Remember “200 Things to Love About Life“? Well, that was written from my adult Asperger’s perspective, and I’m very aware that if I’d made that list as a child or teen with Asperger’s, my answers would have been different.
Now, many people are curious about what an autistic child’s brain looks like on the inside. So I decided to gather some snapshots. On Autistic Not Weird’s Facebook page, I asked my followers to ask a child on the autism spectrum the following question:
“What do you love most about life?”
I got quite a lot of responses. 130, in fact. (I was aiming for 100 and missed.) As is often the case, the Autistic Not Weird community was slightly enthusiastic about sharing answers! Oh, and when I asked for “a couple of photos to break up the text”, I was presented with over 50 of them.
(The photo experience was actually quite striking: having read messages from parents along the lines of “I need help with something my son’s struggling with”, “I’ll show this article to my daughter” or “thank you for helping me to understand my Aspie”, over the last few days I’ve seen the faces of actual young people I’m told I’ve had some influence over. It was quite surreal, really.)
Anyway, let’s get to the answers. Note the similarities between some of these and children’s opinions in general. That should tell us something.
At the same time though, some of these answers have “autistic brilliance” written all over them.
(Oh, and it’s surprising how many parents think Minecraft is spelt “mind craft”! Don’t worry kids, I’ve changed them!)
So here we go! Children of Autistic Not Weird followers, what do you love most about life?
(Note- these answers are almost entirely different to those in the published book. Somehow it didn’t seem like a good idea to make them both the same!)
“That I get to live it.”
Matthew (12, Asperger’s)
“That I have a good family and blessed life in this kind of world.”
Elizabeth’s son (10, Asperger’s)
“Family, water and doing things I’m not supposed to!
Catherine’s daughter (4)
“My 11 year old Aspie son Lucas read the post, and after going over several possible answers with himself said that he enjoys being different and unique.
Brought tears to my eyes because I’ve worked so hard to instil in him that different is beautiful and now I know that he truly believes it.”
“Because my grandma and my grandpa love me!”
Nicky’s son (4, ASD)
“Ayden (3, ASD) loves numbers and alphabets.”
“Making videos, road trips and drawing!”
James (13, ASD/PDD)
“Playing with friends, playing on playgrounds, playdate with cousins, singing when I’m alone, wearing pretty clothes, and I don’t think this is a good answer and it isn’t happening right now but, having long hair… being with family, and having tiny little parties… having imaginary friends, playing outside pretending my swingset is a fair. That is one whole entire answer.”
“My favourite thing is the Children’s Museum because it’s awesome… can I go now?”
“My dogs. To play computer and look at YouTube. I want to be a YouTuber when I grow older.”
“My son says dancing to the music in him.”
“Holidays, weekends, my birthday, when I get stuff, half days of school and the last day of school.”
“Having lots of friends, having them there when I fall over and hurt myself… and being in Boys’ Brigade.”
Daniel (7, ASD/ADHD). As his captain, I punched the air in joy.
“Getting out of bed, school, doing things and HISTORY! Being able to read.”
Luke (10, Asperger’s) Wait… did he just say “getting out of bed”?
“Some maths and English, P,E, and modern dance, hugging Mum and Dad, playing with Blu Blu [her interactive dolphin toy] hugging blanket and reading.”
Kayleigh (10, ASD). She and Luke are brother and sister.
“Our boy doesn’t speak but if he did he’d say the color yellow. I never appreciated yellow until we realized how happy it makes him. For the longest time we had to carry a yellow Lego with us at all times, it was the one guaranteed way to distract him from an impending melt down. In Huddy’s world, Yellow Lego is Best Lego.”
“14-year-old girl, ASD. Shrugs and says “everything.””
“4 year old Joshie [would be classified as Asperger’s under the old titles in Australia] shows me through his actions that he LOVES:
Minecraft, YouTube, iPads, Swings, Trampolines, Playdough, his friend Zinny, his Mum’s armpits (lol… we don’t get that one either), and his big sister. He loves her a lot.”
“My YouTube channel and awesome parents!!”
