Superheros are a big deal in our family. Comic Book Wednesday is a source of weekly celebration. Iron Man? My eldest could tell you all about SHIELD’s history. Falcon? My middle has been waiting over a year to be him for Halloween. The two-year old will shriek whenever he sees Spiderman (you can tell Mama’s a Marvel girl, right?).
But superheros and comics are the biggest deal for Kid A, my oldest son. He’s eight, and he was officially diagnosed with ASD last year, though we’ve had IEPs and extra resources for a few years now.
I’m a comic book nerd, so the kid comes by it naturally. But a lot of kids on the ASD spectrum are visual learners, and find that particular kind of storytelling both compelling and informative. And Kid A’s just, well. He took to comics like a duck to water. The kid can describe in great detail pretty much every one of Iron Man’s armors. He can tell you what the draw is on Hawkeye’s bow. He can go on at length about the Howling Commandos. Seriously at length. Like, claw-your-face-off at length.
For a kid on the spectrum, this kid at least, the very structure of comics themselves is helpful in a way that may not seem obvious to us neurotypicals. He has trouble with filtering, his brain doesn’t necessarily pick up on visual cues from the people around him and sometimes the things that come out of his mouth aren’t appropriate, or they’re ill-timed, or they’re just too much. I don’t want to change who he is, but survival skills are necessary because kids aren’t always kind. So we talk about thought bubbles, conversation bubbles, the kind you see in the comics, about visualizing what’s in the box over your head before you say it. Silly maybe, but it works a lot of the time.
That the Marvel movies began to take over the box office has been fortuitous. He’s never seen any of the movies, too much for him even if I was okay with him taking in the amount of violence in them, which I’m not. But Marvel tends to roll out both easy readers aimed at both the K-1 set and the upper elementary set with all of their movies, loose novelizations of the films themselves. It’s a great resource for Kid A, because he can still be reasonably knowledgeable about what happened in those movies, without the trauma that the lights and noise can sometimes provide. His love for and fascination with comics has given him something to talk to other kids his age about, a way to relate, which has often been a challenge.
His favorite is Hawkeye, and he’s particularly fond of Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye. I asked him recently what it was about that character in particular, someone with no actual superpowers, that he liked so much. Mostly, I wanted to know what he saw when he stepped into that world. The truth is he likes Hawkeye best because he is not Iron Man or Captain America or a lot of things Hawkeye seems to want to be but he keeps determinedly trying anyway. He’s a hero because of his flaws, not in spite of them.
Did I mention the kid’s eight?
I love comics. He loves comics. I love watching him engage the things he loves. I love talking about armors and bows and Helicarriers and I love that we can share this. I love watching him sit and devour the latest book in the mail. I love how he lights up, talking about certain characters. I love how much fun we had making this avatar together.
Superheros are pretty great and I’m lucky enough to have one at home.
- Celi (breakthecitysky)
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