Charlie Brown was walking along the street humming to himself when he saw Linus leaning on the wall and looking sad. Charlie Brown walked over to his friend.
"What's the matter, Linus?" He asked.
"Things are weird at home, Charlie Brown." Linus replied. "My parents won't let me have my blanket anymore. They say it's bad for me."
"Why would it be bad, Linus?" Charlie Brown took his place next to Linus.
"Because they want me to be normal."
"But you carrying around that blanket is normal."
"They seem more afraid than usual that I'm not normal."
"But you are normal, Linus."
Linus shook his head. "No. I saw a psychologist and she said I have something called High Functioning Autism."
Charlie Brown frowned. "High what?"
"I don't know myself, Charlie Brown. All I know is that my parents told me that I'll never be normal unless I get rid of my blanket and stop sucking my thumb." Linus sighed. "That and Lucy is afraid of catching it from me."
"How about Rerun?"
"He's just as confused as I am, Charlie Brown."
"Marcie might know what this means, how about we go across town and see her and Peppermint Patty?" Charlie Brown suggested. "That might cheer you up."
"Okay." Linus nodded. "Let's go."
The two set off across town to see Peppermint Patty and Marcie. The whole way, Linus was silent with worry. Mostly that he'd never see his precious blanket again.
Charlie Brown rang the doorbell at Peppermint Patty's house, while Linus stood behind him, nervously. Peppermint Patty answered the door.
"Hey Chuck! Hey Linus!" She greeted enthusiastically.
"Hello, Peppermint Patty." Charlie Brown said. "How are you?"
"Who is it, Sir?" Marcie asked, appearing behind her.
"It's only Chuck and Linus." Peppermint Patty replied. "And don't call me Sir."
"Hello, Charles. Linus." Marcie greeted.
"So what brings you two here?" Peppermint Patty asked.
"Well, you see, Linus is upset because his parents confiscated his security blanket." Charlie Brown explained.
"Oh no." Peppermint Patty exclaimed. "Did he not do well at school?"
"Linus, would you like to explain?"
"I have something called High Functioning Autism. My parents are worried I won't be normal."
"Won't be normal?" Peppermint Patty frowned and cocked her head slightly. "Linus, none of us are normal. I don't get good grades, Marcie calls me Sir, Frieda is obsessed with her 'naturally curly hair', Pig Pen is dirty, Chuck is afraid of everything-"
"I'm not afraid of everything!" Charlie Brown protested.
"Point is, Linus, you're as normal as the rest of us." Peppermint Patty smiled.
"That doesn't make me feel any better. Sorry, Peppermint Patty." Linus sighed.
"Well, maybe you should come inside." Peppermint Patty offered, holding the door open for the boys.
"Thanks, Peppermint Patty." Charlie Brown said as he walked inside. Linus followed.
"By the way, Franklin's here. We were playing Monopoly. You should join us." Peppermint Parry said.
"That sounds great, thanks, Peppermint Patty." Charlie Brown smiled as Peppermint Patty led them to her bedroom.
"Hey Charlie Brown. Hey Linus." Franklin greeted.
"Hey Franklin." Charlie Brown greeted.
"Yeah, hey." Linus said halfheartedly.
"What's wrong, Linus?" Franklin asked.
"Nothing, Franklin. I'm just depressed. My parents took my blanket away because I have High Functioning Autism."
"Autism?" Franklin frowned in thought. "Doesn't Schroeder have that?"
"I thought he had Asperger Syndrome?" Charlie Brown asked.
"I think they're the same thing." Franklin looked over at Marcie.
"I've heard about autism before." Marcie nodded. "But I'm not sure where. May I please check your computer, Sir?"
"I suppose you can, but please stop calling me Sir." Peppermint Patty said.
Marcie made her way over to the computer in the corner of Peppermint Patty's room. "It's asking for a password, Sir."
Peppermint Patty groaned. "Don't call me Sir." She typed in her password-Baseball Rocks-which logged Marcie in.
"So, Linus, beyond your blanket, how are you feeling?" Franklin asked.
"Still depressed, Franklin." Linus shrugged. "I don't know what having Autism means and I especially don't know what the 'High Functioning' bit means. I mean, as far as I'm aware, I function fine."
"Maybe you should drop the 'High Functioning' bit and just say you have Autism." Franklin suggested. "I know that Schroeder has it too. He finds 'High Functioning' to be offensive-not sure why though. But I don't think there's anything wrong with you either, Linus."
"I'm sure everything will work out just fine, Linus." Charlie Brown assured.
