Our conversation with B.E. about his Autism has been a quiet one until recently. Sure, he has attended months worth of therapies since his diagnosis. We called that "Going to see Miss So-and-So" each week. Occasionally, we'd throw around acronyms in front of Blue, but not with any explanation; he never asked for one, either.
With Blue Elephant being diagnosed at the age of 5, we didn't feel he was ready to grasp the concept of Autism, nor did we see much in his demeanor that would indicate he understood the extent of his differences from his peers.
Over the past 6 months or so, that's begun to change and evolve in front of our eyes. Daily life is hard in an Autism household. You're constantly dancing to keep up with the next twist and turn thrown your way. Any given day might hold beauty and laughter, (we strive to make joy a point of practice in our household) and suddenly dissolve into tears or frustrated miscommunication. B.E. has meltdowns when overwhelmed, like any ASD kiddo. He also marches to the beat of his OWN drum, regardless of what the "rest of the group" may or may not be doing.
It was after one such "adventurous" Sunday at church that Mommy and Daddy Elephant decided B.E. was ready to "be informed". We sat him down with a fun little E-Book about a boy with Autism. He scrolled through the pages, reading aloud with clarity....and growing excitement. Almost every sentence was followed with an exclamation of "Hey! I do/like/am that, too!"
The moment that brought tears to my eyes was his completely natural comment of "I guess I must have Autism, too!"
I wanted to be sure he grasped the idea of what it was and was not.
"It's not something 'wrong' with you, B.E., you do understand that? It's a way of your brain working differently than others around you. You can't tell by looking at you that you have Autism. But, you know that it affects your life everyday. It's part of what makes conversations hard to follow, and why it's hard for you to look people in the eye. It's also part of why you love quoting movies so much!"
He nodded, and smiled.
"Mommy has something kind of like that, too."
"Well, I don't have Autism, but I have what is called Meniere's Disease. That means my balance gets off and I can get dizzy very easily. Now, you can't tell that by looking at me on the outside, can you?"
"But you know what? Meniere's affects me every day. It means I have to be careful what I eat and don't eat (which was a great lead in to talk about his GF/CF/SF diet), how much rest I get, and even how I move my body around. It doesn't mean I am 'bad' or 'weird' for having Meniere's, it just makes me different than other people."
I could tell by his face and his bright eyes that he totally 'got' it.
"Do you have any questions about your Autism?"
"Yes. Can I go tell Pink that I have it?!?!"
And off he dashed, excitedly hollering up the stairs to his sister for her to come down and hear about his Autism.
Hearing, understanding, accepting.
In 10 minutes.
Society could learn a lot from that little 7 year old.
Since that day, we've had an ongoing conversation about Autism around here. It comes up in everyday life, and we chat about it.
Today, Blue had a writing assignment for schoolwork. He had chosen his little sister, Pink, as the subject of a comparing/contrasting paragraph between she and himself.
There it was, smack in the middle of favorite colors and hair color.
"Pink doesn't have Autism, but I do."
He knows it makes him different.
He knows he's a stand-out kiddo.
He also sees his Autism as a part of who he is, on the same level that being a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy describes him.
It's there, everyday.
We modify life to accommodate it.
But it doesn't stand in his way at all.
Would that the rest of the world understood that, as well.
Autism is different, not 'wrong'.
It's what makes some kiddos the unique little individuals they are.
And just look at this little Blue Elephant....
He's as special as they come.
Happy Autism Awareness Month, from our herd to yours!