How many batteries do you have?

How many batteries do you have?

I read a story about an eight-year-old Aspie boy in Tony Attwood’s “The Complete Guide To Asperger Syndrome”:

The door bell rang, heralding the arrival of another guest for Alicia’s birthday party. Her mother opened the door and looked down to see Jack, the last guest to arrive. It was her daughter’s ninth birthday and the invitation list had been for ten girls and one boy. Alicia’s mother had been surprised at this inclusion, thinking that girls her daughter’s age usually consider boys to be smelly and stupid, and not worthy of an invitation to a girl’s birthday party. But Alicia had said that Jack was different. His family had recently moved to Birmingham and Jack had been in her class for only a few weeks. Although he tried to join in with the other children, he hadn’t made any friends. The other boys teased him and wouldn’t let him join in any of their games. Last week he had sat next to Alicia while she was eating her lunch, and as she listened to him, she thought he was a kind and lonely boy who seemed bewildered by the noise and hectic activity of the playground. He looked cute, a younger Harry Potter, and he knew so much about so many things. Her heart went out to him and, despite the perplexed looks of her friends when she said he was invited to her party, she was determined he should come. And here he was, a solitary figure clutching a birthday card and present which he immediately gave to Alicia’s mother. She noticed he had written Alicia’s name on the envelope, but the writing was strangely illegible for an eight-year-old. ‘You must be Jack,’ she said and he simply replied with a blank face, ‘Yes’.

She smiled at him, and was about to suggest he went into the garden to join Alicia and her friends when he said, ‘Alicia’s birthday present is one of those special dolls that my mum says every girl wants, and she chose it, but what I really wanted to get her was some batteries. Do you like batteries? I do, I have a hundred and ninety-seven batteries. Batteries are really useful. What batteries do you have in your remote controllers?’ Without waiting for a reply, he continued, ‘I have a special battery from Russia. My dad’s an engineer and he was working on an oil pipeline in Russia and he came home with six triple-A batteries for me with Russian writing on them. They are my favourite. When I go to bed I like to look at my box of batteries and sort them in alphabetical order before I go to sleep. I always hold one of my Russian batteries as I fall asleep. My mum says I should hug my teddy bear but I prefer a battery. How many batteries do you have?’ She replied, ‘Well, I don’t know, but we must have quite a few…’, and felt unsure what to say next.

Her daughter was a very gentle, caring and maternal girl and she could understand why she had ‘adopted’ this strange little boy as one of her friends. Jack continued to provide a monologue on batteries, how they are made and what to do with them when the power is exhausted. Alicia’s mother felt exhausted too, listening to a lecture that lasted about ten minutes. Despite her subtle signals of needing to be somewhere else, and eventually saying, ‘I must go and get the party food ready,’ he continued to talk, following her into the kitchen. She noticed that when he talked, he rarely looked at her and his vocabulary was very unusual for an eight-year-old boy. It was more like listening to an adult than a child, and he spoke very eloquently, although he didn’t seem to want to listen.

Eventually she said, ‘Jack, you must go into the garden to say hi to Alicia and you must go now.’ Her facial expression clearly indicated there was no alternative. He gazed at her face for a few seconds, as if trying to read the expression, and then off he went. She looked out of the kitchen window and watched him run across the grass towards Alicia. As he ran through a group of four girls, she noticed one of them deliberately put out her foot to trip him up. As he fell awkwardly to the ground, the girls all laughed. But Alicia had seen what happened and went over to help him get to his feet.

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