There are things that occur in life we often describe as, “This is Autism.” The inexplainable situations that defy reason, but they are our reality.
It may sound strange, but there are many positives that have come our family’s way because of Carson’s special needs. His greatest gift to us is perspective, as I often think of him when I get overwhelmed by juggling life. I remember his challenges and the grace and courage he displays every day. Through watching him overcome or at least navigate through his disabilities, I am motivated to be a better person.
With our kids, our approach is to face life with a bit of levity. There is no other way for us because enough serious things occur we must embrace some aspects with humor. Pam has joked in the past we must laugh so we don’t cry. It’s a good way to put it.
Here’s a few examples:
•This is Autism.
As Carson and I were headed out the door to school one morning, he decided at the last minute he didn’t want to wear his Surfers Healing hat for field day. He stopped with one foot out the door and raced upstairs to his room. He came down with a huge sombrero. This is an enormous hat, which extends off his head a good 18 inches. It’s so wide he can’t walk through a door with it on.
Anxious to leave, I told him he couldn’t wear that kind of hat for field day. It’s interesting Carson detests being the center of attention, but yet he wants to wear something that will do just that. After I rejected the idea, he raced back upstairs. I waited a minute, hoping he would return with his second choice. It didn’t happen. He was hiding behind his door crying with his sombrero. Trying unsuccessfully to get him redirected to a downstairs closet with other hats, I ultimately decided this was not a fight worth waging at the time.
We walked out of the house with the massive sombrero. I drove to school that morning looking out my window because his massive hat was blocking my view. The kid who hates attention walked into the school with it on, seemingly unfazed by the giggles from others in the drop off line. He got a horn beep from a laughing mom in her minivan.
When I recounted the story later, Pam made lemonade out of lemons, adding at least it provides a lot of sun protection for field day. It was true.
•Before we even left the dock for a fishing trip last weekend, Carson made the wrong choice of snatching Beckett’s sunglasses off his face and throwing them into the bay. He did the same thing to me while on vacation many years ago.
Though we are conditioned to expect the unexpected with Carson, we were all shocked by this action. It’s been a long time since he did something so mean and random. Equally disturbing was the lack of remorse displayed after the fact. We gave him a stiff consequence. This is Autism.
A positive of the situation was Beckett’s tolerance toward his little brother. Pam told Carson he had to give Beckett his sunglasses as a result of making the bad decision. Beckett refused to take them, knowing Carson has issues with his eyes. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but he declined, playing down the situation and realizing it would make a bad situation worse.
•Carson was recognized as a Principal’s List member at Berlin Intermediate School last week. With parents unavailable to attend, the school livestreamed the ceremony on its YouTube channel. I watched from work and Pam, who was with Beckett at the Ocean City skate park after he finished finals, viewed it on her phone.
Because he is shy and abhors public adulation, he walked up with his trusted Educational Assistant, Mr. DJ, and refused to pose for a photo with the principal. He hid behind Mr. DJ because he knew there was a camera nearby. After a few awkward seconds, he did agree to grab the certificate from his principal before racing to his seat. This from the same kid who wore a massive sombrero during field day. This is Autism.
•A key thing with kids with special needs is to celebrate the wins and not dwell on the unfortunate aspects. Truth be told, there is a lot ]to be concerned about with Carson over the long term. However, it’s best to not thing about the grand picture and instead focus on the daily positives, of which there are many.
For instance, over the course of the spring, Pam and I undertook multiple landscaping projects around the house. The fact we can leave Carson alone in the house is a huge change for us. There were many years when he could not be unsupervised. He had to be watched because anything was possible. He was so unpredictable we had to install lockbolts across the top of all our doors because he was a flight risk.
Nowadays, he helps us with projects. When he is tired, it’s common for him to work on a puzzle inside by himself. He will occasionally knock on a window where he can see us and give us a thumb up while holding a puzzle piece in the other hand.
This is Autism. It’s not a journey I, or anyone for that matter, would ever choose, but there are blessings to savor along the way.