Why Autism Rocks
This isn’t a glib post that glosses over the challenges we face, promise. I also acknowledge that I got ‘lucky’ when Boo was handed his Autism Bag of Bricks, and his load is actually quite light compared to others. After all, it’s a spectrum, and he’s up there at the ‘delightfully’ named High-Functioning end. He can, with a shed load of effort, blend in, don the ‘normal’ camouflage and wing it in the big wide world, mostly, even if it costs him to do so. Yet it’s still mighty challenging. So don’t for one minute think I underestimate the challenges autism parents face, and the Bag of Bricks carriers themselves.
But there are some bits about Autism, that are, well, awesome. And sometimes it’s good to remember that. Especially when the days are tough, and the nights are worse. Or when you’ve just lost the plot. Again. Or when you’re lying awake in the middle of the night wondering how on earth this beloved kiddo of yours is going to cope as an adult. It’s hard, but at those times, remembering the Awe-tism can help.
My littlest kiddos are recently turned 6. They are bright, but fairly averagely achieving, little souls on track to reach whatever government ordained target they are meant to by the end of this academic year. They’re still ploughing their way through the delights of Biff & Chip and the sodding magic key. By the same age, Boo was having to be held back from progressing after finishing the third Harry Potter, the Prince of Azkaban, and being desperate to read the fourth. He was placated, for about 3.27 days by the Narnia series. That’s Awesome. That’s his blend of Autism.
When he was a 22 month old crazy milk-carton collecting toddler, he could count to 200. He asked for sums for ‘fun’. In Year 1 his teacher described him at the Classroom Calculator. He’s still mine. He instinctively ‘gets’ numbers, plays with them, throws them around and even makes jokes out of them. I’m a bit jealous, truth be told. That’s awesome. That’s the Autism.
For Boo, he’s got this incredible brain for memory. Not all memory I might add – his Executive Functioning is pretty poor like with many on the spectrum. He’ll forget an element of routine he does day in day out, or what I just asked him, or three out of four stages of an instruction. But when it comes to facts that interest him, he’s Encyclopaedic. You wanna know about World War 2? Ask Boo. You want to know about Sharks? Ask Boo. You want to know about American Presidents (Donald Trump don’t you bloody go there)? Ask Boo. You want to know what happened on the 7th September 6 years ago? Ask Boo. In some situations, it’s almost photographic.
Then there’s this truly incredible and wonderful element to Boo’s blend of High Functioning Autism. He is completely, absolutely, without any shadow of a doubt his own man. He has no ‘blending in’ desire to like football simply because other 9 year old boys do, or to swap the latest trading cards. The social currency of these things is lost on him. But that’s great. He isn’t a sheep. He knows what he likes, and that’s what he does, regardless of what others think of him. And isn’t that awesome? Well, that’s the Autism.
Then there’s the focus. Yup, I really did just say the focus. I might spend 95% of interaction with Boo driven nuts by his lack of focus, inwardly wailing about his ‘away with the fairies’ natural state of being. But when you capture that interest, this kid’s got focus in spades. And he can apply himself to something with such diligence that you know he’s going to be a pro. That’s awesome. And it’s the Autism. To the exclusion of all else going on around him at times, which of course can drive me mad, this kid can cut off the world and focus.
And then, there’s that big whammy: honesty. This kid does honest. He’s upfront, to the point, and he won’t try and duck the blame. He tells it as he sees it. He’s an expert witness and a fair judge, except he doesn’t judge. It makes him loyal, and a true friend. This incredible autistic trait means that when he says “Mum, that colour suits you”, it’s a compliment that carries the weight of a thousand tonnes because it’s never an extreme of emotion – to him, it’s fact. That’s awesome, and down to Autism.
Finally, the biggest plus side of this bugger that can be Autism, is what it has done to me, how it has changed me as a result of parenting a child like Boo. It’s taught me patience, understanding, tolerance, and self-confidence (even if at times all those traits have been sorely tested). Autism has taught me to look at the world differently, through Boo’s eyes. It’s taught me to question things I took for granted.
So yeah, there’s definitely some Awe in Autism.