I've always said that I don't look at autism as a curse. That is true, and has become more so as David has grown and I have grown on this journey. To imagine David anything other than autistic is just impossible. His autism is a part of him, like his eye color or his hysterical sense of humor. It's intrinsically part of the essential David. I love him for it and through it.
And sometimes, I love him in spite of it.
Autism - and my learning of it - has opened doors that I couldn't even have imagined. It's changed the nature of how I communicate not just with my son, but with everyone. It's made me more patient. More kind. More open-minded. More fierce and determined.
And it's made me tired.
There's no denying that living with autism is a challenge sometimes. Maybe even a lot of the time. One of the hardest, most challenging aspects for me has been dealing with David's repetetive behaviors.
Take farting, for instance.
When David was a toddler, he was terrified every time he farted. A child with autism frequently over-reacts to sensory stimulating things, and when this eruption came out of his body unannounced and occasionally with accompanying noise, it startled and frightened him.
To get him past that, we showed him it was no big deal. It was funny, even. "Did you toot?" We'd joke, and tickle him and laugh. He soon began announcing himself. "I tooted!!" He'd say gleefully, every time it happened. Then as he got into school and learned the other word, he'd shout "I farted!!" This was accompanied by what I call "The Happy Farty Dance". It was adorable.
Not so adorable now that he's nine. Not adorable at all when we're in line at the movie theater and he's screaming "Hey! I farted!!" to the masses. Normally, at this age, a kid pretty much knows that he can do that at home but not out in public. A neuro-typical kid would know. My autistic kid hasn't got a clue, and while I repetitively remind him that it's not appropriate both home and away anymore, it'll take awhile to sink in because he's had years of repetition with the other scenario.
That's only one of the battles. Sometime a few months ago, we were waiting for a doctor appointment and to keep him happy, I pretended that my left and right hands were small children and they were tickling him and having a conversation with him. Somewhere along the way, the hands became a brother and sister, and they like to fight each other and call him Daddy. He expects to speak and interact with them (on average) 15-25 times a day now. Do you know how hard it is to make a squeaky voice and re-enact scenarios over and over with your hands? Ugh! And telling him no gets an expected upset response. But I have to tell him no or we'll be doing this till I'm old and gray, a bazillion times a day.
And I never know what silly thing he's going to lock onto next. And whatever he locks onto, I'll be locked into, until he finds something else to lock into, over and over again.
Well, at least he's not yelling about farting as much. I'll call that progress.
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