I think it’s important to share that while my son has deficits in some major areas, mainly social communication and sensory issues, he also has some major strengths. Strengths that are awesome and inspiring… strengths that coexist with his shortcomings and make him one of the most perplexing and interesting people I have ever known (and he is only two).
Let’s take a trip in my son’s history and see what you might have seen…
A six-month-old who figured out how to use different pieces of his exersaucer to press buttons and play music when he could not reach the buttons.
A thirteen-month-old who put together puzzles that 5-year-olds might not be able to complete.
An eighteen-month-old who preferred listening to Sonny Rollins over Raffi.
A twenty-one-month-old who knows not only the alphabet, but also lower case and upper case letters… and the sounds that associate with those letters (but not all the time).
A twenty-five-month-old whose special interest in trucks has allowed him to recognize and label dozens of intricate construction equipment with their correct names.
Currently, he can also count to thirteen correctly without any assistance (and will help an adult count to 100). He knows his colors and shapes, big from small, and a toad from a frog. He likes hearing me explain migration, and he loves to cook with me, especially banana bread– he even can tell me which ingredients (not all of them) we need and what we need to do with them to make it, as long as I ask.
What is important about these strengths… these awe-inspiring strengths… is that they are actually what truly pushed me to look at autism in the first place. It wasn’t his limited eye contact or his lack of babbling. Because honestly, when you meet my little man, you might not see autism. In fact, nobody really saw it but me. Especially at first.
But I was a curious Mom. A Mom who taught special education who knew that my son’s puzzle skills were absurdly too good. Either gifted or … something else. I looked up his puzzle skills and his letter-love. “Hyperlexia,” said Google (more on this later). And there we began our journey into investigating autism and how it pertained to my little man’s profile. Early intervention was called. And they’re here to stay until he’s three.
So my son’s uniqueness stuck out to me at first because of what some will call “splinter skills” (however, at this time, I think my son is a smart cookie with autism rather than an autistic kid with splinter skills). That’s neither here nor there, though. Because the strengths that matter right now are the ones I’m going to end with.
My son also has an amazing sense of humor and a beautiful, appropriate smile. He engages in fabulous imaginative play with adults and gives the best snuggly hugs you could ever want from your child. He rhymes and giggles about those rhymes. He kisses his sister good night. He is learning his manners, saying things like “please,” “thank you,” “I’m sorry.” He expresses love and joy.
My son is not even close to the pictures painted of “autism”… where a child sits rocking in the corner scratching his face and screaming. No, that is not my son. Is that autism? It can be. But many, many people with autism are not that stereotypical picture. There is a lot going on when it comes to autism, but for now, let me say that all people with autism are first and foremost people with personalities and quirks. Yes, those quirks often make socializing and communicating difficult, but that doesn’t mean they are some stereotypical definition. People with autism are much more varied than you would expect. And maybe that is why many people would not realize my son has autism. But he does. And I love him.