No really. He is. He is smart. He is popular. He is funny. He is kind. He is honest. He is compassionate.
When we found out we were expecting, I had made very specific family goals according to our family values--no matter what kind of child that we had, we felt it very important that he or she be compassionate, responsible, and open-minded. When they first told us autism, we were told our son would never love, would lack empathy, would have a low chance at independence. They said he would probably never have real friends and would be very bullied.
That, obviously, hurt.
As does the same pervasive mythology that was recently utilized by the largest advocacy organization for people with an ASD.
Myths that create great damage to the breadth and span of the Autism Spectrum.
But we connected with other people who proved otherwise than what we had heard. We connected with others who networked with others who could share with others their tools for successfully taking this journey. Others who are on the spectrum or "get" the spectrum.
My son amazes me every single day. My son, like his mother, is extremely empathetic to the feelings of the people around him. He may not always know how to respond to a situation, but he hurts when others hurt. He gets upset when others are angry.
He also stands up for himself. He doesn't like to be hit and he doesn't like "mean" and he doesn't like greedy and he "gets" the core values of friendship. While he may not always understand the intricate rules of the games his peers play, he KNOWS who is a good friend and what reasons that he considers a friend worthy or not.
He shares everything.
He loves to laugh and make others laugh. He is quite the clown. He is a good mix of my very goofy self-deprecation and his father's dry, sardonic wit. He will moon you and laugh then trip himself while trying to pull up trou and laugh harder. After having a deep conversation resulting from his burning need to understand why people can sometimes go hungry ("Tell me again that story, Mom. Tell me why some kids are hungry like that [regarding a commercial on t.v."]) . He is a heck of a being.
He also asks about his world-at-large. Its not just his world. He cares about the bigger picture. "Mom, why are there bad people? Why do we need soldiers? Why do people make bad decisons?"
And while he is still just a five year old doing as a five year old will do, he's also a very strong human being. In my home, you would not be amiss to hear "be nice!" "You shouldn't hit; someone could get hurt." "Don't tease! It isn't nice!" "Is your seatbelt on?" "Do you have your glasses and your phone mom? Okay, now we are ready to go." "Would you like a bite?" "I can't wait to share this with Dad/Mom/BFF." "Don't yell. It hurts people's feelings." "I need a hug." "Do you need a hug?" "Are you okay? Do you need me to kiss it and make it feel better?" "I need to put my shoes in the ottoman so the dogs don't eat them." "Would you like to share my blanket?"
When asked for a previous post how he felt about autism, this was his response:
Me: You know you have autism, right? How does that make you feel?
E: I have a rainbow brain and it gets healthy when I eat fish and it thinks about superheroes and monster trucks and goes *bow pow bow* [using hand gestures to intimate that it "kicks butt"].
Me: Do you think you are good or bad?
E: I am a good boy. I make good decisions. And so does Lupe [his favorite stuffed lobster].
Me: Autism can make some things hard. Does it make things hard for you?
E: I don't (meaning can't) have casein and casein is in ice cream. But sometimes I eat yogurt. Aunt J doesn't eat ice cream because it has lactose but she don't like yogurt. And S [his cousin] doesn't eat chocolate because it gives her belly-aches. And Mawmaw can't eat too much seafood, either. [makes a silly garbled full body gesture at being sick and then giggles]
Me: So you wish you could eat ice cream?
E: [wiggles brows to nod yes] I can eat ice cream with P [a classmate] and he would say "thank you for sharing!" I'm a good friend! I am smart! And Lupe thinks I am really nice when I share with T and H [his classmates].
Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
E: A soldier on a boat [a nod to my Father-in-law who is former Navy] and a chef. And I want to work at N[local technological center] with Daddy making the internet safe!
Me: Good job, buddy. You always rock.
E: [wiggles brows to nod yes and flicks his pointer at me] your Mom rocks.
-----He stands up for his needs at school. He reminds the cafeteria staff that he can't have certain foods. He doesn't just quietly go to his seat and go hungry because he's afraid to raise a fuss. He has self-worth.
Nary a soul in this world can say to me that my son's life and being are lacking: he is not lacking in heart, not lacking in humor, not lacking in insight, not lacking in caring about others, not lacking in laughter, love, nor a very, very bright future.
Our autism is:
Kindness, warmth, big heart, determination, intelligence, compassion, caring, protecting, sharing, loving, laughing, tickling, hugging, kissing, exploring, playing, and being brave.
Coz boy is this kid the bravest little person I have ever met. In a world as overwhelming as ours is, as slow to respond to HIS needs, as sensory disregulating, this amazing little dude mot just survives, but thrives--in a way that puts to shame any excuses I have ever in mymlife made.
This, THIS is our autism: