Friday, May 2, 2014
What Living With Someone With Autism Taught Me
As most of my readers know, my son, who is 12, has Aspergers. Actually, experts are saying that the term Aspergers should no longer exist, that it all should just be called autism spectrum disorder now. But still. I call it Aspergers.
Living with someone with autism has taught me a lot and I wanted to share some of those things with you all. Please know that I am not making fun of those with autism--this is a light post, and I know some people with autism truly struggle with some of these.
So without further ado...
Here are some things that my son does.
--He's brutally honest.
If you want to know if you look fat in something, find someone with autism. They'll tell you. I once walked over to Tommy in a dress and he went, "You look pregnant." If you try to discuss something they don't want to discuss, they'll flat out tell you that they are bored. Tommy won't feign interest. He'll simply walk away. He used to do this when he'd play with kids his own age. They'd be talking about a new toy, and if Tommy didn't care, he'd leave. Then ten minutes later I'd get a knock on the door and the kids would be all, "Where did Tommy go?" I explain to him time and time again that if he wants to leave, he should at least say goodbye.
--He Gets Confused When Someone Is Upset
An uncomfortable look passes over his face. Sometimes he'll flee. Other times he keeps repeating, "I don't know what to do. Are you okay? Do you still love me?" Sometimes he'll give me a side hug. A pat on the head. Then, "Could you please stop crying?"
--He's Picky About What He'll Eat
He makes the above face a lot. He knows what he likes. This includes pizza, spaghetti, sloppy joes, and tacos. Not much more. I once made beef stew and he gagged. He tried some chicken I prepared and spit it right out. He doesn't enjoy things like mashed potatoes, pot roast, hot dogs, or ravioli. He's not a huge fan of ice cream because it's too cold for his mouth. If he gets married, his wife is going to have to be very patient with him.
--He's Not A Genius
Sometimes when people find out that Tommy has Aspergers, they ask if he's a math genius. He's not. In fact, a small percentage of people with autism are geniuses. Tommy is just a typical kid--he struggles with math and reading. He loves learning about the weather and can tell you all about the different clouds. He'll become obsessed with different subjects, and then move on to another. When he was 5, he was obsessed with the human body. He'd tell people that their food traveled down their esophagus and would discuss what the intestines did.
--He Arm Flaps Or Crashes On His Bed To Calm Down
If you don't have someone with autism in your life, seeing a kid flap constantly might be a little disconcerting. I'm used to it now. Tommy also will constantly crash into the couch or his bed. This helps calm him down. He craves the sensation of something against his body. Sometimes he hugs me too hard, which I'm okay with, because some kids with autism don't like to be touched. When he's crashing or arm flapping, he usually is humming.
--He Has Anxiety
Tommy has social anxiety and anxiety all together. He worries constantly. He worries kids think he's weird. He worries that I don't love him if he gets a bad grade. He worries he's going to die. He worries if he hits his arm that it's going to somehow stop working. He worries that he'll never get married because a woman will never get him. He worries that the people on Facebook who aren't 13 are completely breaking the rules. He worries, worries, worries. I have to constantly re-assure him. He'll ask the same question over and over again, even if I've answered it five minutes ago. It's just who he is. And that's okay. He's my boy.
(Oh, and did I mention Tommy was blunt?)