I've always loved to read. I taught myself to read when I was two and never stopped. Mom and dad saw my love for it and pretty much cut me loose, to where I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was, I think, four and was buying Stephen King books when I was 10 or so. I very much remember an incident in 3rd grade when I tried to buy 1984 from Scholastic Reader (they passed out the 8th grade forms to us by accident) and the teacher called my parents to inform them they had made a mistake letting me order it. Her bad luck had dad answering the phone.
For anyone who knows my dad, I give you a few minutes to imagine and enjoy his reaction to the call. It was...multi-syllabic, shall we say.
This addiction, one of my few, has never stopped. We have about close to six thousand books and I've read many to most of them. We've got eight bookcases filled to overflowing; books in straight rows and stacked in piles everywhere there's space. Books in stacks on the floor downstairs, lining the hall, piled in the front of the nonworking chimney.
If someone offered me one tenth of a cent per page for all my books...well, they'd really regret it quickly.
Xan likes books too. He's often carrying one, or two, or three around and almost always grabs some whenever we get in the car. Given his druthers, he tends to go for easy ones with big pictures, and we steer him to more challenging ones. We're pretty sure he reads and understands them to some extent - he's been quizzed in school on books he's read and can name characters, situations and basic things like that.
But lots of times he uses them to bang his elbows or knees with - which seems to help him kind of reset his own body; that being a stranger in your own skin feeling I've written about before. It's hard to get answers from him about less picture-filled books, which may be a lack of understanding the book, the question, or from us in understanding his answers either due to verbal troubles or intellect. After all, he may be answering more than what we ask, giving us a 10 when we expect a 2. He reads. We just don't know how well.
But how does he read other people?
This is usually a big problem with autistic people, where they're busy inside their own heads and skin dealing with their own flood of sensory input to understand, or perhaps even notice, what other people are thinking and feeling. If you have on headphones screaming heavy metal in your ears you aren't be able to catch that whispered question from a person next to you. Other people may see rudeness where it's more overload. At best, even with understanding, you'll be tolerated, not accepted.
He seems to get some things. When we had to put Casper and Ziggy to sleep, he was kind to mommy, giving her little kisses on the top of her head. And, sadly, he's very good at noticing when I'm mad at him, which may or may not mean I'm that too much. But those were and are extremes, clear differences, a boiling ocean or stuttering waterfall where before things were placid and smooth. Other things...
I think he gets when I'm in a good mood, because he wants me to play with him when I'm like that, when I'm likely to really get down and tickle him and wrestle him and all that stuff he likes. Then again, there's been times I've been clearly sick, either with pneumonia or a migraine, and he's either wanted to play or wanted me to do things I pretty clearly wasn't capable of doing. Was that the usual selfishness kids can show, or was it him not seeing I was in pain? How well can he read us, the people he's closest to? (I assume - I can just see me typing out this blog and finding out from his school he's the combination analyst and counselor to his class...)
This is important to get, of course, because reading other people will at the least let you fit in society a bit better - maybe your particular puzzle piece will have to be pushed in a bit, or maybe there'll be a gap at one segment or another, but you'll still be in the whole. But if you can't see when some people are happy, sad, mad, sick - you won't fit. You'll be that square peg in the round hold, or that picture of a cherry in the puzzle of clouds, or that odd checker on the chess board that's meant to be a pawn.
It's hard to teach too. People tend to be separate in their emotions. Books with the same color cover can be millions of differences inside. Only way to know is to be able to read them. Which we don't know how well he can do yet.