Martina and I stared, completely bewildered by what we were witnessing. There was Julian, sprawled out on the den sofa, seemingly transfixed by the presidential debate between President Obama and Governor Romney. This is Julian! If it’s not Disney animated movies, Animal Planet or the occasional show, about mythical creatures, on the SyFy channel he’s not interested. Yet there he was, intently watching the screen, as the two political candidates went back and forth.
Why, of all things, has the presidential election penetrated his world? We don’t know. But, to be sure, it has. It started a couple of months ago when he would periodically ask one of us who we thought would win the election? Who was ahead? The intensity of his interest has increased as election day draws near. While he doesn’t really grasp the major issues and their respective complexities, frankly how many people do, he has latched onto healthcare and how it might affect him.
Just a few days ago he and I had this exchange.
“Dad do we have Medicade?”
“So it doesn’t affect me?”
“My life won’t change?”
“Everything will remain the same for you, son.”
“Who is winning the election?”
“It’s close, hard to say.”
The fact that I was having this dialogue with Julian was, to me, pretty amazing. He actually seems a bit anxious when discussing the matter. Could it be that because he’s seen his fair share of doctors and is on medication have something to do with this? Probably. As most of you are well aware, when a person with autism “dials into something” then they can become nearly obsessive. Julian has certainly turned his attention to the race. Yes, he has a preference and no, I’ll not share that with you. It’s his business.
What’s interesting is that something, so inconsistent with his well established interest community, could occupy such a dominant place in his thoughts. I look upon this as an opening, a teaching moment if you will. We’ve discussed who various political leaders are; he can now name our state’s governor, the candidates for governor in our state, our mayor, congressman, both vice presidential nominees and various members of the president’s cabinet.
Early voting begins in our home state(North Carolina) this week and Martina, Julian and I will go vote together. The idea of this moves him to bouncing , smiling and clapping his hands. Maybe it’s all about the realization that he will be able to do something that carries such weight in our society, something that makes him like so many others. On this matter he is Julian Ballen, citizen. Just maybe he’s doing something that we all should do when considering whom to vote for, pay close attention.
So there he was, completely engrossed, watching and listening. He didn’t want to go to bed until the debate was over. As he watched I noticed one of his stuffed toy Simbas, nestled snuggly in his left hand. He may be watching the debate but he’s still Julian.
Clearly, with all due respect, President Obama nor Governor Romney stand a chance when measured against the prince of The Lion King.