The gifts of Autism

I haven’t posted for awhile. It has been a rough few months. Between our children’s behaviour and my husband and I struggling with our own mental health, my brain has felt like a fog. It has been hard to know what to write and where the line is between helpful sharing and whining. In reality, the last thing I want to do is think about the gifts autism has brought us, but if I don’t I know I will instead focus on the struggles it has brought me and, the good Lord knows, I do enough of that. So here I am trying to turn that frown upside down, as it were. Here are a few ways E contributes to our family and the world at large:

1. Knowledge.
This child loves to learn. He gets interested in something and wants to know all about it then tell everyone what he learned. Like, did you know that the giant squid is not the biggest in the ocean? Scientists have discovered an even bigger squid called the collossal squid who hides in the deep. I would have never known that if my son hadn’t told me and I’m grateful because it makes me feel smarter.

2. Ideas.
E is a planner. He likes routine and schedule and when there’s free time he makes a plan. And he has great ideas. Outings, crafts, building star wars ships out of Lego, making epic train tracks. Got a problem? He has ideas for how you can solve it. Just the other morning I told him I’ve been having trouble remembering things because I have too many things to remember and he looked at me thoughtfully and said, “maybe you could only think of 3 things at a time and then when those are done you can think of 3 more.” Brilliant. I’m not sure how to implement it but it sounds good.

3. Spiritual connection.
To look at him, this is not evident. E is a ball of seemingly insatiable energy, moving all the time, grabbing everything around him, doing ninja kicks all day, but he is also sensitive to the unseen. He senses when people are unwell or anxious and wants to stay near them until they get better. When he was a toddler in the stroller on the bus, he would stare at people in distress and not take his eyes off of them until they were calm. If someone in the family is sick, he will give them toys and stuffies to keep them company and check in on them often. At church, he has sat with people during prayer, with his hand in theirs, completely still. COMPLETELY. STILL. That’s a miracle equal to parting the red sea. If trusted people weren’t telling me these stories, I wouldn’t believe them. God uses our boy in ways we could never imagine and it is a good reminder that E is part of a larger story.

4. Honesty.
My son has no social filter. He doesn’t understand why it’s not okay to tell someone they’re fat or that it might hurt a family member’s feelings to tell them you don’t miss them when they’re gone. If we explain it, it doesn’t make sense to him. This gets him into a lot of awkward situations, for sure, but like everything there’s a flipside. You always know where you stand with E. If you ask for his opinion, he will tell you straight up. I will be honest, this hurts my feelings sometimes, but ultimately, I think it’s good. In western society, we put too much emphasis on pleasing others and not hurting people’s feelings. Sure, i don’t condone walking around being mean to people, but it’s much easier to deal with someone who tells you how it is upfront than to wonder what they’re thinking all the time.

5. Resilience.
This is more a long- term gift E has unknowingly given us, his immediate family. Raising him is a challenge and it will either be our ending or make us stronger. We have to constantly pick ourselves up and find the courage to try again, usually several times a day. This is super frustrating in the moment but in the long run, it’s making us more empathetic, patient, tolerant people.

These are just some of the many gifts our beautiful ASD boy has shared with us. As Switchfoot said, “the shadow proves the sunshine.”

6 thoughts on “The gifts of Autism

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  1. This is not only insightful, Jenny, it is beautiful. You capture the reality that autism is less a liability and more a different way of experiencing the world that opens up new vistas. Thank you for your perseverance to discover divine beauty in a challenging time and situation. We love you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Totally agree with this list of gifts!
    For our family, I would add all of the amazing people that we have had in our lives because of ASD. Behaviour consultants, behaviour interventionists, speech paths, children’s ministry pastors, teachers(not all…ha), EAs(not all..ha), swim instructors, parents from ASD groups….this list of gift is endless.

    Liked by 1 person

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