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Does Anyone Understand Autism?

Parents of autism spectrum kids travel a different road. We don't profess to understand everything our child does and that's OK with us.

No matter what I want to know, I can always rely on Google to come up with answers. Did you know that the smallest monkey in the world is about the size of a ruler? And a pin head of poison from a tiny arrow frog is enough to kill a human?

Google is my trusted friend for information. Except when it comes to autism! What I'd really like to know is: Why does my son shout "Can I overthrow the King of Saudi Arabia?" when he's really just upset that he has to do his homework? And what is the significance of repeating entire books word for word, never tiring of the script?

Parents of autism spectrum kids need a new type of search engine, one that doesn't operate on typical logic. We'd like to be able to type in the search box: "My son was upset that he spilled his juice. He then threw his cup on the floor, knocked over his brother's juice and collapsed on the floor shouting 'Fourteen buffalos are marching!' Please explain."

Many of us have stopped trying to figure out why behaviors exist. Years ago when we were new to the diagnosis, we spent a great deal of time trying to work it all out. "If I just knew why he felt a need to watch a DVD in rewind, line up his toys and wedge all shoes under the radiator, perhaps I'd know how to free him of these actions," we'd analyze to ourselves.

Now we are skilled at behavior management and therapy choices. We devise new strategies, take data, ensure consistency, do on-line research, compare notes with other parents and consult with professionals. We create complicated charts and dish out stickers and rewards. While others think we are over the top, we know that our child didn't get this far without solid effort, commitment and dedication.

There are still the behaviors that mystify or infuriate us. Some of the behaviors make us shake our head and mutter, "Oh well." After all, you have to pick your battles. Finding a way to end the constant "Sponge Bob monologue" seems almost impossible at this point, but it seems like a good time to tackle our child's propensity of asking all visitors if he can inspect the label in their jacket.

We are masterful at predicting when behaviors will occur, and adept at preventing many of them. "Don't touch the book on the right," says a parent in haste to prevent a meltdown. At other times it's just too late. "Oh dear! His red balloon just popped. Now he'll need to pop every red balloon he sees" another sighs in anguish while at a party.

Then one day, without any warning, we suddenly realize that we've come to appreciate some of the behaviors that were so perplexing at first. We don't know how this transformation took place but we catch ourselves in the act. We might find ourselves smiling with joy at our spouse, as our child flaps his hands and runs in circles, clearly delighted with his birthday gift.

We recognize that we have broadened our perspective and expanded our horizons. Deep down, we are grateful to those with autism for teaching us that life is filled with joy and possibilities in the most unexpected places.

Parents of autism spectrum kids travel a different road. We don't profess to understand everything our child does and that's OK with us. The love we feel for our child is immeasurable. Our support is steadfast. Our pride is never ending and we positively glow as we watch our child accomplish milestones we once never thought possible.

So, does anyone understand autism? I really don't know. But I love my child wholeheartedly and that I do understand.


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