the joy of autism is elusive to me. the joy of people is not.
i love my son, the person. he brings me intense joy. i don’t believe my son IS his autism. i believe my son HAS autism.
his autism brings challenges that make his world more isolated. his autism brings challenges that make my world more isolated.
his autism creates a feeling of being unsafe around people. how do i know this? he tells me.
my son has a social phobia. my son has a lot of anxiety. my son is afraid of kids. my son can’t yet be left in the care of someone else for a weekend.
i don’t find joy in that.
my son has weaknesses. i try to provide opportunities for strengthening those.
my son has strengths. my son is funny. my son is smart. my son is sensitive. my son is quirky. my son is unique.
i celebrate that.
some people can’t walk. these people are gifts because they are people not because we celebrate the joy of walklessness. if therapies were available to help a non walking person walk, i would administer them enthusiastically. am i devaluing that person because i want them to have more mobility? more flexibility? more autonomy?
is autism a gift? well, it’s not in that thick of the bell curve. it’s not a dive in the center of the easy moving stream. it asks more of us. because of that, the potential to learn and grow exists. that can be a tremendous gift.
is autism, IN AND OF ITSELF a gift? i don’t know.
a person with autism can be incredibly gifted or not.
a person without autism can be incredibly gifted or not.
every person has gifts.
autism brings a set of challenges that make things harder for those parenting kids with autism. we can grow and learn from those challenges.
autism may bring a set of strengths that bring a whole new vision to those who can articulate it and for those willing to open up to hear.
autism may bring a set of challenges that interfere with the unique voice of that individual with autism. uncovering that voice matters.
is autism devastating? certainly not always but sometimes, yes.
is autism a tragedy? certainly not always but sometimes, yes.
is having a child on the spectrum worse than having a child not on the spectrum? no.
is it better? no.
is it harder? yes.
my son’s autism makes it harder for him in the world.
it also makes it harder for me.
if it’s always harder for him, will his life be less important, less valuable, his perspective less valid? of course not.
talking about autism only in terms of the gifts and the joys is like talking about the beauty and joy and wonder of parenting without mentioning the boredom, the isolation, the depression, and the stress. having a child on the spectrum is like having all that beauty and joy and wonder and boredom and isolation and depression and stress at times plus the constant underlying concerns about understanding and responding to your child’s needs in the present so they have a shot at a good quality of life in the future.
with autism, nothing can be taken for granted. is that a gift? i suppose it can bring gifts if one is open to that. is it exhausting? sometimes. is it stressful? less so as one goes on, as you weave it into your mind and heart and life. would it be easier if autism wasn’t part of the equation? i think so. would something be lost if it wasn’t part of the equation. maybe. i’m not sure.
if parents think they aren’t changing their children by raising them, i think they are fooling themselves.
we love our kids. we love our kids with autism. i say they bring us joy because they are our kids not because they have autism. having autism doesn’t take away from the joy they bring to us but i don’t think having autism creates the joy they bring to us.
the autism brings a new perspective from them and for us, one that has value, one that is purposeful, one that deserves investigation, understanding, respect, and admiration. every child brings a unique perspective that deserves the same things.
i can find the joy in that.