"I've just searched for 'autism' on the Internet." Marcie announced. "Here's the first one that's come up-Autism Speaks."
"That sounds good. Maybe you should check that out, Marcie." Charlie Brown said.
Marcie clicked on the site and everyone gathered around Peppermint Patty's computer.
"Click on 'What is Autism'." Peppermint Patty said.
"No, click on 'Facts About Autism'." Charlie Brown said.
"How about 'Symptoms'?" Linus suggested.
"I think we should go for 'Asperger Syndrome'." Franklin said.
"No!" Marcie announced. "I'm going for 'Autism and Your Family'." She said and clicked on it.
Everyone leaned in close to the monitor and read.
"It's not easy to hear the news that your child has autism, and realize that your life will be utterly different than you had expected it to be." Marcie read aloud. "Daily life with a special-needs child presents many unique challenges. How do you come to terms with the fact that your child has autism? How do you cope once you get over the initial shock? We aim to help you by providing regular features on topics ranging from how autism affects your family to day-to-day survival strategies."
"Special needs? Survival strategies?" Charlie Brown looked at Linus, who was looking down at his feet. "I'm not sure this is helping Linus. In fact, I think it's making him feel worse."
"Maybe there'll be something better in the next paragraph?" Peppermint Patty said skeptically.
Marcie nodded and continued to read on. "You are never prepared for a diagnosis of autism. It is likely that you will experience a range of emotions. It is painful to love so much, to want something so much, and not quite get it. You want your child to get better so much you may feel some of the stages commonly associated with grieving. You may “revisit” these feelings from time to time in the future. Part of moving forward, is dealing with your own needs and emotions along the way."
"No, that's harmful." Franklin shook his head. "It's not saying anything about validating Linus' feelings. I think it's just telling how Mr and Mrs Van Pelt is supposed to feel."
"I think you're right, Franklin." Peppermint Patty agreed. "There's nothing for Linus to get better from. He's not dying. Heck, he's not even got the flu. And they're talking about grieving? Wait, that is what people do to dead people, right?"
"Yes, people grieve for dead people, Sir. Grieving is when people feel sad about people that they've lost."
"But Linus is right there!" Peppermint Patty said. "He isn't lost or dead. And Marcie, don't call me Sir."
Marcie scrolled down the page. "Caring for Caregivers." She read.
"I hate this website." Franklin shook his head. "I really do. What is it again?"
"Autism Speaks." Marcie said.
"While it is OK to be sad that you have a brother or sister affected by autism it doesn't help to be upset and angry for extended periods of time. Your anger doesn't change the situation; it only makes you unhappier. Remember your Mom and Dad may have those feelings too." Charlie Brown read in disgust. "What about Linus?! And his feelings?! Don't they care?!"
"It appears that they don't, Charles." Marcie said, clicking on 'Symptoms".
"Research suggests that children with autism are attached to their parents..." Franklin read.
Linus snatched the mouse from Marcie. "I love my Mom and Dad!" He cried out. "I don't like this website. It's scaremongering unnecessarily and like Franklin said, it leaves me out. It mentions my parents, Lucy and Rerun and my blanket hating grandmother, but not me. It doesn't say how I should feel. I feel confused and let down. And I just want my blanket back!"
Marcie took the mouse back from Linus.
"It's okay, Linus." Charlie Brown said. "I don't care what that dumb old website says. You're my friend and I don't see you any different than I did yesterday."
"My parents do."
"Linus, I have just read that your blanket and thumb sucking is a behavior referred to as 'stimming'." Marcie said.
"Short for self stimulatory behavior, apparently." Marcie shrugged. "I think the easiest explanation is that you suck your thumb and stroke your blanket because you enjoy the sensations."
"Yes!" Linus exclaimed. "Yes I do!"
"But sometimes you get overwhelmed with emotions or noises, sights, smells-"
"And my blanket's always there and I can stroke it."
"I think it's safe to say, Linus, that you stim with that blanket of yours." Franklin said.
"And stopping stimming is harmful." Peppermint Patty said. "According to the Internet."
"You need to demand your blanket back, Linus." Charlie Brown said.
"But at least you still have your thumb." Marcie pointed out. "You can still suck it for stimming."
"I guess..." Linus sighed. "I have to go." He said.
"But, Linus, what about Monopoly?" Franklin asked.
"You heard it from Autism Speaks. I'm defective and my opinions don't matter." Linus hung his head as he walked out of Peppermint Patty's bedroom.
