE (Committee on Special Education) meeting. The Mrs., who will remain nameless (not to protect her identity, but because I didn’t ask if I could use her words), was the parent advocate. It was she who filled me in how they encountered Nate in his weekly shopping trip.

We heard “Hi” Mr. and Mrs. X. Turned to look and it was Nate. We asked him what he was buying and he said nothing. Then Karen prompted him to tell us about his yellow ink.

So he told us how he went the day before to buy yellow ink and something was wrong with the cash register so he couldn’t get it. Then he really looked at Mr. X’s hat, which was from a Disney cruise we took a few years ago, and asked Mr. X if it was from Disney and he told him it from a cruise to the Bahamas. Karen said we haven’t been there have we Nate. He said no no we haven’t so Mr. X said well go tell your dad you want to go, Nate said o.k. and off he went. It was the most animated and interactive I have ever seen Nate. In short it was a real pleasure!

For us, that kind of interaction is priceless and goes a long way to countering the times when Nate is completely lost in the social world.

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About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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