The Autism Journey
Who do you think made the first stone spears? The Asperger guy. If you were to get rid of all the autism genetics, there would be no more Silicon Valley. Temple Grandin
Last week’s admission came out of the blue didn’t it? I mentioned my son, the wrestler, is on the autism spectrum.
Teenage son… on the autism spectrum…. a high school wrestler. Check, check, and check.
Here’s our story thus far.
THE AUTISM SPECTRUM JOURNEY
Autism has been in the news quite a bit over the last 15 or 20 years. Much discussion of cures, treatments, interventions, causes, vaccines, and what not have spread. Moms groups have been formed to discuss the issue. It has been called a health crisis. Answers and research have been demanded.
Honestly, at the time of diagnosis I just didn’t care what the cause was or spent any time speculating about it. My son had just been diagnosed with autism, processing delays, and sensory challenges. It was a time to process and take action. No looking back. Really, what good would it do?
Fast forward to the present and consider, despite the discussions, education, and information people still don’t really understand what autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is and what the implications are for families.
It is so funny because people are generally shocked when they meet my son, Jack. I forewarn some people (like the dentist today) that he is on the spectrum. I explain some issues he may have during a visit. But when they meet him, people are surprised he can talk, walk, read, is dressed, communicates, and is handsome, incredibly smart, and so on.
I always wonder, “What were they expecting? Drooling? Nose picking? Rainman?”
WHAT AUTISM IS – WHAT AUTISM IS NOT
AUTISM IS different for every person on the spectrum. Aside from general similarities (social difficulties, sensory, communication), autism is personalized. For example, orange may be a trigger color for one child while the feeling of carpet sends another into an uncontrollable spiral down.
Autism is an extremely variable disorder. Temple Grandin
AUTISM IS a re-wiring of the brain, if you will. A perception of the world that is different, often insightful and humorous.
AUTISM IS humorous. My Jack can be the funniest person I know. His perceptions and observations of the world are often hysterical in their literal realities.
AUTISM IS shifting and changing. It is always in motion. My experience with ASD during the past 7 years is a movement and alteration of the person (Jack) and the family. Who he was at 5 is decidedly different from the person he is at 15. Who I was as a parent 10 years ago, fortunately, is decidedly different today.
It moves, changes, flows, erupts, mellows, swirls, storms, it is constantly in transition.
AUTISM IS hope. At least for me.
Hope came the day he learned to ride a two-wheel bike solo which caused me to cry and laugh. The day he gave me an awkward, deeply felt hug; the day he said “I love you”; “Bye, Mom” when I dropped him off at school; the day he gave me a soda bottle from his bottle collection for my birthday. The compassion he expressed the day I was sad and cried.
I know, from Jack:
AUTISM IS NOT an absence of emotions or feelings. Individuals with ASD are humans with emotions and feelings. Autism is a mixture of issues for one individual. Not a single issue but multiple challenges that combine and stack and pile and form the autistic.
AUTISM IS NOT mental retardation, stupidity, or a psychological disorder.
Mild Autism can give you a genius like Einstein. If you have severe autism, you can remain nonverbal. You don’t want people to be on the severe end of the spectrum. But if you got rid of all the autism genetics, you wouldn’t have science or art. All you would have is a bunch of social ‘yak yaks’. Temple Grandin
AUTISM IS NOT an end of life. For some it is a life that requires constant care and intervention. For others it is a fully functional life. It is not, however, the end of a meaningful life.
AUTISM IS NOT stagnant. The smallest achievements are celebrated. It is a condition of victories, large and small.
Our Special Community
My family and I belong to a special community. A community of strong parents, teachers, aides, doctors, assistants, people who have big hearts. We work to learn more about our children and their worlds, love them despite the challenges, educate ourselves, devote ourselves to them, and come together to celebrate the people they are.
It is a blessed journey on which I have become a better person because of my son Jack.