Who You Want Him To Be

You want him to be autistic but just enough that he can sit still and listen like the rest of his peers. But, his listening will never look like everyone else’s. It will likely always include doodling, looking away and humming to himself. I know it looks like he’s not listening, but if you ask him to tell you what you’ve said, he can.

You want him to be autistic but just enough that he can still remember all the required tasks for the day, and you want him to be autistic but just enough that he can keep track of eleventy million pieces of paper. His recall will always be different than his typical peers. He will likely always need constant reminders of what to do when. I envision him at his desk when he’s come in from field work (he’s totally going to be a paleozoologist) with post it notes scattered everywhere reminding him where to be and when, and papers stacked to and fro looking like a fire hazard. I see a well trained assistant reminding him he’s late for a lecture…again and here are the papers you need.

You want him to be autistic but just enough that his stimms aren’t disruptive. On his own, he’s kind of figuring out which stimms are socially appropriate, and he holds in the ones that are not. We’ve not asked him to do this, that shows he’s aware more now than ever how he looks to others. But sometimes, a boy needs to spin, to line things up to make order out of a world that is so disorderly.

You want him to be autistic but just enough that he is still flexible in his ideas and thinking and interactions. You forget that the singular line of thinking for people like him is often what makes them successful later in life. How many great ideas and discoveries only happened because someone wouldn’t, no couldn’t, give in on their idea? 

You want him to be autistic but just enough that he doesn’t have meltdowns when his typical peers can handle the situation just fine. It’s hard to see him out of control, crying and hiding unable to process what you’re telling him. 

Ultimately, you want him to be autistic but just enough that he doesn’t make you question your ability as a parent, a teacher, a brother, a person of authority. But this isn’t reality. He is autistic, his brain is different, and that’s okay. 




Embarrassment is Growth?

Yesterday was a rough day. Big failed to turn in a homework assignment and had to sit at the “homework” table during lunch. The way this table works is the kids that file through the cafeteria at lunch see their names on the table and know they have to sit there and finish whatever missing assignments they have instead of sitting with friends and having recess. I don’t want to discuss the pros and cons of homework and the table at all; I don’t want to discuss taking away a kids’ recess or punishing for things that may or may not be out of his control. I don’t want to discuss his IEP and what should be added to prevent future incidences. Maybe I do, but not today.

Big doesn’t go into the cafeteria daily; he heads out to the patio to eat with a group of friends. Yes, you read that right. Friends! He didn’t see his name on the homework table list, so someone had to come out and get him. You can imagine how well that went. I don’t have to; I have spies everywhere. He had a major meltdown. Major. He has been on a really good streak this semester and has shown huge growth in his ability to deal and cope in a more age appropriate manner. Notice, here, I say more age appropriate. He’s still a kid on the spectrum, after all. He was a.) in the cafeteria 2.) missing his recess 3.) didn’t understand what assignment was missing f.) thought he was going to miss a weeks worth of recess, and finally he was “totally humiliated, mom.”

Let that sink in. My autistic child felt humiliation. Initially, I was frustrated, frazzled and fangry. Who in the world wants their kid to feel humiliated? No one, right? But, just now, I was on the phone with my mother-in-law debriefing her on the week since she last saw the boys (Sunday); I was telling her about Big’s day yesterday and I had what Oprah likes to call an a-ha! moment!  This is huge! This is growth! This is what we work so hard for. Stick with me; I see your confused looks. No, I don’t want my kid to feel embarrassed and humiliated. But he did. He felt it. Do you see what this means? The years of talking about how we make other people feel, the years of reminding him to think about the people around him in the moment and their experience in the world, and countless conversations about how we look to others…that talking, the work it’s working. As little as a year ago, he would have had a meltdown about missing recess and all the other reasons he listed, but he wouldn’t have felt embarrassed in the least. He wouldn’t have cared what other people thought of him. Yesterday, he cared. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want my fabulous boy walking through this life thinking solely about what people think of him. I want him to take that with a grain of salt, which I totally think he’ll get to the middle ground one day.

Yesterday, he felt.  Truly, felt.  Today, I see growth.