We watched the first disc of the first season of “Sliders” and one of the episodes revolved around an impending asteroid impact. The next day my deeply inquisitive wife asked my lightly autistic son what he would do if there was going to be an asteroid impact in 2 days which would wipe-out all life on earth. After a minute of thinking he declared:
“I’d build a missile and blow up the asteroid.”
She explained that in this scenario the asteroid was too big to blow up.
“Then I’d build a rocket and go live on another planet.”
After inquiring into his ability to build a rocket in 2 days she clarified that in this hypothetical you are constrained to the abilities you already have in real life.
“Oh. Then I’d dig a cave and fill it with machines to make air and grow food.”
At this point she gave up on the line of questioning.
My first inclination was to think that my boy is a survivor. Intently focused on solving the problem.
But as the conversation drug on and she still failed to get at a bucket-list, I began to realize that he didn’t even really understand the concept. He couldn’t grasp the underlying question of “what do you WANT to do?”
I asked him a similar hypothetical a couple of months back: “If you could do anything, what would you do?”
He found the question seriously stressful. He lost the ability to make eye-contact. He kind of started rocking a little bit. His “I don’t know” had a whining about to cry feel to it. I tried suggesting things. Learn to juggle? Learn to fight? Run faster than anyone else? With each of these questions his stress level just built higher, until I hit on:
“Build a machine?”
He stopped rocking and nodded.
“What kind of machine?”
“A helicopter?” he offered hesitantly.
“How big a helicopter?”
He held his hands about a foot apart, and slowly took them further apart until he was expressing his entire wing-span then he dropped his arms and said “about as big as the car.”