Symptoms – On Abstract Concepts – Autism

Do you remember the first time you played the children’s game of “Tag” or of “Hide and Seek?” Many may not, but they remember having played the game or games in question any number of times after that first. As for me, I don’t recall playing any such game until I was well into my adulthood and raising children of my own. As a child, playing such a game was never something in which I recall being involved at all.

I cannot say whether or not my reasons for not having done so (at least not in a way that lodged itself in my memory) was what it seems looking back. Put simply, I distinctly recall at some point in my childhood (around five years of age), the World whizzing about me. I’m pretty sure my sensation would have some similarity to what would today be referred to as “sensory overload.” It may have actually been so.

I have since come to the conclusion that I may be mildy Autistic. As such, I think I can speak a little to the feeling my son has when confronted with things abstract. I’m very sure that my ability to understand is more than a little limited. Nonetheless, I think it has helped my to understand his issues with things not-so-concrete, to consider my own childhood—to look back and realize how things were for me.

I said in response to a comment on a recent post on a social media platform, that for my son, Garrett, dealings with things abstract have constantly been difficult at the very least. I felt the need to make this statement based on an obvious misunderstanding to my initial post.

The person seemed to think I was saying that Garrett had, “made a friend,” that I was not addressing his inability to understand things not pretty well set in stone.

The funny thing about it is, though it can be argued that my son had befriended another young man at the local laundromat, in reality, the chances are, should he see the young man in question again, he will at best treat their relationship as non-existent, and at worst ignore his being entirely.

The point here is, the idea of friendship is one that has yet to be broached by my child in any meaningful way! Mind you, I’m not saying my son doesn’t interact with others in various ways. What I’m saying is, when he does so, it’s almost never a result of his friendship with the person or persons in question. In fact, as I pointed out, as his father, I have often received the title of “best friend” from my son.

To be fair, this is little more than an outpouring of the fact that I have sought (and I think, largely successfully) to understand my son when others have failed to do so.

I bring the subject of friendship up mostly to make it clear that Garrett has a long way to go to reach what might be considered “normal.”

My primary intent in penning this article, was to talk about the idea, for Garrett, and I assume many more Autistic folks’ struggle with concepts that are not in the physical realm.

For my child, this literally stretched to the idea, that calling the same thing by two different names was improper. This meant that a bird couldn’t be an eagle, cars and trucks couldn’t be automobiles, and even that the idea of addressing males as “he” and females as “she” is a matter of some confusion.

It’s also true that concepts that “too big” and “too small” are more difficult to grasp than for people his age. “Daddy, these pants are too big! No, Garrett, the pants are too small, you’re getting too big for them.” Is a constant and ongoing conversation between my boy and myself.

I know this is something with which a good many children have problems, but where I’ve seen that to be the case, I have never witnessed it to the degree or extent that it is so for Garrett. So the concept of “opposites” is often lost on him as well, to say nothing of “gradient differences.”

With a good deal of time and work, and with examples only, he began recently, to be able to distinguish between cold, cool, warm, and hot. He still cannot deal with concepts like “lukewarm.” Further, each “graded distinction” like this one, will likely require similar examples for the immediate future.

One of the more difficult things, is that Garrett (and every Autistic child or adult I’ve met, for that matter) is quite intelligent. As such, and the more “normally” he seems to behave, the harder it is for others to believe or accept that he’s any different than any other child his age.

Besides that their evaluations cannot take into consideration the enormous amount of work that has been done both by Garrett, and on his behalf by others (myself, his mother, teachers, daycare workers, therapists, etc.), there is a desire to believe in unending positive outcomes.

On the one hand, I refuse to accept that my son’s (or any other Autistic person’s) future is necessarily limited. On the other hand, I recognize that it may well be.

As such, my intent—as I have said many times—is to continue to seek a future for my son that makes it possible for him to live a more or less normal life. That being said, whether or not that will happen, is something that remains to be seen.

Regardless what others tell me, regardless how things appear at present, I will continue to seek the best possible outcome for my child. And it’s my contention that this is part of the reason he was able to become able to do something so very many people take for granted—play games with more than the simplest of rules.

The hope for the future, is that he’ll learn to apply those same ideas to other, equally important things.

As usual, thanks for your time and attention, and may your time be good.

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