Here you see my little boy, Elijah. He is autistic, or on the autism spectrum, whatever you’d choose to say. Sometimes Eli doesn’t like to talk. Sometimes Eli will say one thing over and over. He is unique in his communication style, for sure. He is a really special, really interesting person whose brain just happens to work differently than mine.
Today, there are some 1 in 150 children diagnosed with autism. 1 in 97 little boys. It’s not an easy thing for the parents of a child with autism, there are lots more challenges, but there are lots more rewards. How many of us can get really excited over their child looking at them and saying, “Hi Mommy” spontaneously when he is 8 years old. It makes us rush with love and pride every time they do something new, because we know how hard it is for them to do it.
So this week, I’ve been reading a book entitled Neurodiversity by Thomas Armstrong, PhD. This book is a call out for all of us to look at people who are different in the brain from us neurotypical folks (though to me an argument can be made for the individuality of ALL brains) and start accepting them as they are and start finding ways to play to their strengths and find new ways to fit them into our already complex society.
For me, all people are individuals, so this is not a complicated idea, it seems like a very logical idea. But what happens to us as parents when our child is diagnosed with a “disorder” is we emotionally lose it. Every hope and dream you had for your child is dashed to the ground and it takes time to figure out new dreams and new hopes, time to figure out what we can do to help our child live in a world that is almost foreign to him and help our child become a fully functioning member of our modern society.
Well, I don’t have all the answers for that, but I do agree that rather than focussing always on the negative, I do focus on the positive and interesting when it comes to my son.
He is more loving than most children, because he likes deep, heavy touch and so is always wanting to be hugged and massaged. For some, this might not translate to love and affection, but for me, it surely does. I love being able to cuddle my 8 year old son, I even love massaging his feet at night so he can relax and go to sleep.
He can concentrate for hours on one thing, even if it’s something that I might consider useless or silly, it’s a skill that we can figure out how to exploit or encourage so that he can find work as an adult.
He is very talented musically and so I want to encourage more instrument play, though his singing is angelic.
I think sometimes his vision is such that he sees more detail, more things that our generalizing brains miss. There has to be ways we can use that skill in his future.
I do choose to see the positives in my son. I think he’s an amazing person. I can have a whole conversation with him on the angel he says he has. (Yes, this may sound crazy to you, but Eli tells me he has an angel, and it’s flying around). We can meet most of his immediate needs and he can take care of himself rather well now.
I like to enter his world sometimes and just play with him, just be with his sweet energy and enjoy who he is without worrying about anything else but living in the moments of joy with him. He radiates joy when he’s happy and he breaks your heart when he is sad. (He does identify emotions in himself, too)
I think he’s overly empathetic. In the past, it’s been thought that autists tend to not be empathetic at all, but recently it’s been postulated that autistic kids may feel TOO much empathy which causes them to shut people off so they can cope. I believe this is my son. When I am crying, he comes and talks to me and asks me if I’m OK. He wipes the tears away while saying “Sad, Sad, Crying”, he’ll let me hug him. He is very concerned with me feeling badly..he’ll ask if I am broken. It’s so sweet, the look in his eyes, though, it’s all concern, it’s all, “I don’t know what to do to make my mommy smile again, but I have to try”. Tell me this kid isn’t empathetic! When I’m sick, he’ll want to lay next to me in bed and do silly things to cheer me up.
I believe in neurodiversity. I believe we need to find ways to adapt to the society we’re all becoming with so many children diagnosed with ADHD, Autism, and other brain issues like dyslexia and related learning disabilities and other mental illnesses. I believe we need to see the positive, we need to see the individual child or adult and find ways to help them play to their strengths so our society as a whole can evolve into an inclusion society. Where all people are valued for who they are as individuals and not for the colors of their skin or the functions of their brains.
I love my son more than the sky and the stars and the moon, more than anything. I feel this way about all my children and I’m sure I’ll write more about each of them, but because of this book, Eli is on my mind. I hope you will also see the value of finding a way for kids like Eli to fit in to our world. He’s pretty special.