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My Son With Autism Is Worth the Time It Takes to Get to Know Him

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My autistic son was identifying cars as we went down the road today. His obsession with cars leads him to count and name every single car we pass without error – something that impresses me more every day. Suddenly, we pass a new area of development, and he says something, but I can’t understand him.

“A new what?” I ask him.

He answers, but I still don’t catch it.

“A new road? Yeah, it’s pretty new.” I answer, taking my best guess.

“A new neighborhood,” he gets out a bit more clearly this time.

He repeated himself three times without showing signs of frustration.

“I’m sorry I didn’t understand you at first,” I tell him, feeling bad that he had to repeat himself so much. I often get irritated when I have to repeat myself even one time, and he did it three times without getting angry or upset.

“Don’t apologize,” he says to me. I look over at him and see a look of sincerity and understanding I rarely get a chance to glimpse. “It’s not necessary,” he says in one of those rare moments of clarity that tell me  there’s more to him than meets the eye.

This is the child some people find difficult. The child who can be violent when overloaded. He looks at me and tells me he loves me after all of this.

I promise you that children like him – children who get explosive at times when overwhelmed or frustrated – know when you want them there and when you don’t. They know if you’re willing to take the time to at least try to listen and understand, or if you’re not.

Think about that for a minute. It took me seeing his face when he told me not to apologize to realize that, just like any other human being (and maybe even more so), he senses whether the environment he’s in is a positive or negative one. Whether the person he’s with is frustrated with him or feels patience. He senses whether people are glad he’s there or wish he would leave. He may not understand why or the exact feelings, but he senses whether he’s emotionally secure in an environment or not. Which one do you think he will work harder to stay in?

He’s worth the time it takes to get to know him. I promise.

Originally published: August 3, 2016
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