Over the years I have always shared that although autism sucks most of the time, there are some spectacular things about it that should be shared. At this time of year as we head into the giving thanks season I am reminded just how much autism and Bryan have given to me. Although each person’s autism is shown in different ways, and each kid is unique, I am sure there are tidbits that apply to all.
Slow Motion. Kids with autism grow up in slow motion. Typically there are all kinds of delays involved, fine motor, language, etc. The kids will often “get there” but not on the regular schedule. The benefit of this is that so much of the awkward teenage stuff either doesn’t show up at all or is way later. Bryan is never embarrassed by me (at least not that I know of!). He will go anywhere with me. He will kiss me, hold my hand, put his arm around me anywhere and everywhere. He will tell me he loves me all day. No eye rolling, no sarcasm, no blow offs, no fresh mouth. yay.
Structure. Imagine your mornings with your kids and they are completely compliant. Bryan wakes up early and makes his own breakfast, takes his meds without a reminder, showers, uses deodorant, brushes his teeth, gets dressed, makes his bed and is ready for school without even a peep or a prompt. Jason, not so much….
Perspective. The smallest accomplishments are the hugest victories. Hearing your child retell a story without looking at it, hearing them answer questions in complete sentences, going to a 2 1/2 hour movie where they sit quietly. All small things that we take for granted with our typical kids. It just happens. When your kid has autism, these events are monumental, can be rare and are precious. You learn to live more in the moment, because the next moment things can easily go sideways and the struggles they go through just to achieve what a typical child does automatically is enormous.
Transparency. Bryan loves openly and warmly. He has a great radar for genuineness and will respond very well to people he feels are sincere. While not always able to engage in a real conversation, he understands the need to relate and will associate that person with an event. When he sees you he will often tell you a celebrity you look like, that you are handsome or pretty or recount the last activity you did together or the last time he saw you. This may not be the best way to start a conversation, but it certainly shows you that he is present and cares about you.
Friends. Making friends with other families who have a kid with autism is the greatest!! I remember years ago when we were three families hanging out and the kids were little. On any given weekend, while swimming, some kids were naked, some were screaming, some were pinching and we never flinched. We kept on barbecuing and sharing stories and experiences. Our bond was deep and has endured. Acceptance from people and establishing relationships with people you might not otherwise meet is a gift. You learn so much about life and most importantly, about the kind of friend, parent and person you want to be. I have also had some of the heartiest full on belly laughs with these friends over things that are so far from funny.
Silliness. Bryan can be very silly at times. Silliness is fantastic. Giggling is infectious. Not teenage funny, but little kid silly. I know it’s bad, he’s almost 16, but as the kids get so big so fast, you start to miss some of the pure joy of a little kid. It just doesn’t leave so fast with autism. Bryan can take make us laugh by some of his expressions and perspectives on things. He comments on things that are obvious and/or inappropriate yet very literal and it can be hilarious. If someone has a moustache he will call him the “moustache guy”. Not so funny to the person, but can be funny to us.
Memories. Bryan has a crazy awesome memory. He will look at a photo and tell us everything that happened that day, including what we ate, who we were with and if anything remarkable happened that day. Sometimes it’s funny, like when he says, “we ate beef jerky and ice cream” but not so funny when he says “you yelled at me at the Magic Kingdom”. Either way the memories are great, and his outbursts about an event or photo usually trigger some sort of funny story or laughter.
Writing. If someone told me years ago I would have a child with autism and I would write an online journal about it, I would have glared at them like they had 6 heads. None of this was on my radar or even in the realm of possibility for me. I never really liked to write that much and certainly autism wasn’t even on the top 100 fears I had going into parenthood. Yet here we are. I love to write about Bryan and autism and I am so humbled by the responses and encouragement I have gotten from close friends, old and new friends, family, coworkers, etc. You people propel me at times I thought I would not have an ounce of energy left.