He walked up to me, with his perfect olive skin, thick curly black hair and big brown eyes, grabbed two big fistfuls of my hair and yanked me to the ground.
I fell to my knees, catching myself with my face just inches from the gravel.
He held on tight and continued to pull.
One mother started shouting, “coach the motor, coach the motor” while another yelled “hands let go, hands let go.”
He released me and ran away.
I stayed on all fours for a few seconds, sore, dazed, and a little stunned while everyone else continued their walk to the campfire as if nothing had happened.
If anyone asked if I was ok, I didn’t hear it.
I knew at that moment, I was going to learn a lot in the next few days.
His name is Enoch. He’s 9, autistic, and non-speaking.
He is one of the most beautiful children I have ever seen. Ethereal. Angelic.
He’s in motion non-stop. Running and jumping, picking up rocks, pulling on tree branches, sticking leaves in his mouth.
Always full speed ahead.
I met him last summer at Spellers Camp where non-speaking autistics go to spell, to be with others who spell to communicate, and to just be.
I first spotted him right after dinner on our first night. We were standing outside the dining hall and he was running in big circles around us. I tried to identify his parents but couldn’t.
A group of us started walking to the campfire, he followed, still doing laps around us. We parents were watching and knew he was one of ours. We gave each other the knowing glances that said we got our eyes on him.
It was on this walk when the assault occurred.
But is that what that was? An assault? An attack? An aggressive behavior?
Or was it something else?
No doubt there was something going on with Enoch and me.
He kept trying to sneak up on me all night. And I was ready. I was alert and I was bracing myself.
He got close enough to reach for my hair one time but I was able to gently catch his hands before he got a grip. Then he walked away.
Not a word or a sound from him.
This dance between him and me continued throughout the next day.
And then his dad plopped him in his lap. He pulled out his keyboard that Enoch uses to spell words to communicate, and said to him, “What is going on with you and Miss Jenn’s hair?”
The sweet boy looked at me and typed “I love her hair so much.”
My heart dropped.
How many people would have guessed that was it?
How many would have yelled at him, scolded him, said he had s severe behavioral issue and was aggressive?
A whole lot.
He loves my hair.
And he has neuro-motor planning disorder.
His body doesn’t do what his mind wants it to do.
There’s a breakdown between his brain and his body that causes him to do things that appear to be aggressive. But he has no control.
He can’t help it.
He wanted to touch my hair because he loved it.
But his hands grabbed and pulled instead.
The other moms knew what to do. “Coach the motor” means instruct the body what to do. Speak directly to the motor planning.
“Hands let go” did the trick.
A lesson I won’t soon forget.
There’s so much out there that only a few have figured out about our kids with autism.
We are misunderstanding them and we are underestimating them.
The non-speakers are communicating and teaching us so much.
We need to listen.
They are begging us to.
We leave for another Spellers Camp in two weeks. Jakob is going to work with some of the very best of the best communication partners. He will spell for us and maybe, just maybe, tell us something about himself that we never would have guessed.
And Enoch will be there.
I’m excited to see him and to hear everything he’s been able to share through spelling.
I hope he still loves my hair.
You can find Jenn’s Ted X Talk here:
To Love Under any Condition
Jenn Jordan has spent her entire adult life on the radio. For the last 17 years she has co hosted the Jeff and Jenn morning show on Cincinnati’s Q102. She has had her hands extra full since 2001, attempting to balance crazy morning work hours and being a single mom to her son Jakob. Jakob was diagnosed with autism at 3 and a half and Jenn has made it her mission in life to understand and help him find his voice so he can live his best life. And somewhere in this mission Jenn started to understand herself and find her own voice too. Jenn attended the School of Conscious Living and is a certified Enneagram Teacher and Trainer.