Like any parent, I don’t want to focus on the differences in my child from a deficit point of view. Although I know that I must be realistic in addressing areas in need of development if H is to be everything he can be, at the same time I need to be able to focus on the strengths that my child has. Yes, he struggles with many things, but there are areas where he is truly talented and we can use his strengths and intense interests and abilities as entry points to assist with areas that are not as strong.
Like every child, he needs guidance from the competent adults in his world, so we work at building the Vygotskian mentor/apprentice relationship that is the basis for so much of our social development and understanding. We want to support our child in building important skills and social understanding, and we are on the constant lookout for opportunities to take advantage of the teachable moment so we can seamlessly layer learning into our daily lives.
However, there is a delicate balance here that Craig and I work hard to maintain. I don’t want to be case manager, researcher, interventionist, advocate, behaviour coach, social interpreter, teacher, appointment maker, autism educator, with psuedo-psychic abilities, etc (I am all of these things – and more…) carefully balanced on the edge of the box, and not still be able to relax a bit and focus on the most critical role I play: being H’s mom and enjoying my wonderful boy this very day!
It is important to celebrate H’s differences and help him find his way in this world so that he is fulfilled and has the skills to live independently and with a good quality of life. I know my child is different, and he learns a different way, and he thinks differently – but I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. The difficulty lies in interfacing with the rest of the social world – so he needs to learn many skills on a cognitive level that 99% (approx) of us just acquire naturally, although not without a few bumps, I am sure.
When she was speaking in Vancouver, Eustacia Cutler (Temple Grandin’s mom) recently stated, “I wouldn’t say Temple is cured – but she is fulfilled in the way she wants to be fulfilled and that’s all we can ask for any of our children, Autism or not.“
That sounds pretty good to me…
I also feel obliged to add that H has expressed to me that he finds it upsetting when he hears the media talk about the tragedy of autism: “I am not a tragedy and autism is a part of who I am. Mom – autism means I think a bit differently… and that is a good thing. Isn’t it?!?”
Come here darling boy… You are very wise. Let me give you a hug!!
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to promote social understanding and offer a glimpse into the perspectives of those whose lives are touched by Autism.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2011)