Guess What? I Have Autism!
“Hi! I’m Jack. I have autism.”
We’ve never hidden it from him, but we’ve never addressed it directly. We wanted to have that discussion when he was old enough to be able to understand the gravity of it all. At least a little.
My husband David and I discussed it for months in advance, tried to plan out what we wanted to say and how to say it. We decided it would be best to wait until his summer vacation, so he would have some time to adjust to his new reality, unfettered by school stresses.
Except when summer came, we still waited. For the perfect time, the perfect place, the perfect… You know, there’s no perfect anything. So one day, as we all sat around the kitchen table doing arts and crafts, it just seemed like a good enough time.
“Jack, do you know what autism is?”
He wasn’t sure, so we expanded on some things he already knew: people have different likes and dislikes, people don’t all look the same, people think differently.
That’s kind of our family mantra. Whenever the children are confused by people who act or look or likes something that is not the same as what they know, we say it.
“People’s lives are different.”
We knew someday Jack (or his brothers) would realize that he’s not like most of the other kids, and we wanted him to know that different is not wrong. It’s not strange. It’s not weird or funny or less than. Different is just different.
We tried to describe the autism spectrum, and how all people who have autism fit somewhere on it, but are not the same. That even within the autism community there are differences, and that’s OK.
We told him that autism is why sometimes sounds are too loud and lights are too bright and the Titan AE theme song drives him nuts (although to be fair, it’s really annoying). Autism is why he has a helper at school, and why he needs to run around in the halls periodically. It’s why he takes melatonin to sleep at night.
It’s also why he wants to know everything about every subject that interests him, and wants to share it all with anyone within earshot. It’s not why he’s curious, but it’s probably why he’s curiouser.
When we actually said the words “you have autism” to Jack, and told him what we meant by it, he wasn’t upset at all. He wasn’t scared or even troubled.
I’m pretty certain Jack believes he has some sort of super powers.
Which, of course, he does.
So, without further ado, Jack’s thoughts on autism.
On the fact that he was born prematurely, and how that may have contributed to his autism (his correlation, not ours):
“If you’re early (premature) you have a lot more time to learn. If you’re past schedule (post-dates, like his brothers), you don’t have as much time to learn.”
So, according to Jack, he’s got one up on his brothers because he was born six weeks premature.
On early intervention (he started services when he was 23 months old), and the important role parents have in the therapy process:
“You (parents) helped me learn. You also brought someone else over to help teach me to learn.”
“It’s all because of my parents that other people came and taught me. So parents do help out with learning, not just school and other classes. Mostly parents. But mostly school.”
“And you learn mostly everything at university.”
Some random thoughts on autism:
“I couldn’t walk when I was born, and it’s because of the spectrum.”
Hm, probably not the case.
“I know how to read, so I’m really good at autism.”
I guess so?
We finished up by asking him how he felt now that he knows about autism. Turns out, he thinks it’s pretty cool.
“I think that having autism is great. Of course, what do you know?”
Not much, apparently.
“Do you like autism a lot?”
Yes, yes I do, in fact.
“Well, thank you!”
You’re quite welcome, little man, it’s been my pleasure.
When his aunt and cousins came over later in the day, he ran up to them and gleefully exclaimed, “guess what?!? I have autism!”
Let the celebrations begin.
And, as is his wont, Jack summed up autism in the most eloquent way possible. From the mouths of babes and all, words of wisdom:
“Some people (with autism) can’t talk – it’s not about your voice, it’s about your mind.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.