“Knowing that God is right beside me, even when I am out of control, and can’t help myself. And also, that I have a family that loves me.”
Timothy (13, HFA)
“Snowman and smashing my toys into snow.”
Colin, age 4 (his father adds “we were playing in the snow today so it’s on his mind.”)
“Video games, pizza, being goofy, parents who love me and understand me, a very good school with very good teachers, and The Regular Show.”
Nathan (11, HF-ASD)
“Kayaking, playing with friends, helping my dad, my dog Marty, lobster.”
Noah (15, ASD)
“He said, “yes I’ll answer that, but Pokemon is on right now.” So I guess I’ll be getting back to you after Pokemon, priorities you know.”
Renae. When she asked again later, his answer was “Pokemon”. His second answer was “Pikachu”.
“Drawing and family are the best things in life.”
“Being alive.” […] “That other people are alive.”
“Minecraft and Stylee [my dog]”
Ben (9, ASD/ADHD/depression)
Scott’s step-grandson (8)
“Playing Minecraft, haha. That’s all, nothing else.”
“Cake and icing. Oh, and Minecraft!”
Kim’s son (5)
“Eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
“I don’t know. I don’t know! Well, a pygmy pig and a kitten, to keep as pets. A kitchen with equipment and food to be a chef in, all by myself.”
“Kaden, 5 has Asperger’s. He loves “being Darth Vader because he’s awesome”. He adds ‘I’m not the real one Mummy, it’s just me Kaden wearing a mask’.”
“My son’s nonverbal but understands all that is said to him… I know if I ask him this he will point to his tablet and the joy of watching trains and trams on YouTube, on repeat, makes life totally awesome. (PS- my son is awesome, full stop.)”
“Everything cookie monster!”
“The colour yellow, Thomas the Trains, and the show How It’s Made.”
“I know I should do the right thing and say family but I want to be honest and say daydreaming! I love daydreaming and you can’t do that if you’re not alive.”
Freddie (10, HFA). According to my parents, this is the exact answer I’d have given at his age too.
“The three M’s. Maths, Music and Metro [her swimming club].”
Vicky’s daughter (9)
“Taren, 12, can be himself without caring who is watching!”
“My boys are adults now but in childhood one loved ‘Halo’ the video game and the other loved guitars and knew sooo much about different makes and models. They both loved and still love animals and our dogs have always been a great source of comfort and companionship.”
“Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.”
Peter (3, ASD with hyperlexia). His mother adds: “he’s been really focused on Chicka chicka Boom Boom since last summer, so his dad made his Halloween costume.”)
“Family, friends and Xbox.”
Jodie’s child (10, Asperger’s)
“Friends, family and money!!”
“Sam (10 years old): “I like designing things in my head.”
I asked him “What about your family and friends?”
He looked at me, raised his eyebrow, and smirked. “You’re trying to change my answer.”
“Playing cars on the table because it’s shiny and smooth on the wheels”
“Having a roof over my head and being lucky (compared to less fortunate people in the world). That, and video games.”
“Turning the wheel!”
Liam (8), playing Mario Kart with his shirt on backward.
“Ragtime music and tophats. And funny cats.”
“Trains. Thomas to Hornby, the real thing large Steam Trains or the small ones it’s all about trains. Favourite places – stores that have display cases of Trains, train stations, train based tourist places. Favourite activity watching YouTube videos of Thomas trains or making a track. Age 6 Autistic.”
“My darling 16 year old said “dopamine”. …I had to laugh. Then he said new PlayStation games he has been waiting to be released.”
“I love the most the computer and TV.”
“My favourite things about life… just being a gamer, maybe… just playing. Plus I do watch a lot of TV. And cats. Totally.”
“I love watching videos, playing, and helping – especially with the laundry!”
“Video games, iPad and games… That question was a bit too easy for me.”
“Esa (5) been into Pokemon in a big way since he was 3! He would wake up and the first thing he would say is “I love you mama”. The second “do you know that Pokemon has that level and can attack like this”!”
“For my son it’s all about Dreamworks boy fishing in the moon!”
“My son Theo 8 loves teaching his baby sister stuff and being a big brother!”
