Today is World Autism Awareness day. There are campaigns all over the place to “light it up blue” and wear blue today. It is a nice idea and I am all for it. However, sometimes there needs to be just a little bit more. I have lots of people who come to me and ask about the kids and then confess they really don’t know what autism is. What is it, anyway? Autism is tricky. It can be many things. It is different in every child.
My two children are so intensely different from one another. So much so, in fact, that we didn’t even know Micah had autism until he was in grade two. Partly because he was so different from Aiden, and partly because managing Aiden’s situation was pretty much a full time job. So much so that one night when Micah was in grade one I sobbed and sobbed because I could see he was struggling in some areas and didn’t know how I would deal with helping him while Aiden was desperately needing me to help him through a difficult time. Autism is hard.
At the same time, I look around and see other autism parents and my heart breaks for them because their children are more challenging than mine. I see their lives and I feel broken for them because it is so much harder. But really, we are all in this together.
I can’t tell you what autism looks like as a whole. I can only tell you what it looks like in our house. It’s not always a pretty picture, but you know what? It is beautiful.
Aiden is ten now. We received his autism diagnosis when he was 6. You can read more about it here. This kid – he is special. I know everyone says their children are special, and they are. But this one, he is amazing. He is smart and he makes us laugh. SO much. He just says the funniest and most random things ever.
His challenges are difficult. As is common with autistics, he can’t really socialize well with other children because he doesn’t really know how. Most kids would just walk up to someone they think they might like and just start talking or join in to their game. Aiden would be more likely to whap them with a pencil or pull on their clothes. He once poked someone with a stick because he thought that way they might play with him. He is growing so much in this area, and will now work hard on communicating with people vocally, which is a relief. But if he is stressed or overwhelmed at all, he falls back into what is normal for him.
He is incredibly smart, but he has behavioural issues that hold him back from being able to learn at his level. Sadly, sometimes he becomes bored with work that is too easy for him and will do something out of frustration which really makes the situation worse, not better. He tends to be aggressive at times, which is heartbreaking because he has a heart of gold and would never intentionally hurt someone for the sake of hurting someone. It just sort of happens. Unless you have sat in a room being confronted with what your child has done, you can’t ever know what this feels like. It is not pleasant. This past fall, I actually removed him from school for a two week period just to give him a break. If we are being honest. it was to give myself a break too. All of this is so hard on a mother’s heart.
Some mornings, he wakes up screeching. For no particular reason other than his enjoyment of the sound of his voice and letting us and the whole neighbourhood know he is up and ready to face the day. And let me tell you, a ten year old screams like a girl. Pass me the ear plugs.
He remembers everything. This is both good and bad. Good, because if I can’t remember where I put something I just ask him and we can usually track it down. Or if I can’t remember how much I spent at the store I just ask him and he knows. He can remember events as far back as when his brother was born and he was two years old. Vivid memories like pictures. He can tell me what we had for breakfast three months ago. It’s bad because I worry he will remember my failings. If he does, he doesn’t say anything.
Sadly, he also struggles with impulse control. He has a hard time controlling his body. Or he will do things with good intentions, but they get a little out of hand. Sometimes these things can be dangerous. He currently loves liquids and pouring out liquids, so it is not uncommon for me to walk into the laundry room and find laundry detergent all over the floor. Or step into the shower and find it’s covered in shampoo or conditioner. The worst, though, was when he decided to make me breakfast and poured a whole bunch of cooking oil in a pot on the stove, which of course spilled all over the place. And he was just about to turn the burner on when we caught him. Yikes!
That’s what autism looks like for him. But I can’t tell you the negatives before telling you the positives. Because he isn’t only autism. It is part of his makeup, but it isn’t him.
He loves. He deeply loves people, and they just can’t help but love him back. He doesn’t hold it back in any way, ever. (Which could be a problem when he starts to have serious crushes…Lord, help us!) He just puts it all out there.
He prays for everyone he knows. No matter what their situation or whether they are believers or not. Sometimes, we will be doing something and he suddenly stops to pray for someone. It seems out of the blue, but it really isn’t. Later, we will hear that someone was going through something and it is as if God says to Aiden, “pray for them right now” and he is obedient. That makes a mother’s heart so proud.
He is creative, which is not always common for people with autism. He loves to draw and will make very interesting works of art. A few years ago, during a particularly trying time at school, he had a drawing chosen to be displayed in a local art gallery. It was entitled “Our House” and was his rendering of the new house we had bought. He is forever going through art supplies. But it makes him happy, so I am forever replenishing his supply.
He has a heart to serve. If he hears of a way he personally can do something for someone else, he does not hesitate. He would happily pack up some of his prized possessions if it meant someone else could have happiness. Last year, he and his brother chose half of their beloved stuffed animals and we washed and sent them off to the Canadian Forces for them to pass out on missions where they might encounter children who might need a little love. He also loves to help out collecting up dirty dishes after a church dinner, helping to organize the salt and pepper shakers, putting away the tables and chairs. He just wants to be a servant in whatever way a ten year old can.
He is my heart.