I was riding home in the van with Alex the other day, and he proclaimed, “I always want to be autistic”. Surprised by this declaration, I asked, “Why do you like being autistic?” He replied, “Because I like my interests longer than other people.” He also said something else and for the life of me, I can’t remember it. Drat! I’ve got to remember these “Alex-isms”. Here is a post evidencing Alex’s long-running interests, like ceiling fans, and here are some recent photos of him wiring up a new ceiling fan in his room:
This all goes along with some of the other recent things I’ve noticed about Alex. Rearrangements were made in our church recently, and for the first youth group meeting, everyone was asked to stand up and introduce themselves and share something that they love. Alex stood and stated his age, that he loved ceiling fans and cars, and that he is autistic. What?! That was surprising on one hand, but on the other hand, it wasn’t. He is very comfortable with his autism, and now, he has indicated that he seems to take some pride in it.
I have a good friend, Deeneen, who first came into our lives as a therapy worker for Alex way back when we moved here in 2000. Alex was only 5 years old and just becoming fully verbal. She worked with him under my tutelage for 20 hours a week for 1.5 years. (She also worked with Adam and William.) She is an amazing person whom I love. Anyway, she and I have been getting together again and renewing our friendship. Deeneen has an infectious laugh that is quick and sincere. Alex was always one to create one of these laughs. She fondly remembered recently when Alex had used the fact that he has autism to avoid a task requested of him from her. She has worked with the special population for years and years and she declared, “I have never heard anyone use their disability as a crutch.” And she just laughed uproariously.
My sister, Tammy, was able to discover his “cuteness” when we stayed at her house for a week a few years ago. She just got the biggest kick out of him by the end. One incident that she recalled over and over to anyone who would listen was this: Alex is big into knowing all his relatives through pictures (we live away from most everyone). One of his cousins lived with my mother (his grandmother), and my sister lives behind my parents. So, this cousin comes through, looks in, but passes through to where his other cousins were playing video games or something. Alex looked at his Aunt Tammy and asked, “Was that (cousin’s name)?” She replied it was. He then seriously and bluntly asked, “Do you think he didn’t say hi to me because he’s not feeling well, or because he’s just plain rude?” My sister cracked up and declared, “I think it’s probably because he’s just plain rude!”
Alex knows I think he is the CUTEST thing ever in so many ways. When he does something cute, or gives his cute look, he says, “Don’t have a cute attack, Mom.” But, it’s SO hard not to 🙂 Of course, at almost 14, he’s definitely into being “handsome” now. And, he’s constantly repeating the mantra, “You need to respect girls” to his little brothers. I would love to be able to capture his “cute look”, but getting a picture without a weird fake smile is hard enough . . . LOL! Here is a recent picture of Alex on the side porch:
I’m pleased that Alex sees autism as an asset, and I think it is for him. Eli also is comfortable with the benefits autism brings him, though as he navigates community college, it is very important to him that others don’t view him as less than for living with autism. He does not want special privileges, though he accepts that it would be helpful to potentially have certain accommodations in some circumstances (such as taping classes that are lecture-driven to help with his slower auditory processing capabilities). Overall, although Eli notices the differences autism creates in his life, he is comfortable and even prefers what it creates (for instance, he’s not into being highly social and finds most teen interactions silly and not useful).
Anyway, I thought I would share some observations from my maturing boys who live with autism.