As Autism Awareness Month wraps up, some more random thoughts to share on the topic.
We live with Autism every day in our house. Our son Carson, 13, is our tour guide on this unexpected journey, and we get through his disabilities each day with tolerance, patience, empathy and love. Life is not a walk in the park. It’s uncomfortable more often than not. There are good days and rough days. In between we live in a sea of gray for what the present and future holds, but we live for the day and do our best to keep him happy and productive while accepting our family faces unique challenges only known and understood by those charting similar courses with special needs kids.
A major theme throughout the various articles and essays I have read this month about Autism is acceptance, which means everything to us. There are public meltdowns associated with anxieties. Carson carries a stuffed animal into school each day because it brings him peace. If he needs it to help him, it’s fine with me.
Being realistic about life is key. There are uphill battles, none of which are simple and easy. Some days we feel like we are doing great by our kid. Other times it’s difficult not to feel like a complete failure. I just accept there are days when the disabilities win in a rout. The key is to learn and try again the next day.
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. I have learned a lot from my son.
With both our kids, our approach is to face life with a bit of levity. There is no other way for us because serious things occur, and 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.
Routine and structure help us tremendously with Carson. It’s why each morning we follow the exact same routine. He gets up at 6:30 a.m. I play flatulence sounds on his Alexa in his room to get him moving and laughing. He has a drink and watches some television. We leave the house at 7 a.m. sharp and stop at Dunkin’ for the same breakfast he has been eating for months. We park in the same spot and walk in together holding hands. He picks up a straw and blows the paper on the floor or sometimes at another customer. I scramble to pick it up. We drive to school. He looks at my phone for the most expensive vacation destinations he can find until we get to school. Along the way we drive on Sinepuxent Road, wave to the same bus driver each day and turn around at the same church parking lot and then head to school. We park typically in the same spot and go about our walk into school, retracing most of the identical steps from the day before.
There was one wrinkle Thursday morning. We were a few blocks from home when he signaled in his nonverbal way, he needed to use the bathroom in a major way. We took a detour to my office where he went about his business. This pitstop set us off our schedule, however, and we had to pivot. I was incredibly proud how he handled taking a different way to school because we were running behind. The fact Carson went along with it and did not tantrum was a major win. There would have been a time when he would not have tolerated the routine change.
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. We are most appreciative of the acceptance we typically encounter throughout our community.
There have been many incredible online posts and graphics about Autism this month. Many are worthy of sharing, but here’s one I found online that his home.
Neurodiversity is more than just a term – it’s both a fact and a movement.
It’s the concept that all “brain wiring” – or neurological difference – is, and should be recognized, respected and celebrated as part of what is considered a normal variation in humanity.
Labels such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, Autism, ADHD, Tourette Syndrome and mnay more neurodevelopmental differences would come under this banner, helping us understand their individuality and overlap, but removing the stigma of deficits and disorders and with it the notion that such things can or should be cured.
Embracing neurodiversity is a journey towards finding new language, new understanding and new acceptance for thousands of people in our region and millions more across the globe. It’s a movement that will nurture, celebrated and advocate for all forms of communication and expression, promoting any support that allows autistic people – and any others – to live life fulfilled, happy and on their own terms.”
Specific to our Carson, who does not speak and is incredibly introverted, National Autism Association posted on its social media this message, “Even if a person with Autism cannot speak or respond, they still hear your words and feel your attitude. So be kind, compassionate and uplifting … always.”