I have read many books, followed several blogs, joined a plethora of groups, and talked to a multitude of moms regarding autism. While I love learning about the topic and truly need the solidarity the groups and other moms provide, I have learned the most about autism from simply listening to my son. You can’t help it really. He talks incessantly and sometimes, it takes awhile to fully get his sentences out. He stutters and repeats words and looks back and forth in the air as if he is literally (and frantically) looking for something. I have fought the urge to finish his sentences and snap my fingers with an impatient, “Focus! Son! Finish your sentence!!!” Most of the time I’m looking around for some holy water to sprinkle on the situation. Im pretty sure that’s not how that works…
He loves dates. He says it helps him to organize things in his brain. Sounds great, in theory, but I can’t remember what month it is. He knows the year every movie was made. If he has seen it, he knows the year. There are several he knows that he has not seen. In homeschool, we were doing an exercise where I gave him an answer and he had to come up with a question. For example; I say, “Fall.” And he will respond, “What is one of the four seasons?” In response to the answer, “1988,” he quickly said, “What is the year after that movie came out that you love with the princess and the giant and there is sword fighting?” He is referring to Princess Bride. He has seen it once 2 years ago.
Thankfully my mom put this together and asked him why he was always looking in the air, as if he was trying to find something. He explained that he was looking for the right file. I will never take for granted that my son is verbal when others with autism are not. However, he still has a communication disorder. Our words flow automatically, without thought. Trust me, I know all about this automatic talking, no thinking thing. I have gotten in a lot of trouble over the years for speaking without thinking. People with autism do not have the words and complete thoughts readily available. They know what they want to say, but it is sometimes lost in translation or simply hard to get out. To have such an amazing brain, he is a prisoner to it. The more severe the diagnosis is on the spectrum, the more trapped they become. Unable to communicate or deal with the world around them. This doesn’t mean there isn’t beautiful thoughts and ideas in those brains, but they are simply unable to be released for the rest of us to enjoy.
I asked my oldest what he wanted everyone to know about autism. This was his response…
“I want people to know that autism makes your brain different. I want them to know that I have it. I like having it because it makes you awesome. Well Daddy is awesome and he doesn’t have autism….Oh and people don’t really know that much about it. I guess you need to tell them. It makes you different than everyone else and it makes some things hard to do. Like school, Momma! And writing! Tell them it’s hard to concentrate. But I like it because my body has to move a lot so we always have more fun. Oh!!! And it makes me really smart!!! Tell them all that.”
Notice he said exactly zero about momma being awesome. What a
butthole blessing that angel is…(insert eye roll). My littlest little was asked how it felt to have a brother with autism….
“I still have a really good big brother. He’s not really that different. He’s still fun and stuff. Maybe autism makes him a good big brother. I don’t know, can I go play now??”
Be! Still! My! Heart! And also, is it too much to ask for them to answer a few questions? I only got fat and ravaged my body carrying you little heathens. No big…
My littlest little doesn’t know any different. He accepts his brother for who he is. When the meltdowns used to be downright scary to witness, I would ask my littlest if they frightened him. He said, “No, I just know he gets a little crazy sometimes.” Don’t we all son, don’t we all.
Our point is this: Ask questions. If you are unsure about something that makes you uncomfortable or that confuses you, ask. You might want to extend a little grace as well. Grace to the child for the behavior or words that you think are not ok. If they tell you that you smell like bug spray, it is simply an observation. I can also guarantee you that you do, in fact, smell like bug spray and they are not trying to be mean. On a side note, you might want to take care of that mess… And please, give grace to the parent or caregivers that are doing the absolute best they know how. Our parenting may look a little different but mother of baby J, hold your tongue. (That blog post is next…there may or may not be a little hostility in those words, Lord help me.) Lastly, try to understand. Everyone is not walking the same path. Some people soar above it, looking for their files.