I've done more lecturing than I would have preferred this semester. Never having taught at this university before, I didn't know what to expect, so I defaulted with, "I'm a very good and reasonably interesting public speaker" which has served me well in a pinch before.
Mostly the class likes my jokes, and every now and again I throw something in for a specific part of the audience, which keeps me, at least, amused. I know for a fact that a small group are keeping track of how often I say one word in particular, so I will include it on purpose from time to time; I know that it also slips out. No, it's not a swear word!
One of the people I could count on to smile always sits in the same seat, which isn't surprising, and has dark red hair, a useful combination to me as I tried to learn everyone's name. He wears the same t shirt a lot, but so do a lot of other students; he, at least, seems to wash it on a regular basis. I also noticed that he embraced a girlfriend right before class each day and then she went to a different classroom - nothing over the top, but he did it every day. It's not in the least bit creepy but, let's face it, in 2012 it's definitely unusual. (Then again, so is the laundry.)
Over the semester, I slowly put together some cues - he's very bright, but speaks at a very rapidfire pace so that it can be hard to understand him unless you really focus. He remembers everything I say, but rarely makes eye contact when we talk. His knowledge goes beyond polymath, but he's not always aware that one Monty Python sketch might be more appropriate to a class topic than another...
A few weeks ago, it hit me: Asperger's.
I'm very grateful for this guy's humor and enthusiasm; he's been a huge help to me. Nothing at all has changed in how I handle him or see him as a student, which I think (hope) says a great deal about us as a culture and as a society. Believing this to be the case, though, does make me think of Moose every class and grin.
Grateful as I am for this student, I'm even more grateful to Rob http://chesterley.blogspot.com/2012/11/education.html and his wife http://chesterleyschild.blogspot.com/ for sharing their son, aka Moose, with me. To be fair, I'm also grateful for their cooking and their TiVo and their laughter and their wisdom and their truly awesome dog, but their son most of all. Knowing Moose, watching him grow up, hearing him laugh - I'm such a broader person, and that helped me understand this suent with the dark red hair. Thanks.
By the way, speaking of cooking, we owe you supper.