7 years later, I distinctly remember this request of our then 6 year old son Alex. The delivery of his question came with great purpose and clarity. It took me by surprise you see, Alex is Autistic..
What happened next is the stuff of screen plays and inspirational after school specials. We purchased said Rippin Rocket and brought it home. At first I tried and failed to help Alex assemble the Rippin Rocket. They next day, Alex is back at work in our playroom with no directions, only looking at the box, he builds a functioning Rippin Rocket in about 2 hours. My wife and I were so excited for him and so proud. That day began what has been a 7 year love affair with K’NEX and Alex. One that was rudely interrupted in February of 2011 when on Valentine’s Day, Alex had to have his left eye removed due to a medical condition. A kick in the gut to all of us that love him so, But Alex would not be denied. Within a few weeks of the surgery he was building some highly technical stuff. He received his prosthetic eye a few weeks later and has been going hard ever since. You name it he has built it. Rippin Rocket, Rippin Rocket 2, Ferris wheel, Big Air Ball Tower, and Shark Run; all of which he can build within an hour and a half. There are many others that he has conjured from the depths of his beautiful autistic mind.
Alex likes to get on the K’NEX web page and see what other kids are building. Lately he has taken to creating kitchen items such as napkin and paper towel holders. There is an evolution of his thinking and ability to come up with a new design. As parents, this is like a miracle for us to witness, most 13 year old boys have competitive sports football, basketball, baseball to help forge their path into young adulthood. With Alex’s Autism, we know his road lies down a different path than most kids his age; many autistic kids develop unusual interest in various areas such as dinosaurs, fire engines, and sports statistics. Alex’s interest in K’NEX makes us proud for several reasons. It takes a lot of cognitive, sequential, motor visual and spatial planning to get K’NEX built. The fact that Alex can do this with Autism and only one eye makes it all the more amazing. He is a great kid with a big heart and a capacity to achieve we simply don’t yet understand. K'NEX has made us excited about the potential for what his future could hold. And as parents, we are grateful to K’NEX and Alex for that gift.