Why I Don’t Force My Son to Let Me Into ‘His Own Little World’


photo 3 (1) A majority of the time, my sweet boy is happiest watching videos on his iPad, playing with objects that aren’t necessarily toys, stimming (finger-flicking, hand-flapping, etc.) and just overall being left alone. He doesn’t engage in typical play with typical toys, and rarely does he seek out the attention of anyone to play with. Classic autism. 

Try as I might, his engagement is limited. I say none of this to imply that he’s not there or that he doesn’t know what’s going on. Quite the opposite actually — he’s incredibly smart and picks up on a lot of things going on around him. So much so, that I have to carefully spell certain words when talking to someone else, even if he’s in another room, so as to not clue him in on something as simple as the new bag of gummy bears that I just brought home from the grocery store. They get smuggled in, as though they’re illegal in all 50 states. However, he is currently learning to spell, and my method will need to be revised sometime soon.

In a tale as old as the word “autism,” the saying “It’s like they’re in their own little world” has become the catch phrase (if you will) of describing autism. And in a lot of ways it’s true, but in a lot of ways it isn’t. Let me explain.

In our case, it’s more the appearance that he’s in his own little world, than that he is actually in his own little world. I have no doubt in my mind that he’s there, listening and taking in everything around him. But about that connection — the moments I know he’s right there with me wanting me there, almost like he’s saying, “See mom, I’m right here.” Those moments are far too rare. I cling on to those moments with clinched fists and whatever it is we’re doing I keep doing it. Every single second I can extend it, I drag it out. And every time we have these moments, I start to pray, “Please God, just a few seconds more.” And in the blink of an eye, the moment has passed. He’s fine to be left alone again. All I can do is wait… wait until we meet again. 

In the five years since our diagnosis, I’ve often heard opposing arguments between “bringing them out of their world” and “entering into their world.” In our case, I’ve often felt like these moments, where that real connection happens, have been somewhere in the place between. I call this the brackish water, where my river meets his sea — somewhere between where he goes (or appears to go) and where I am, magically collide. It’s there, in that place, where we meet. These moments are far too rare and far too fleeting. But God knows when it comes to these moments, I will take whatever I can get.

When it comes to this journey and knowing what to do or what not to do, in an effort to not only communicate with my son but to also connect with him, I’m really just winging i”. On-the-job training, I guess you could say. But truthfully, aren’t we all just really winging it?

Somehow, knowing that we’re all just kind of learning as we go and doing the best we can makes me feel a little better. No one person has all the answers to all the questions about this special journey we call autism. While I may not know much, the one thing I know for sure is this: I’ll be there, waiting for him in the brackish water, until we can meet again.  And when it comes to these moments… when it comes to him

he’s worth the wait.

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