Gemma, who later sent me this via PM:
“Tonight I was feeling stressed and exhausted [after a tough day of trying to make both kids happy at the same time] when Theo said to me; ‘I need to change my answer to that man’s question, the best thing about life is having you as my mummy, you’re amazing, you always make everyone happy’ and now I’m on cloud 9!”
“Peanut butter and jelly, leaves, Daddy, and Mommy.”
Lesley’s son (7)
“My daughter, Jaz [9 years old] said “I don’t know”. I prompted her with a few things she likes, and very quickly she yelled back “beach!””
“Snuggling with my blankie, and you Mommy.”
“I have a 9 year old with high functioning autism. His answer was playing football, real football for a team this year. He says he is happy, and what could make him happier is playing cricket too!”
“Her: I don’t know.
Me: It’s from Autistic Not Weird, you know, he wrote the column I read you about growing up autistic.
Her: Oh. Ok. Give me a minute. I don’t know. Family and people who care about me? Food. Music. The inevitability of going to Heaven some day.
I asked if she’d answer differently if she wasn’t autistic, and she said she didn’t know. Good answer. How would you know?”
“Playing on my desktop [computer] aka the mean machine!”
“Kaysan, my five-year-old son, is almost nonverbal. But he loves ice cream, swinging, all types of busses, bubbles, watching train videos on YouTube continuously, saying “hello” without a break 100 times in a row, climbing, chinese noodles, tickling, riding cable cars, and watching water flow by.”
“Thomas (7) would say his costumes and mascots.”
“Watching videos, playing, and helping.”
Angie’s son (10, HFA)
“I asked my son George (9). His answer surprised me. He said the thing he loves most about life is that he loves having a disability because he wouldn’t be able to go to his special school and his special gymnastics class if he didn’t.
His answer makes sense and makes me so proud of him because we had many years of heartache, struggling with mainstream school, getting excluded from 3 primary schools and asked to leave lots of sports clubs. The last six months have been the happiest of George’s life because he finally feels like he fits in.”
Beth (who adds “he’s quite the camera lover!”)
“My son Levi, who will be 6 in a week, has high functioning autism. He gave me the biggest hug when I asked him and said snuggling with you, that’s where I’m most safe.”
“My daughter, aged 8, said “playing games” (board games & digital games) and “you Mummy”. No editing or prompting I swear.”
“Mostly everything. [Then, after a little pushing:] Colouring, ‘cos it helps me relax.”
Meagan’s 5-year-old son
“Michael, recently turned 7, said “nothing!”
I asked at the wrong time and he was not prepared, so that’s the answer I was given. So I am improvising by speaking on his behalf. Any board games (eg. chess, snakes and ladders, bingo) the weather and looking up the weather in different countries and cities. Maps and mazes. Dates and time. Clocks and watches. Writing on whiteboards, music, iPad, puzzles.”
About chess, he says: “I am going to protect my King, so nobody, will ever get him. But I really like the queen, the best!!!”
Griffin (4, HFA), whose mother adds “I know he also likes taking videos on his kindle fire, letters and numbers.”
“Solving the impossible mystery that gives our lives meaning.”
Fin (10). Who also likes jumping around in his underwear.
“Andrew, nearly 5, unsure if high or low functioning due to lots of things being possibly caused by glue ear, adenoids and tonsil, loves his trampoline, bubbles, Mum, Dad and little sister (he lets her hug him now)- only taken three years), custard creams, scotch eggs, school, inset puzzles, wooden blocks, riding on the bus, the park, running up and down (specifically hospital corridors are a favourite) local soft play zone, “champion toilet days” (aka no accidents) Mum and Dad’s bed, number jacks, Peppa Pig, Mr. Tumble, people singing songs to him (he joins with the odd word), and climbing.”
Amanda, who continues: “I have to stop now because I’m going to go have a little cry. This time even a year ago I wouldn’t be able to say even a 1/4 of what I have for certain.”
“Loving my parents, days when I don’t have to go to school, Minecraft, maths’ tests, because they are so easy peasy and making up math questions in my head.”
Giedre’s son (8)
“Family and friends.”
