Ken Simons: web designer, editor, and archivist

Ceci n'est pas un train


old train image from Wikimedia Commons Apologies for running three items in a row about public transit — the thing is, I spend a lot of time on it these days. Anyway, the main point of this anecdote is the way that people with autism frequently have a better grip on the difference between ‘real’ and ‘not-real’ than do the neurotypical.

We were walking to the subway, overhearing an autistic-spectrum boy we know telling his helper what he wanted for his birthday.

— I want trains, he said.

— Real trains? asked his helper.

— No, not real trains, pretend trains. (Pause.) Pretend trains, like in a book about trains, he explained.

About 20 minutes later, we were on the Queen streetcar and a couple of blokes were talking loudly about macho stuff. One of them said how he was going to get a train set for his four-year-old nephew.

— A real train, he said, so he doesn’t have to play with girly things.