Autism: Challenging, not sad
I have a mom and four brothers who were on the autism spectrum. As a sibling and daughter I’ve dealt with much guilt regarding the way I used to think about my family members. A guilt that festered, becoming a bold but offensive ingredient in the creating of me. I write about it consistently, in hopes that some insight or revelation may help another struggling someone out there, and so that I will always remember what it is that I’ve learned, and continue to learn.
However, one thing I have never struggled with is feeling sad about autism.
I’ve seen people I love challenged by communication and sensory issues. I’ve listened to my brother voice a painful anxiety over the possible shape and size of Buick’s 2016 sedan designs, and watched my other brother grunt and stim while trying desperately to just make a word come out of his mouth the way it sounds in his head, and I’ve sat outside the door as my youngest son had meltdowns that broke my heart, while opened it up to new understandings at the very same time. I’ve seen all of this and felt sad for the challenge or difficulty, and wished I could help fix it, but never have I ever felt sad about autism.
Instead I have enjoyed much fun and insight, and seen my brothers and children and friends and others enjoy the same, thanks to autism!
I have always tried to be kind to everyone, but without the autism in my world I am quite sure I never would have truly known what kind was. As a child I thought being nice was simply helping people and doing things you’re told. But thanks to autism I have learned: kind is not about doing things for others, or allowing things to be done to you. Kind isn’t smiling and agreeing all of the time.
Kind is a caring and curious interest in another person.
Another person will always have life experiences, stories, and beliefs that are different than your own, often drastically so. How fantastic to take advantage of and enjoy that!
Because of the autism I am surrounded by, my world is beautiful and inclusive. I adore difference, without an expectation of assimilation. My family is drastically diverse (imagine the Muppets, Gonzo included!) and deliciously accepting.
It was my mom—who now travels the globe as a mental health therapist, specializing in autism—who taught me, by consistent example, that being accepting doesn’t mean not helping or not raising the bar. It doesn’t mean allowing people to be cruel or take advantage, and it doesn’t mean segregating. It means seeing yourself as perfectly valuable and able to change and grow, and knowing absolutely that so can everyone else. It is in this knowing that we can treat and accept everyone as able and valuable, and we can share with a curious passion all of our talents and abilities, while helping others discover their own.
Autism is challenging. Much like my husband’s dark skin, my daughter-in-law’s sexual preferences and my aunt’s thyroid problem and obesity have been challenging, but they are not sad. To see them as such is to create another challenge that will only lead down a less fun and unlikely-to-be-useful path.
My autistic brothers have offered me the most important gift. The gift of truly knowing what it is to love and to be kind. And in accepting that gift (eventually!), I have offered them the gift of seeing their value, and knowing their worth. And all the while we have gained skills and shared them with volume!
We fully intend to keep on doing that!!
ED Note: The author of this post is on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Autism-Answers/214643311941262?fref=ts