When the ‘Basics' Are Difficult for My Son With Autism
My son showed me exactly how he planned to install a CPU into his computer yesterday. If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry. You are in good company.
He walked me through it step by step, explaining in painstaking detail how to install it, and how the actual device functions. The way it communicates, what one set of cords does vs. the other, why the motherboard goes in this spot, and so many more things that I did not understand.
I sat there in awe, so proud of the man he is becoming. He is realizing his strengths, and using them to. It is exactly what he has been working towards for almost four years now.
I also couldn’t help but feel a pang of confusion and disbelief. He can do all of this, but he may not be able to navigate dinner tonight.
Eating and sleeping are basic life requirements, and yet they can be the most challenging aspects of my son’s life. “I’m hungry, but I can’t eat.” “I’m tired, but I can’t sleep.” “I want to go to the store and look at air fresheners, but I can’t be in the store.” Some days he can’t eat the first breakfast I cook because the texture bothers him, or sit at the table because his brother is tapping his feet on the floor, or handle a shower because it’s too much for him after a long day. He has learned to better communicate what is happening. I feel so grateful at how adept my son has become at communicating his needs.
Our life necessarily looks different. My son spends more time learning the basics, like eating and hygiene, than he does with subjects like science and math. And I am 100 percent OK with it.
What makes it complicated is the rest of the world not understanding, assuming he is “spoiled,” and questioning why I allow him to make his own decisions instead of demanding obedience. Doctors, other kids, and even his own brother don’t understand why he can’t just do these things.
He doesn’t have an answer. But I have an answer.
Everyone is different. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. My son is stronger in his strengths than any 13-year-old I know. He also works harder, every single day, on the things that are tough for him. Sometimes the basics are the most difficult. Sometimes “simple,” isn’t simple. Sometimes development looks wildly different for one child versus another. And sometimes, we just have to proceed at the pace that is right for our children.
I don’t think the basics will ever be easy for my son. But I have seen enough progress to know this:
He will figure out how to best approach eating, sleeping and shopping. Until then, I will help him. I’m his mom. It’s my job, and one I feel lucky to have.
Follow this journey on Not the Former Things.
The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.