**This is an archived blog post from September 29, 2010**
Being a well-known worrier…I worry big time about my son, Jonathan. My little Monster has a fantastically charming personality and knows no discrimination. He is only four, but has more care in his little body than I’ve seen in most adults. He also just happens to be Autistic.
Jonathan was diagnosed a year ago, although we suspected it long before.
Despite the fact that with the proper intervention Jonathan could live a “normal” life, he very well may be subject to many misunderstandings in his lifetime. We’ve already experienced some when it comes to people close to us not understanding exactly what Autism is and what it entails. I worry about what he may face when Nathan and I won’t be there to filter those out for him and shield him from potentially harmful statements or attitudes. To be fair, Autism is difficult to explain, and thus can be very difficult to understand for those who do not see or experience it on a daily basis.
Jonathan is fortunate he is “high functioning” (although I must say the terms “high functioning” and “low functioning” are very subjective and can be misinterpreted). However, this can sometimes be a disadvantage. Jonathan, upon first glance and even after some interaction, just seems like a smart, active, quirky little boy….so when he’s having tantrums in public arenas from sensory overload…people often stare at Nathan or I in disgust or annoyance, probably thinking we are irresponsible young parents who can’t handle their own child. If only they knew, perhaps their attitudes would be different. When this happens, I fight the conflicting feelings that what the outsiders think doesn’t matter and I have nothing to explain to them vs. wanting to make them feel horrible by telling them about Jonathan’s Autism and that his tantrums and behavioral outbursts are potentially painful experiences for him…they are not him just “acting out” or being a “brat”. Nevertheless, I remain silent, just doing my best to handle the situation and get Jonathan to calm down. Attitudes and perceptions of people like that are what make me worry. The unjust judgments make me worry.
However, like every other parent on Earth, I must learn that I cannot shield my child from every pain or difficulty in the world. He must learn to handle these and overcome them on his own…and I hope he makes it through with a stronger sense of self.
I believe that those with Autism, like Jonathan, are not the only ones that need to learn how to “adjust” to the way things are. The rest of society also needs to learn that there are many different kinds of people out there, and a growing number of them have Autism. They also, are a piece of the way things are. There must be a place for them in the world…they absolutely cannot be the only ones molding to expectations.
There needs to be awareness and sensitivity for all of these enormously special individuals. They have feelings and opinions and importance just like the rest of us “neurotypicals”, even if some can’t hold a job or live independently. We can’t impose our ideas of a normal or acceptable existence onto them. There is so much we could learn from these wonderful individuals, if only more people would take the time to listen.