Sarah* (Name changed to protect identity) is sitting across from me, looking beautiful at 8 months pregnant, but overwhelmed. “How are you doing?” I ask pointedly, wondering what has got her so down and frazzled looking.
“It’s just, we found out out that our first daughter is Autistic… I couldn’t figure out why she was doing things differently, so I called Early Intervention for an evaluation…” (The absolute right thing to do, fyi) “All the tests came back that she has Autism, and they want to start all of these OT and PT and therapy appointments at the house, and I have to take her to Milford for some things, and an interventional pediatrician at childrens… it’s just all so much! And with the new baby coming, what am I going to do?!”
Now, as you may have gathered from our previous interactions as writer and reader, I do not consider Autism to be a “problem” as such. I think it is an amazing neuroadaptation to modern life and simply another way that folks are born looking at the world. So, with these thoughts in mind, I looked at her and said…
“You know your daughter is fine, right?”
She stared at me.
“Well, I know she will be, but….”
“No, no, she’s fine. Really. Sure, going forward, there will be things that you will need to help her learn so that she can interact with neurotypical people effectively, and habits such as bathing, remembering to eat and talk to folks- because she likely won’t be concerned with those things- but truly, she is fine. There is nothing wrong with her. What we need to do, is to help you understand how she thinks, so that you can communicate effectively with her too.”
Sarah and I spent the next two hours discussing things her daughter was doing, what they meant, how she could best communicate with the little girl, and so on. We also discussed therapeutic modalities that OT’s and PT’s might use, and speech therapists etc, diet changes and more. Just before it was time to go, she looked at me and said, “You have just totally reframed this whole thing for me… I can see her now clearly, and not just a set of issues to be dealt with. What a relief to just have her be my kid again, and not a series of appointments to attend….”
Your Autistic is fine. Your Autistic is amazing. Your autistic will blow your mind with how they see things. Your Autistic will never, ever live inside the box- because they do not perceive any boxes. No box of societal norms, no box of expectations or “Should do’s”, no box of what is “true” and what isn’t…. Can you imagine the world without Einstein? Or Newton? Or Rami Malek, or Tim Burton, or Bill Gates? Or Temple Grandin- who taught the world about animal feelings and emotions? Or Charles Darwin, who looked at the world and saw the beautiful fluctuations in the natural world, and helped us understand that everything changes, grows and adapts perfectly to its environment. As will your Autistic. Your brilliant, life changing, detail seeing, magic making Autistic, will adapt to the world they find themselves in- a world behind them in observational skills and perception, behind their ability to abstract… and they will quietly pull you, and us forward with them- showing us the light, the beauty, the tiny detail, the importance we miss.
Listen, watch and learn. They will show you the way. And you will show them the way to share their perceptions with the rest of us, and we will all be grateful.
“Close both eyes to see with the other eye, Open your hands if you want to be held…” – Rumi