Every day the world goes by at a rapid pace. Out there, the world is filled with tragedy, anger, greed, lust and hate. Sometimes, it seeps in. Mostly though, I feel lucky that the world slows down and I find peace whenever I am with my son. Yes, I’m talking about my screaming-yelling-worrying-me-making-me-tear-my-hair-out son. He has taught me many valuable things.
When you have a child with autism, you change. Your priorities change. You acquire knowledge of neurological functioning than you could not care less about before. You value things differently. Here are a couple off the top of my head.
A child repeating a sentence over and over doesn’t sound like much, does it? Maybe once or twice or over a couple of months. For me, it’s gone on for minimum of two years. To understand a little bit about this, just ask someone to read this paragraph below over and over and over again with heightened inflection, and variation in tone and volume:
“The truck is purple. The truck is purple. The truck is purple. Mommy, the truck is purple. What color is the truck? What color is the truck? The truck is purple. Do you know the color of the truck? The truck is purple.”
From this simple example, I can tell you I have learned patience. Repetition is not that bad. After a while, it’s almost part of the background noise. Yes, it is annoying most of the time, but I’ve learned that my son is processing language, meaning, and sometimes searching for words to assign to the thoughts he wishes to convey. My impatience and annoyance is insignificant compared to the processes the little guy is undergoing to communicate with me.
Along the same line, with this simple repetition, I have learned that people learn in different ways. I’ve never taken any courses in education or teaching. I’ve come to have a deep appreciation for the many teachers in my son’s life whether they are labeled therapists or teachers. Because my son absorbs his environment and communicates differently from neurotypical children, teaching involves different methods and systems. Those systems are proven. I’ve seen the improvements. Sharing knowledge is a complicated and rewarding process.
Along the lines of those who provide my son with daily and weekly assistance, I have more gratitude than I can verbally express. It actually pours from my very being because I am so grateful and appreciative that each of these patient individuals works with my son.
Strength, Determination & Persistence
With his education, my son has amazing strengths. He has been able to read since he was about 2.5 years old. He can spell words by sound. He reads enough to manipulate an iPad with ease and navigate through a video game without anyone showing him how. Yet, he struggles holding a writing implement and making any type of legible letters, numbers or pictures.
Despite his utter dislike for writing implements of any sort, he sits and struggles on a daily basis in writing. Transferring the letters he reads through his head, through his muscles into his hand and onto paper is a huge struggle. He tries. Ever so slowly, he is making some legible print.
Sometimes, he will have an overwhelmingly strong desire to tell me something but the words will come out wrong. I won’t understand. He will start again. I can see, through his facial expressions, that he is painfully searching to give me the words. I wait. He persists. Sometimes he gets it out. Sometimes he does not. He does not give up. He does not get down. Sometimes he will get frustrated but he will re-boot and start again. Without any complaints. He just does it.
Innocence & Simplicity
My son has a lot of toys. No, really. A lot. Despite that fact, he will find joy in the simplest of objects. He will spend the entirety of his bath with a plastic cup, filling it up and dumping out the water. This is a favorite bath time activity. Give him a blanket and he will crawl underneath and call it a fort. Give him a small bottle of bubbles and you will see some of the biggest smiles and laughter you’ve ever seen. Give him a rock and he will examine it, bang it on the ground, roll it, throw it and laugh. Simplicity.
Each of these acts is born of innocent curiosity. He can find amusement with the most mundane of objects because of the purity and innocence of young life and the natural curiosity of the young, scientific mind.
At this age, he is actually excessively polite at times. “I want to read,” he says to me while sitting at the table while I write. “You can read anything you want to,” I respond. He is off to his bookshelf where he sits and reads quietly.
This is some of the most precious time I spend just watching him read or pour water from a cup, seeing him smile and laugh at bubbles.
And of course, all these lessons lead very naturally to enhancing the love I feel for him. I am a lucky mommy and this is just a small sample of the many lessons my son has taught me.