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Be Not Disheartened – Autism

I have said before, that it is entirely possible I am mildly Autistic. I have never been diagnosed, but since having to deal with a moderately Autistic boy (my six year old), I’ve come to notice some striking similarities in his “condition” and my past.

Whether or not I am Autistic, the one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that I am not like most folks I have ever met. Being who I am, for example, I tend to worry very little what others think of me. The result is, when dealing with my son, I tend to take much the same approach; preferring to concern myself with what I think will be to his general benefit, rather than worrying about whether or not others will “look at me or him funny” for his or my choices.

To say this is a liberating thing would be a serious understatement.

To be clear, I’m not saying I don’t care at all what my son does or says in public. Rather, I hold myself and my son to standards that I don’t allow others to set, but that I count as reasonable benchmarks for behavior. And when he breaks those “rules,” I make it very plain he has done so, and that it is intolerable.

I have watched a few people in our outings though, who seem to be concerned that “the world” is looking on them with disparaging eyes, and perhaps the majority of those around them are. I am not among them.

I watched as a very likely Autistic young man behaved in ways that would have given many parents (his own and others) pause. It not only had no such effect on me, but it was a great joy to watch him splashing about in the water at a local destination for “enrichment of children.” He was obviously enjoying himself! Though his parents did not stop him, or treat him badly for his seemingly “unfortunate” play  habits, it seemed to me they were concerned how others looking on might perceive the child or themselves.

This is one of several such events I have been privy to and of which I have been much more aware since becoming the happy caregiver to a moderately Autistic child.

All of the events had similar characteristics. In some cases, I was able to help to put the parents at ease. In others, not so (mostly because I didn’t see an opportune moment so to do).

At one point, I had a “brave soul” allow as how I was doing a great job with my son—he speaking from the position of caregiver to a teenager with mild or moderate Autism himself. I thanked him, though his attempt to put me at ease and applaud my actions was largely unnecessary. I would never have told him that, since I think any time somebody does such a thing, there’s a strong chance they’re doing something very needed for those they choose to applaud.

The thing is, though, I realized that I had the “right” to take the time to make it clear just how little I believe those dealing with “special needs” children should even be worrying about how they or their charges are perceived.

In each case where I have seen a parent taking a special needs child out into the “great wide open,” it’s been entirely obvious to me what a wonderful thing they were doing, not just for the child, but for society as a whole.

You see, when such a one does not take their child or children out and “introduce them to society” and vice-versa, all of that society is being done a disservice—as is the child in question.

Like it or not, the most probable way such a child will ever ever remotely assimilate, is to “be exposed to” the society with which they are expected to assimilate. Simply put, if I never introduce my special needs child to others, he or she will not typically even begin to understand what that society “looks like” much less how he or she will be expected to interact with it. Equally important to his or her assimilation, is a healthy look at how other parts of society interact, along with the result of said interactions.

The long and short of things is that I would like to make it crystal clear to parents of special needs children that they should not feel trepidation over taking those children “out into the world.”

I know well how hard that can be to accept; that doesn’t change whether or not they ought to do so.

Yes, you’ll get “looked at funny,” as will your child(ren). Yes, folks will make it seem like you and your child(ren) “don’t belong.” Yes, you likely will be judged as being somehow “less than adequate parents.” No, you should not allow these things to taint your actions and motivations (nor those of your child or children). In all likelihood, you will have the “last laugh.”

Taking the time to bring your child or children, out into the world now will at least offer the possibility that the child or children will derive sufficient benefit to make it possible for them to integrate into society well enough to live healthy, happy, lives.

I don’t say this by any means to imply that life will be easier as you do your job as a parent in bringing your children into society. No, it’s likely to be just plumb hard at times, uncomfortable at others, and mildly difficult at still others. That being said, I believe the benefit(s) will make it worth the difficulty.

And remember, there will be those among us that are at least quietly shouting “hurrahs” at your effort.

I have yet to see such a parent or child in this “boat” for which I felt anything but the utmost respect.

So, to you parents of special needs kids (for me Autistic, for others, other needs) out there, rest assured that there are people out there rooting for your success and more importantly, for the success of your child or children. We’re out there, I promise!

Okay, out of time and space. As such, allow me to wish you the best of times and thank you for reading.

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