Steven has always been fascinated by reptiles, especially snakes and alligators. He has obsessive compulsive disorder, ADHD, and Aspergers Syndrome, a type of high functioning autism which has an obsession and great knowledge of one subject. His talent lie in everything there is to know about reptiles,
Growing up, Steven was the biggest fan of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. Every Halloween he would dress like him in a safari suit and hat, and carry around a 4 foot long stuffed alligator. He made a really cute Crocodile Hunter!
Once, while our family was having a picnic in the woods, Steven spotted a snake in the rocks. He got down on his haunches and said “Crikey, ain’t she a beaut!” A crowd of kids circled around him as he crawled along with his arms out holding a long stick. Knowing it was a common garden snake, and not some boa constrictor, did not dampen his enthusiasm. He put on a real Steve Irwin show for the crowd, and when he did catch the snake on the stick, the audience screamed and backed away. He then started giving them details about the lovely snake. It took some doing to get him to replace the snake back in the rocks. He finally did because he did not want to take it away from its “natural habitat.”
Since the age of 12, he has regularly volunteered at a shelter for rescued reptiles. He knows everything there is to know about every reptile, the temperature they need in their tank, whether they needed a wet (rain forest) tank or a dry (desert) tank. He knows what each and every one eats, if it sleeps at night or during the day, and whether it is dangerous. Because he knows which ones are dangerous, he has been instructed to NEVER bring home a dangerous reptile. He has, however, brought home many of them and set them up on shelves in his basement bedroom. He keeps a lock on each cage for my own sense of safety, even though he says the locks aren’t necessary. At first I was scared of the snakes, but he first brought home small ones and, as our comfort level rose, the snakes became larger and larger. The last snake he had was a 20 foot long Albino boa constrictor. I wasn’t afraid! Of course, I had to stay away when he fed it large rats to eat. He indicated it was up to the guinea pig/rabbit stage, but I said there was no way in the world he was going to do that in my house. Rats are useless to me. Guinea pigs and bunnies are way too cute and cuddly!
Anyway, this snake managed to have eggs on Easter morning!!! (I thought maybe it was a little thank you from the Easter bunny for not eating his comrades.) We all watched in amazement as this snake squeezed its body and squeezed its body and an egg came out. Then more squeezing, another egg. By the end of the morning it had delivered 28 eggs! Its body was almost entirely flat by this point, having discharged the bulk of the eggs from the length of its body. As much as I am not a reptile lover, watching this sight was fascinating. Steven then took the eggs to the hatchery at the rescue shelter, and 24 little baby boa constrictors hatched. (A few, sadly, didn’t make it.)
Now, at age 17, Steven continues to have his share of reptiles. The most he has had at one time were 24, a variety if lizards, snakes, tarantulas, and even several alligators. Today, he has limited his collection so he would have more room in his bedroom to sleep. (He’s grown to 6 foot 3, so a small single bed no longer “cuts it”.) He still has a tarantula, an alligator, and a gorgeous chameleon. He volunteers a few hours a week at the reptile shelter, but not as many as before. He is a TEENAGER now, you know, so he has found time for other interests.
I have never discouraged Steven’s interest in reptiles (I’ve only discouraged him bringing home dangerous ones.) It is his hobby which calms him down. He feels knowledgeable and smart. This is the one area he excels in life and I could never take that away from him.