Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth continuing to write about: my son with autism did this; my son with autism did that; my autistic child accomplished such-and-such.
I’ve got to be sounding like a broken record with all the rah-rah stuff when, essentially, young Matt does a lot of day-to-day “things” any other child without autism does. When does it stop becoming special?
To be honest, I’m not so sure if it ever will. At least not to me and not to those who have seen just how far he has come since being diagnosed at age two.
Yeah, it’s become common that Matt receives accolades at school. Or that he’s becoming more social every day. Or that he continues to amaze us with his thought process, logic and accomplishments. It’s common because of how hard that kid has worked for it.
I’m bragging, I get that, but my goal and perhaps the aim of this blog, is really about much more than that.
It’s about educating others and raising awareness. It’s about trying to dispel the idea that people with autism are somehow “less” than the rest of us or that they can’t function well in the so-called “real world”.
To be clear, my son (and certainly millions of others) have their struggles. People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have to work harder to assimilate in society (some MUCH harder) – and no doubt need some understanding and patience from the rest of us – but to believe they can’t do this or can’t do that is being short-sighted.
Terrain Racing Flagstaff
Recently young Matt completed a 3+ mile obstacle course race with 20+ obstacles. No doubt an environment with thousands of people and a lot of distractions might terrify some kids with ASD. I also know that a lot of parents would avoid that situation as well. But not us and certainly not Matt.
From a physical standpoint: that kid went through the same course as everyone else and completed the same obstacles. Quite frankly I should be amazed at how well he did: his endurance, deceptive strength and complete lack of fear allowed him to have an easier time on the course than probably half of the other participants.
However, he was stimming a lot. Stimming is “a repetitive body movement that self-stimulates one or more senses in a regulated manner” (from autism.wikia.com.) It’s not an easy concept to understand but in Matt’s case, he was often jumping around on the course yelling “eeeeeeee”. Try to imagine an excited child jumping up and down, and squealing.
This isn’t a bad thing; if anything it’s a type of coping mechanism. Still, it’s a visible action that some people might find odd to witness. Sometimes it’s good to let the child stim; to allow them to relax and/or become comfortable in a situation. Other times, redirection is needed. In the case of the obstacle course, it was a matter of trying to re-focus Matt on running to the next obstacle.
Now. I wish I could say that “if my son did it, yours can too”, but I can’t. The range of behaviors and abilities among those with autism is large and the patience needed to push those individuals towards doing more and more things is, unfortunately, limited. However, I’ll always believe that underestimating anyone with autism is a mistake.
And on the lighter side…
Let me say that I personally don’t embarrass easily but leave it to Matt to leave me speechless and red-faced. We were sitting at breakfast at the hotel when a (presumably) Muslim couple walk into the dining room. The woman was dressed head-to-toe in a black burka.
Matt turns to me and says, “Daddy, is that a ninja?”
But before I could answer, he turned and asked (quite loudly), “Hey. Are you a ninja?”
The couple glanced our way and I could do little but smile and shrug.