"Linus, no." Franklin shook his head and walked after him. "We want you around. Charlie Brown is right-you're our friend no matter what that website said."
"I just want to be alone, Franklin." Linus turned to him.
Franklin nodded. "It's okay, I understand." He said as Linus left Peppermint Patty's house.
Franklin walked back to Peppermint Patty's bedroom.
"Where's Linus?" Marcie asked.
"He wanted to be alone. I assume to think about things."
"Yeah. Probably." Peppermint Patty agreed. "Poor kid."
Linus walked around the neighborhood with his head down and his hands in his shorts pockets.
"Hey, Linus!" Frieda greeted. "What do you think of my naturally curly hair today?"
Linus gave a monosyllabic grunt in response, not even looking up.
"Linus?" Frieda asked in concern. "Are you okay?"
"I guess." Linus shrugged.
"Way to go, Sherlock."
"Where's your blanket?" Frieda asked, noticing the missing item.
"Parents took it." Linus replied. "I have Autism now and they were worried that I'm not going to be normal."
"You were born with Autism, Linus." Frieda said. "I have Asperger Syndrome which is on the Autism Spectrum. According to my Mom, everyone with Autism has a different place on the Spectrum and everyone with Autism is
born with it. Nobody develops it."
"You too?" Linus raised his head. "Is it true about Schroeder?"
Frieda shrugged. "I'm not sure. Who told you?"
"Franklin." Linus said.
"Then it could be true. Franklin's usually reliable. Are you going to Schroeder's?" Frieda asked.
"I might." Linus answered. "I haven't decided yet. Hey, what can you tell me about 'stimming?'"
"Mom says I do it when I brush and flick and run my hands through my naturally curly hair."
Linus nodded in response.
"I'm very proud of my naturally curly hair. I love my naturally curly hair."
"Why do you say that?" Linus asked.
"What-naturally curly hair? Mom says that when I say naturally curly hair, it's called echolalia."
"Echolalia. Saying words over and over again. That's the word she used. I prefer the term naturally curly hair."
"So did your parents grieve for you being lost too?"
"Why would they? I'm still here, aren't I?" Frieda asked in confusion.
"It's just Marcie came across a website saying that my parents should grieve for me and said nothing about my feelings."
"Well that's not very nice."
"No. It isn't." Linus sighed. "I mean, I was already feeling bad about it, but now I feel worse."
"Cheer up, Linus." Frieda said. "I'll let you touch my naturally curly hair. Provided you don't mess it up of course."
"No thanks, Frieda. I think I'll just go and find Schroeder."
"Okay, Linus. You have my number if you want to talk." Frieda said as Linus walked away.
Linus passed Lucy's psychiatry booth on the way to Schroeder's. Lucy wasn't there though. It was just an empty booth. He also passed Pig Pen and his dust cloud, Patty and Violet playing with a skipping rope having roped
Shermy in and the oddly named siblings 3, 4 and 5 playing marbles with his own oddly named sibling, Rerun.
It seemed most people were out today with the exception of Lucy. But that would just be because the weather was nice. Nice weather attracts playing children.
Linus sighed. Too bad he wasn't in a playing outside kind of mood. He was more interested in finding Schroeder. Who would probably be at his house. With Lucy. Linus' heart sank. The last thing he needed was to be made fun of by Lucy.
When he arrived at Schroeder's house, he knocked the door and paced on the doorsteps for a few moments. Schroeder answered it.
"Hello Linus." Schroeder greeted. "Lucy isn't here."
Relief suddenly washed over Linus. "Actually, I wanted to talk to you."
"Do you have to do a school report on Beethoven?" Schroeder asked. "Because if you do, I can tell you all you need to know."
"Uh, no, Schroeder."
"Did you want to do your annual proselytization for the Great Pumpkin? Halloween is coming up right? I think I'll go as Beethoven this year."
"No." Linus shook his head. "I wanted to talk to you. Franklin said you had Asperger Syndrome?"
Schroeder raised an eyebrow. "You should come inside." He said, opening the door wide and letting Linus in.
"So is what Franklin said true?" Linus asked.
"Yes. It's true." Schroeder said, walking over to his toy piano. "I have Autism." He sat down and began to play some Beethoven.
"How did you find out?" Linus asked, sitting down by him.
"My parents took me to a psychologist after they saw I loved Beethoven. Apparently he is not a normal thing for kids to like."
"Well, it is kind of odd..." Linus began.
"So is the Great Pumpkin and the Easter Beagle." Schroeder countered.
"The Great Pumpkin is real, Schroeder. I'll show you this Halloween!" Linus announced. "I'm going to prove that our pumpkin patch is the most sincere and the Great Pumpkin will just have to come and give presents!"
Schroeder stopped playing his toy piano and turned to Linus.
"So you are proselytizing for the Great Pumpkin?"
"No, I wanted to ask you about Autism." Linus replied.
"Well, you know how much I love Beethoven?" Schroeder asked.
Linus nodded. "You even celebrate Beethoven's birthday."
Schroeder began playing his toy piano once again. "Apparently that's known as a Special Interest. I have an intense focus on Beethoven. But I don't care because it gives me so much pleasure. I just can't imagine my life without Beethoven."
"How do you feel about having Autism?" Linus asked.
Schroeder shrugged. "I don't care. As long as I have my Beethoven. Why?"
"My parents took my blanket away from me." Linus replied. "They are afraid of me not being normal."
"Well, you do believe in the Great Pumpkin, Linus."
"Because the Great Pumpkin is real."
"You have Autism too, don't you, Linus?" Schroeder asked, without missing a beat.
"So your parents are afraid you'll make other people uncomfortable." Schroeder said. "It's called stimming. I do that by playing my piano, but my parents have never tried to stop me."
"Yeah, I know. Frieda does it with her hair." Linus responded.
"I didn't know Frieda was Autistic." Schroeder said flatly.
"She said she had Asperger Syndrome.." Linus said.
"They're the same thing according to the DSM-V diagnostic criterion." Schroeder said.
Linus looked at the pianist in confusion.
"I paid attention."
"Why did you tell Franklin?" Linus asked.
"He had to do a report on 18th century music. So I helped him out by telling him all about my favourite Beethoven. Did you know, Linus, that Beethoven's favourite meal was macaroni and cheese? Or that he had a blue coat with metal buttons that he liked very much?"
"Yes I did, Schroeder. You know everything about Beethoven and tell us all the time." Linus said.
"I do it because I enjoy it. Beethoven is my hero. I love Beethoven." Schroeder said. "Anyway, I told Franklin because he thought it was odd I knew so much about Beethoven."
"What do your mom and dad think?"
"Mom and Dad don't care. They get me Beethoven CDs and records and other Beethoven related items. It makes me happy. And they know it. So they get me the Beethoven stuff."
"Don't they worry about you, Schroeder?" Linus asked. "That you won't be normal?"
"I think they already know I am not normal, Linus." Schroeder said. "They don't care. I guess it just doesn't bother them."
"Does it bother you?"
"No." Schroeder replied. "I'm happy as I am. I don't think I'd get as much joy from Beethoven if I wasn't Autistic. So I'm definitely fine."
"Frieda's fine with it too."
"I know some people out there think it's tragic and I'm 'barely existing'-one of Mom's ex-friends said that." Schroeder said. "I'm existing just fine. And I'm happy the way I am. Does that answer your question, Linus?"
Linus smiled. "Yeah. I think it does."
The next day, Linus walked through the neighborhood proudly, carrying his blue blanket as he went to the rest of the gang.
"Hey Linus." Charlie Brown greeted cheerfully. "You got your blanket back, I see."
"I did, Charlie Brown." Linus rubbed his blanket.
"How'd you do it?" Charlie Brown asked.
"I saw Schroeder and Frieda yesterday." Linus said. "And I realized that there's no reason for me to be uncomfortable and I talked to my parents about everything I learned with you all from yesterday. So they gave me my blanket back."
"Good for you, Linus." Franklin said.
"Franklin, I realized that you were right. 'High Functioning' is stupid and I don't understand it. Nor do my parents. So I dropped it-I'm just Autistic now."
"Glad to hear you're feeling better, Linus." Peppermint Patty said.
"Yeah, I'd hate it if you didn't feel up to waiting up for the Great Squash." Marcie added.
"It's the Great Pumpkin." Linus growled.
"Don't worry Linus. Beethoven had problems too." Schroeder said.
"What's that got to do with anything?" Peppermint Patty asked.
"Nothing." Schroeder shrugged. "It's just something that came to mind. Something comforting for Linus."
"Well, I'm sure the Great Pumpkin has problems too." Charlie Brown said.
Linus perked up. "You really think so?"
"Yeah. Like which sincere pumpkin patch to rise from each year."
"Yeah, that could be a problem." Linus nodded. "Thanks, guys. I feel a lot better and a lot less confused now."
"Wanna go play Monopoly now?" Franklin asked.
"Yeah. I think I do." Linus smiled.