A couple weeks ago, someone, somewhere, googled this: “I wish I didn’t have Aspergers.” It showed up on a blogger’s dashboard, and through the creative thinking of a group of bloggers who have made it their mission to increase Autism awareness and acceptance, led to what they’re calling an “Autism Positivity Day Flash Blog Event.” It’s today, the last day of Autism Awareness Month. The hope is that people (bloggers and non-bloggers) throughout the Autism Community will write a positive message to #IWishIDidn’tHaveAspergers, so that they, along with countless others who may feel hopeless or unaccepted, will feel support and friendship. So…here is my take on Autism, and my message to the person who felt hopeless and searched for answers to “I Wish I Didn’t have Aspergers.” My Glass Half Full approach to what some call a “tragedy” or “devastating.” Those are not the words I would use to describe my son.
I found Easton quietly staring at the stripes of sun filtering in through the blinds onto the bedroom floor. He was smiling from ear to ear, moving his head back and forth across the thick white lines. It was such a peaceful, happy moment. I enjoy taking candid photos, but I didn’t want to disrupt him, so I sat down as quietly as I could on the floor to take a picture. He happened to look up at me the moment I hit the button.
It’s one of my favorite pictures of him. It oozes happiness. I look at it and I can’t help but smile. It reminds me to stop and enjoy the little things in life. It reminds me that HE is one of the most positive people I know.
I took this picture three days ago. We were walking in the house and there was a quiet rumbling of thunder in the distance. Thunder that you and I usually ignore. We keep on walking. Our hands are full, and we just want to get in the house. “Come on, Easton!” I said. Then, I looked back at him. He was just standing there, looking up into the sky, listening to the thunder that I had been ignoring. He looked completely content. This photo reminds me, just like the one with the sun spots on the floor, to just STOP sometimes. Just enjoy the sounds and sights around me. I WISH I could see and hear the world the way he does. Look at his eyes. They are absolutely FILLED with wonder and amazement.
I don’t know what Easton’s future holds, but I do know he will always have a strong support system. He’s intelligent. He’s happy. He’s strong-willed. He’s fascinating. He’s affectionate when he wants to be. He has a wonderful sense of humor. He is full of surprises. He is different. His brain is neat. He also has Autism, but he is not just a diagnosis. He is a PERSON. I believe he was brought into my life for a reason. He teaches me more than I will ever teach him.
Here’s the thing: what I know about Autism is only what I’ve read, heard from teachers, specialists, and therapists…and what I see every day in my son. I don’t have Autism. So, sometimes I have to check myself when I have those “Autism is so hard!” thoughts during a challenging meltdown or when I just wish he could TALK to me. What would it be like to have something to say, but not have the words? What would it be like to be surrounded by people who don’t understand you? I don’t even begin to pretend to know what it’s like to HAVE Autism and to navigate in a world in which you feel like you don’t fit in. I try to understand. I try to put myself in my son’s shoes. I try to stay as patient as humanly possible. And then I sit back and remember: HE’S the one living with Autism every day. HE’S the one who, as he gets older, will encounter people who don’t understand, who are intolerant, who don’t want to get to know HIM. Frankly, it will be their loss. I can sit here, high on my neurotypical perch and say, “Different is good!” I can also say I hope my son never googles “I wish I didn’t have Autism.” But, the reality is…he might. He may encounter someone (or several people) in his lifetime that make him wish he wasn’t so different.
To the person who typed in “I Wish I Didn’t Have Aspergers”…and others who probably feel this same sentiment on a daily basis: That must have been how you felt. Someone, or something, must have made you wish you weren’t so different. I don’t have Autism, but I’m sure, for lack of a better phrase, that IT SUCKS SOMETIMES. I’m sorry about those who are intolerant or ignorant. Don’t lose hope. There are countless people in your corner. There is a whole community of people who are affected by Autism in their daily lives that believe YOU are incredible. You are NOT a tragedy. There are people who have made it their mission to increase understanding and acceptance of Autism so people on the Autism Spectrum and their families don’t have to feel so alone. There IS support out there. I hope you find it. I hope you find the people that WANT to be a part of your world.