Robert (11), who is also a Doctor Who addict but refused to adapt his answer because ‘family and friends are the best thing’. Got to love his loyalty!
“ASMr 7 says “Playing Xbox ALL day.””
“ASMr 5 says “Being a superhero. You get to dress up in cool costumes and have super powers.””
Lisa (giving both answers together)
“The Warner Bro’s intro and my grandparents, not being judged, the freedom to mock my government.”
Bruno (10, Asperger’s)
“The never ending maze of finding true love, because you meet new people and never know what’s round the corner.”
Luis (17, ASD/ADHD/OCD)
“Doing X box, watching TV, playing on my Dad’s and Mum’s old phone, riding my horse Booma, swimming in the pool.”
Damon (8, ASD)
“Ice cream, syrup and creatures [30 land and sea stuffed toys that live on his bed].”
Gabrielle’s son (4, HF-ASD). She adds: “He absolutely loves any kind of kinetic energy/ball machines, real or on-screen, reading stories; playing board games, spending time with his dad – especially out in their wood and metal workshop; listing and cataloguing anything interesting: rocks, minerals, elements, birds, which boats are in/out at the local wharf.”
Linea (2.5) would probably say that the best thing about life is that every day can be a dress-up day and being a Princess is the best thing ever! (she wears a princess dress at home every single day)
“You Mummy. [Then after a pause…] By you I mean family!”
Jo’s son (9)
“Dinosaurs, animals, dragons, MOM, Daddy, life!, Zoboomafoo. That’s it Mom, just put a period and post it!”
Kanaan (6, Asperger’s/ADHD/OCD), who really wanted to get back to watching his favourite show!
“Talking to the trees [and yes, his mother adds, they have long conversations] and hats. [He has so many hats.]”
Tyrell (14, Asperger’s)
“My daughter Lakota is 3 and on the autism spectrum somewhere in the middle. She is pretty nonverbal, but has echolalia. She loves music and loves to dance and sing. She also loves patterns and writing.”
Christina, also Tyrell’s mother.
“I love my parents! At least I think I do.”
Eli (8). Brilliant!
“Eating ice cream in bed [which she’s never done].”
“I like it when we’re outside and I like crunching in snow, building snowmen and having snowball fights. I like baking cakes. I love doing magic tricks. I like playing with the Scalextric. I like climbing rocks. I like chocolate! I like throwing stones in the water. I like having friends round to bake chocolate muffins. I like everything about life!”
Mitchell (8, ASC). Amazing answer.
“Watching R-rated movies!”
Quinn (14, classic autism), who has never watched an R-rated movie in his life but does have an extremely good sense of humour.
“Train watching and running my trains, Legos and Minecraft.”
Cito (11)- in the photo he is “riding in the back of a miniature train, made by other train enthusiasts just like him!”
Janelle. Presumably on behalf of a child, but we wouldn’t blame her if otherwise!
Emma’s 7-year-old son. His 5-year-old sister adds “I knew he’d say that.”
“Lego and family.”
Daniel (10, being assessed for Asperger’s)
“Life in general, there’s is no better blessing than life. Whether you’re a living human in this universe or a living train in another. Life is the greatest thing in existence.”
Tyler (almost 12, Classic ASD). Also Daniel’s older brother. And the receiver of a long-distance high-five from me after an answer like that.
“If Daisy [aged 2] could speak she would tell you she loves balls. Watching them drop, roll and being thrown. She loves octonauts, no other programme can she watch. Hearing her laugh at the episodes and bringing us he remote to change it to her favourite episodes. She loves bubbles. She loves her mummy, daddy and grandparents, especially big cuddles of them. She loves making big noises and she loves climbing. She loves rough and tumble play with Daddy.”
“My 6 year old son said “Mommy and Daddy”!”
My son (12) just kept saying “life” until I rephrased the question and asked him to name his top 3 favorite things. Then he said, “Thinking, travelling, and seeing.”
“Doing science , chocolate cake, Minecraft and board games.”
Sam (9). Owen’s twin brother.
“I love animals and books.”
