Feb 17, 2012 0 Share


Collage of pictures of Cody from childhood to adulthood.
Artwork by Michele Langlo

I often wish I had the same memory capacity as my son. Cody can tell you how old he was if you ask him about a specific event in his life. When he was 12 his grandmother bought him a set of three cassette tapes called, “101 Children’s Songs and Rhymes.” He had them memorized from start to finish. But why can’t the rest of us do that?

There are many instances where Cody has demonstrated his abilities of recollection. He can walk down our hallway which is lined with pictures of him in different stages of his life. If I point to one and ask him how old he was in that picture he can tell me. And he’s right every time.

He was seven when we took the picture of him and Bill in front of the old white house, just before we went to our friend Erika’s wedding. He informed me that it was also the same day Bill found the big black snake beneath the mimosa tree where Cody and Bill had their picture taken.

He was three when he fell asleep at the table in front of his chicken noodle soup. He was 19 when we went to the cabin in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. We also visited Lake Superior where, in Cody’s words, the waves rolling in sounded just like the ocean at Myrtle Beach, where we went for a family reunion and stayed in a condo by the ocean. He can also tell you all the names of the family members who were there.

One time my husband, Bill, had misplaced the paperwork for a truck he was trying to sell. He needed the year he bought the pickup and he could not remember it. So, he asked Cody how old he was when we got the white truck we had affectionately named “Giddy Up Go” upon Cody’s suggestion. Cody immediately said he was 15 years old. And he was right! Later, Bill found the paperwork and the truck had indeed been purchased in the year 2002.

By the way, I had to ask him tonight what we had named the truck.

What is it about some individuals on the autism spectrum that they are often able to recall the past so much better than we who are neurotypical? There are different types of memory, and people with autism often have very detailed memories of past experiences. Cody can tell you the name of every restaurant in every state we have ever been to and what he had to eat there. At Awful Arthur’s in Roanoke, Virginia he had fish. At the Grumpy Troll in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin he had pizza. But his favorite pizza was at Pappa’s Pizza at Tenkiller Lake in Oklahoma. Now, at Schubert’s in Mt. Horeb he had pancakes for breakfast and he liked them. But at Shoney’s in Ashville, North Carolina he had shrimp and he didn’t like his meal.

Cody remembers the name of his dentist when he was three and how he didn’t like him because he was not a good dentist and what he did hurt him. He remembers playing with a mouse on the kitchen floor when he was four, at an old house in which we once lived and how Bill became alarmed when he saw it and killed the mouse. He remembers Granddad Jackson who caught a bird in the attic when Cody was 11 and took it downstairs and set it free outside the back door. And he can tell you the sounds the “bird critter” (Cody’s words) made upon being captured. 

How does Cody’s memory function? I don’t know. I only know I wish I could have half the memory he possesses!