If you take a quick squizz at commonly published Autistic traits, lack of self-awareness often features there somewhere, in some guise or other. But in the experience of Boo, I’d say there are some times when his self-awareness is razor sharp, cutting to the heart of an issue with a clarity you rarely see in someone NT.
Don’t get me wrong, he can be totally lacking in awareness when he’s mid-stim, when he’s mid-meltdown, mid-angst, put on the spot, unguarded, dealing with the sensory chaos that is thrown at him. At those times caring what he seems like, looks like, is judged as, is a million miles from his thoughts.
However, once in a while a crystal clear moment of self-awareness dawns, and damn they pierce my heart. Because whilst it’s ‘good’ that Boo is deemed high-functioning, and is able to pass in this world as ‘pretty normal’, him knowing that he’s got ASD, or not ‘normal’, is a pretty heart-breaking concept. This kid desperately wants to fit in.
We might understand, with our all-loving adult eyes, that being an individual is awesome. But when you’re 10 and striving to get the social rules and interactions of everyday life, all you actually want is to be the same as everyone else. You don’t want platitudes about individuality. You just want to have a day where you’re completely, utterly, blandly, normal.
And so, when Boo asked me this morning: “Mummy, why do I not understand things like other people, even though I try really hard?” my heart broke a little, momentarily, before replying. That question highlighted complete and utter self-awareness. That he tries. That he still just doesn’t get it.
And Boo, my dear sweet boy, neither do I. It’s beyond unfair. But life’s not fair. You will forever have Autism. It will forever throw hurdles in your way making the simple seem a thousand times harder. It will knock your confidence and undermine your self-esteem, and try as I might to mitigate that, it will always be there.
I can tell you that you absolutely rock. I can tell you that you have incredible understanding of a different type of things from others. I can tell you that you’re smart, funny, kind, caring and have a depth of character to be admired, and truly individual, but the only way I can answer your question comes back to those three little letters: ASD. I can’t tell you that with all our effort, together, that one day you will ‘get’ things like others do, because the chances are the best we can ever hope for is staged understanding of the theory. I can only teach you social understanding in a way someone can teach musical theory – it doesn’t mean you can pick up an instrument and play.
So when those moments of self-awareness hit, and you find a crack in your voice, I have one too. I feel that uncertainty, that questioning, that need to just fit in and get it ‘right’. And I don’t have the answer either.