Thursday, November 10, 2011

Autism’s Little Gifts

For some time now, I have been in a fairly negative space about my son Jacob’s autism. I am feeling worn down by the unending nature of it all, the intensity of my nine year old son’s needs, especially in comparison with his typical(-ish) becoming vastly more independent twin brother. But as this community is called “Hopeful Parents” and not “Cranky Whiny Parents” I don’t want to bring that negativity here.

So I thought I would take a moment to share 3 positive things that my son Jacob’s autism brings to the table. These may be small, even trivial things (and some seeming contradictory, the positive side of a presumed negative trait) but small gifts are still gifts, nonetheless. And I would rather focus on being grateful than serve you another round of complaints today; tip the scales up instead of down.

So here is a short list of some of the gifts Jacob’s particular flavor of autism has bestowed upon him and us, his family.

1. Jake’s obliviousness has some decidedly useful aspects. Last night I banged my elbow, HARD, holding open the bus door as Jake disembarked (I have definitely done some damage as it still hurts badly today). As I stepped off the bus and literally jumped up and down and then leaned on the bus stop wall as my knees buckles with the pain, I DEFINITELY let loose a stream of words Jacob should not have been hearing.

If it were Ethan with me last night? He would have been cackling with delight. I would now be hearing no end of his having caught Mom cursing, and furthermore he would likely be telling everyone all about it, outing me to the other moms in the schoolyard this morning. 

But Jacob? He didn’t notice the salty language one bit, offered me nothing but sympathy: “Mommy, do you have an owie? Are you OK? You need a band-aid, Mommy!” and patted my back, kindly. (And anyone who says autistic kids have no empathy can suck it.)

2. Jacob loves the movies so much he will see ANTHING. Ethan, on the other hand,  has a very short list of what he will watch and it has to fit into his idea of “male” and “Big Kid / Teenage-ish” and that is that.  But Jacob? While there are some (heavily advertised) kid movies he begs to see - and we do - he is perfectly happy to sit through pretty much anything in a movie theater, as long as there is popcorn and he can stay through the very last end credit. 

This means if I have dropped Ethan off on a playdate and there’s a vaguely-appropriate-for-kids movie I want to see (rated PG13 or below), I can bring Jake with me and we will both be very happy.

3. Jacob doesn’t judge people. He has no notion of race, of class, of “cool” and “uncool.” He notices that people are different from each other, but it is interesting to him the way the difference between two flowers would be interesting: the facts, no values attached.

The other day he asked a boy with a port wine stain birthmark what was on his face, and thank goodness that boy understood that there was no meanness in the question for Jake, just curiosity. So the boy answered in a very straightforward manner that it was a birthmark and had been there since he was born, just a part of him. And that was it for Jake. Question answered. Let's play.

And that’s it for me tonight. Three little things I am grateful for. I’m sure there’s more. But I have to go ice my elbow now.

Varda writes about "birth, death and all the messy stuff in the middle" on her blog "The Squashed Bologna: a slice of life in the sandwich generation"  She also tweets as @Squashedmom. Varda is proud to be a Hopeful Parent.


  1. My Deaf kid has also given me the luxury of indulging my inner potty mouth.
    Or so I thought until he was around 4 and after falling off the swing yelled, loudly;
    I'm needing this reminder to focus on the gifts... I"ve gone astray lately I'm afraid.

  2. "Hopeful" or "Cranky Whiny" I love ALL your posts just the same. Another beauty.

  3. Number 3 is my absolute favourite!