Many people may know that April is autism awareness month, but what most of you don’t know is that my son has autism. Don’t know much about autism? Most parents don’t really understand it until they are told their child is on the autistic spectrum. Autism Spectrum Disorder is defined as “A developmental disorder of variable severity that is characterized by difficulties in social interaction and communication and by restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behavior.” But, those who have a child on the spectrum know that it’s much more than that simple definition. I’d like to break down this textbook definition and compare it to my own experiences. Autism Spectrum Disorder is just that – a spectrum. I know what my family and I encounter may differ from other families, but I want to help you get a glimpse into my son’s life – into the world of the child who is just trying to fit in.
My son is fortunate to be on the “high-functioning” end of the spectrum, whereas some children are on the opposite end of the spectrum and experience non/low verbal communication. What that means is that he talks… a lot 😂. Once he finds a certain level of comfort or something that he can relate to, he has a lot to say. For him specifically, this means anything related to video games, escalators, or elevators (just to name a few). If you want to get him out of his shell, ask him about Otis elevators and he will give you more information than you’re ready for. In fact, he can recite much more information about the subject than I can, and I help build complexes that house said elevators. It may come across as repetitive to you and I, but you have to take into account what that does for his brain and how he processes it.
Restricted/Repetitive Patterns of Thought and Behavior
If my son finds something that really gets the gears turning in his head, he will not stop his focus. It is the way his mind processes it. That level of repetitiveness isn’t just with things that he loves – he is a creature of habit. He wakes up every day around 6:00 am, plays with the cat, gets dressed, eats breakfast, and waits for his mother to drop him off at my mother-in-law’s house. When schools were open, he would go to school and have a schedule that he would memorize and knew where he needed to be at all times of the day. He would then come home, do his homework, do his chores, and finally, annoy his sister (all part of the routine). He does not do ad-libbing and always needs to know where we are going. In fact, he has Reno memorized.
He loves life and doesn’t know that he has a disability. And if you asked me, he is one of the smartest kids I know. You just have to know how to tap into it. Throughout this pandemic I have a new level of respect and gratitude for our school system and the teachers who dedicate so much of their time to our son to help him reach his full potential. An often-used symbol of autism is a puzzle, and it really is appropriate. Every day we work towards putting it together.
Remember, kids on the autism spectrum still want to be part of the action, but just in their own way.