Sarah’s daughter (6)
“My 13-year-old son with Aspergers says the best thing in life is its “unpredictability!”.”
“I asked my two (almost 3) year old, Nikolai, and he climbed onto his trampoline and started jumping and singing. I asked him again. He stopped to listen to my question, then started jumping and singing again. So, there you have it.”
“It’s confusing to talk about, because you have family, possessions, friends…and they can all be your favourite things at different times.”
Felicity’s son (10, Asperger’s). Good point!
Nik: “Kevin (5), what is your favourite thing about life?”
Nik: “Just zebras?”
“My son- he’s almost 12- said: “being with you, pretty much.” Lol. Aspie Kid.”
“”Jeremiah, what is your favorite part about life?”
“That I do wrestling.”
(Sign ups are this week. It’s a Very. Big. Deal. Right now)”
Nicole, who adds: “pic from his very first wrestling meet last year. He got 2nd place in his division, and a love was born.”
“My 13yo is non-verbal but I know him well enough to answer on his behalf:
– You are never too big/old for jumping castles
– Dust motes spinning in a sunbeam are truly beautiful
– Music is essential to happiness
– A bath overflowing with bubbles will never fail to make you smile
– The best thing about visiting the doctor is the blood pressure cuff
– Bear hugs are the BEST!”
“I love people and meeting new people.” “I love to go to Indiana and see my family.”
CJ (16), who also adds: “I love going to school at Syracuse University. I’m still in high school but I’m in an awesome program for high school students. I have made lots of friends and I am learning many new things.”
“Anthony said, “is that like the best thing ever?” I said “if that’s what you think it means.” He gave me one word “Karting.””
“Video games, yourube, Pokemon, and a dog named Layla!”
“Having friends and family that care. Family including pets. Food would be my second answer.”
“Well um… my sketches, Bring Me The Horizon, my ‘fam’, my fratello [brother] Gabe, my sorella [sister] Rachel, anime, and other stuff. Also the LGBT+ community. Can’t forget them am I right? OH! Also my mental designs and my Pinetree [nickname for a friend of hers]. I love my Pinetree.”
Paige (12, HF-ASD)
“My 10 year old autistic son loves Marine Biology, Minecraft, Sculpting mini sized Pokemon out of non drying clay, Studying human anatomy, anything to do with NASA, and drawing.”
“My son Max (9) said something like “my friends and family” but when I told him to say what he really felt and not what he thought he should say, he changed his answer to “beating really hard games”. This made me smile.”
“My favourite thing about life is knowing that past the difficulties I face, there are people who take me under their wing and love me for who I am.”
Mohammad-Omar (13). Awesome.
“Building train tracks and watching the trains go round. He could spend all day every day doing this.”
Sandra’s son (6, ASD/Apert Syndrome)
“Trains, TV, Minecraft, football ,Thomas the train, Thomas the train 100x more.”
“And another vote for trains from my 11-year-old son!”
“You can choose who you want to be- it’s kind of like creating your own game. The best thing is you can get inspired by stuff- like you can watch Sonic and think ‘I want to be fast like him’, or WWE and think ‘I want to act as well as they can’.”
Morgan (11, Asperger’s). And yep, the same Morgan from the “Five ways to damage autistic children” article. I’ve been helping him with his self-perception for the best part of a year, so I was ecstatic to find out that he knows his future self is in his hands.
“That I am a part of it.”
Teresa’s son (17)
“I asked my 9 year old son Adam this very question not long ago. I said, “Are you happy?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “What would you change about your life to make you even happier?”. He thought for the briefest pause and said, “Less peas, more rollercoasters.””
Less peas and more rollercoasters. That would actually improve my life too.
Thanks to everyone for their contributions- feel free to add more in the comments!
Underdogs, a near-future dystopia series where the heroes are teenagers with special needs, is a character-driven war story which pitches twelve people against an army of millions, balancing intense action with a deeply developed neurodiverse cast.
Chris Bonnello is a national and international autism speaker, available to lead talks and training sessions from the perspective of an autistic former teacher. For further information please click here (opens in new window). Autistic Not Weird on Facebook