I’m Watching You, Autism. This Is What I See.
Right now I’m looking out my dinning room window watching you “fiddle” in the front yard. You urge my 12-year-old son to pace back and forth while rubbing his fingers and hands together. Sometimes he rubs them together up by his nose, making him look like a little chipmunk. Every once in awhile he will wave to his younger brother and his brother’s friend playing basketball in the driveway. Seeing you this way twists my heart into a knot.
I think you first encouraged my son to fiddle when he was about 6 years old. He started doing it while I was making dinner one night. I asked, “Evan, what are you doing?” Matter-of-factly he replied, “I’m fiddling.”
Of course, fiddling is just a form of stimming. It helps him reduce the anxiety you cause and helps him decompress after a long day at school. Together, you two have worn an 8-foot path in our lawn.
Tonight, prior to this fiddling, I watched my son fight you, Autism. He was overcome by anxiety because he dropped a mint between the front seat of the car and the center console. He and I looked for it for ten minutes with a flashlight but simply could not reach it. I watched you pour frustration over my child, turning his cheeks red and forcing him to fight back tears. I’m not going to lie. I had no time for you in that moment. I raised my voice while saying, “Evan, you are not going to cry over a lost mint! This is a little problem!” For good measure I even added, “We are not going to live our lives this way!”
And so now you fiddle in our front yard, the two of you.
Autism, over the years I’ve watched you, and this is what I’ve seen.
You are anxiety, and you are empathy.
You are rigid, and you are helpful.
You are unpredictable, and you are joyful.
You are a loner, and you are endearing.
You are repetitive, and you are honest.
You are socially challenged, and you are admired.
You are brave.
Recently, you and my son stood in front of his sixth grade chorus class to audition for a solo for the spring concert. Evan loves to sing, and you don’t care what people think — a perfect combination of talent and courage. He told me the girls clapped for him.
And sometimes, the most amazing words come out of Evan’s mouth, like the time he declared, “Mom, all the years that I’ve been born have been my favorite.” I guess I need to give you a little credit for that, Autism, because you can make him see the world in a such beautiful way.
I’m still watching you, Autism. No doubt, I will continue to watch as you shadow my remarkable boy throughout his life. Fortunately, beyond the times of outdoor fiddling and lost mint frustrations will be those glorious moments where my son Evan sings courageously in front of a crowd.
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