To ‘I Wish I Didn’t Have Aspergers/Autism’: A letter to my son
I have written three posts over the past few days… none of them this one. I have worried about saying the wrong thing, offering useless platitudes, or trite words of encouragement. I wanted to write something meaningful, and hopeful, prideful, and helpful.
I have been waiting for the muse…
But it has not really come.. and so … and thus – I must just write to you and offer what leaks out of my fingers and onto the keyboard.
Writing mirrors life.
Sometimes there are no magic words.
Avoidance will not get the job done.
Sometimes it is just hard work.
Sometimes we need to take the next step – even when we are uncertain of the destination – or the ending of the story, and we must be heartened to know that at least we are still moving and choosing a direction.
Through my observations, my interactions with you, and my discussions and friendships with autistic adults, I understand that your path is not an easy one.
I understand that you process and think differently than many other people and that you experience the world in a way that many do not understand.
I understand that the world may come at you unevenly and that your response may at times appear uneven. I see that there are times when the words to express your experience elude you. Sometimes your words don’t match the narrow cookie cutter definition of what is expected. Sometimes you are anxious and overwhelmed by these expectations – you realize they are there – but you are not always successful in unraveling and detecting them.
What I would like for you, my son, and others who experience the world differently – is to feel that you are accepted and loved this very day – for who you are and your unique way of interfacing with the world. I want you to feel that you are perfectly loveable this very moment and that you do not have to change a thing to be worthy of that love.
I want you to be able to live a life free of shame and misjudgment.
I want to tell you not to listen to the media proclaim that ‘autism is an epidemic, or a tragedy.’ This path that you are on is difficult enough – without feeling that autism makes you somehow less. I want to encourage you to feel a healthy indignance about these attitudes – and then put that feeling into action and work along side those of us who are committed to increasing autism pride, understanding, and acceptance.
I want you to know that there are people out here that do understand and care. There is a whole world of people in the autism community who are connecting on facebook, on Twitter, through gaming and other online groups, and through special interest activities. Some of these people are NT (neurotypical – like me), some are parents of autistic children (also like me), and some are adults on the spectrum (like your Dad). We welcome you and your voice and your perspective.
Sometimes you do not fit in the box. In fact – you seldom do… and there are many out there who see this as a good and admirable thing. You have a way of seeing the world that is fresh, unique, creative, poetic, and you help me to see it from a different angle. This is the gift you offer those around you.
I understand that you may be seeking a way to feel that you have worth and that you matter – as you pick your steps and navigate your way through a world that seems to be created for neurotypicals, and that rewards homogeneity and extroversion. I understand that you have felt misunderstood, judged, and that this can weigh heavily upon you…
But I have hope…
You asked me once if it was good or bad to have autism. We were in a parking lot, heading into a store. You were about 6 or 7 or 8…
You caught me off guard… and I muddled my way through, as I so often seem to do.
I reached out into the nothingness and hoped for something useful to fall into my mind so I could explain to you. What came to me was cookies… cookies and autism:
Sweetheart – do you like chocolate chip cookies?
Well – sometimes there are cookies with chocolate chips and sometimes instead of that they have M&Ms? Both are cookies and both have chocolate in them.. right??
One isn’t better than the other – they are a little bit different- but they are both good. Well, that is a little like autism: you think a little bit differently than most people – it is like a cookie with M&Ms instead of chocolate chips. It is still a cookie… it still has chocolate – it is still good… it is just a little bit different. It is OK to be different – that is what makes the world interesting.
Oh… OK! This is a metaphor – right Mom?
At that age – my explanation completely satisfied you.
However, and although it saddens me to consider it, I suspect there will come a time when it may be you that googles “I wish I didn’t have Aspergers/Autism.” I hope that you may find this letter – or another – that gives you hope to know that you are valued and appreciated for what you bring to this world. I hope that you find support, and hope, and messages of pride that strengthen you when you may be feeling vulnerable.
And I hope – that in the future – these messages of positivity will seem archaic relics of a time gone by – because all the world can appreciate the beauty and strength of the kind of diversity you represent.