Autism will propel you into higher learning.
Three years ago I found myself sitting in a classroom on the student side of the desk all because of autism. I had been doing some reading, researching and studying on the subject and I thought my son was somewhere on the spectrum and I didn’t know what that meant, so I signed up for a class for educators with daughter Amerey- Autism Training through Marshall University.
Autism gives you a special bond with others who have children on the spectrum.
I felt as if my autism investigation was a secret for a long time. I didn’t tell anyone about my suspicions at first. I kept things close to home. I talked to a counselor who suggested I get a comprehensive evaluation done, but I felt as if I were faking it, as if all of my son’s behavior was in my mind. He would meltdown erratically at home and then be quiet and seemingly well-behaved in public. What if I’m just making excuses for behavior? What if I’m just a terrible parent, I got the first six children going and fizzled out on the seventh?
After homeschool co-op one Friday, everyone was loading up their kids in the parking lot to head home. I walked to my car thinking I should ask another mom who had two children on the spectrum a question or two. I knew she was the real deal because her kids had been evaluated. I hesitated then ran across the parking lot like a mad woman when she was shutting her back hatch.
“Hey, I wanted to talk to you about Asperger’s,”
“You think _____ is in the spectrum?”
Just then my son loped across the parking lot with that uneven gait he is famous for.
“He’s got the walk,” she said and then we talked for twenty minutes hiding from the rain under her back hatch, she encouraged me to get the evaluation and gave me some validation. It wasn’t all in my head. She had seen the signs. She had noticed.
Autism gave me a new perspective.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone processes information and events the same way. We tend to believe that everyone is motivated by the same rewards or wants the same sort of life. We have all had that friend that pushes us to do something just because they love it. We might even give into the peer pressure and try the new thing and absolutely hate it, but not say so. Kids on the spectrum will not be polite when it comes to doing things they don’t like. They tell the truth. It’s an interesting perspective. They do what they like when they like. By that I mean, they stand their ground. It’s refreshing. How many times have I volunteered for something or was coerced into an activity, such a three legged- race in which I fell on my face, that I didn’t want to do, but I did it, all the while complaining inside.
Saturday on the way home from my aunt’s funeral service, I thanked my two youngest for coming with me, my son said, “you’re welcome Mom, but I didn’t have much of a choice, did I?” That is his honest perspective. I laughed and so did he.
Some things are stupid.
My son and I have this ongoing joke about a book he is going to write. It will be a best seller. It may have a thousand pages or more and each page will have a simple sentence about one thing that is stupid.
He takes everything literally. He doesn’t catch social cues and I try to explain what is going on ahead of time or what is expected of him at a certain function. “That’s stupid” is his standard reply. All of his older siblings are probably reading this and thinking they never got away with saying things are stupid. i cut him some slack even though I get some flack for it. Truth is I know the interpretation of “that’s stupid”, it means I don’t understand, I’m frustrated, that doesn’t make sense. When I say things like, “people are coming over, get some real clothes on” and he looks down at what he’s wearing and says, “these are real clothes, that’s stupid”.
I admit some of our societal hoops are stupid. When I look at them through his lens, I re-evaluate what I expect of him. It’s more important that he knows the real important things and skips some of the stupid stuff.
For instance, we don’t have to go on every field trip, especially if I know it will put him into hypersensitive mode and he won’t retain any information and he won’t enjoy it. I don’t make him go to youth group (disclaimer*- my other children participated in youth because they could process it), he doesn’t understand the social parts and it sends him into shut down mode the next day. He helps with the Royal Ranger Program instead. I’m not saying youth group is stupid, see my interpretation of the words above. It’s overwhelming and frustrating for him.
Learning about autism is like learning a new language in a foreign country with a different culture. Once of the guest speakers at the autism training (an adult who is on the spectrum) said it’s like growing up in China when you don’t speak the language, understand the customs and you aren’t a native. You feel out of sorts all the time. If we parents can educate ourselves on the way our children on the spectrum perceive and process things, maybe we can make them feel a bit more at home in this neurotypical world. If we can sort the stupid things out for them, they can navigate social situations a with a little less stress and skip the outings that aren’t important. Just ask them what is important, kids on the spectrum tell the truth.