Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew– Part 1; I am a Child

11 01 2008

I’m reading a new book– Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knewby Ellen Notbohm. The following is from her article by the same name:

I am first and foremost a child —  a child with autism.  I am not primarily “autistic.”  My autism is only one aspect of my total character.  It does not define me as a person.  Are you a person with thoughts, feelings and many talents, or are you just fat (overweight), myopic (wear glasses) or klutzy (uncoordinated, not good at sports)?  As an adult, you have some control over how you define yourself.  If you want to single out a single characteristic, you can make that known.  As a child, I am still unfolding.  Neither you nor I yet know what I may be capable of. Defining me by one characteristic runs the danger of setting up an expectation that may be too low.  And if I get a sense that you don’t think I “can do it,”  my natural response will be:  Why try?

In the First Chapter she talks about predispositions we have towards labels.  Last weekend my son got a new Sunday School teacher. She is a lovely older lady who really wants to help J. She sat in on his old teacher’s last class with him and afterwards commented to me that she was really surprised by how well J did. I sang his praises– he’s a great reader, he’s really sweet and funny, etc. After reading the first chapter of this new book it occurs to me that she had a set of stereotypes she was anticipating she’d have to deal with.  (Bless her willingness to teach him anyway!) Because of her willingness to tackle this class and her predisposed notions, she will be able to learn from him. He will make her life richer.

I know that I sometimes clarify– “you know J is autistic”– I don’t introduce him as autistic but I do use it as a crutch to explain why he is how he is.  I need to give him more credit and remember that he is first and foremost a child– a georgeous, funny, sweet child!  I am truly blessed by Autism– strange, huh? J is who he is because of Autism and I am so lucky to be his mom!

I certainly don’t mean to be a Pollyanna– there are challenges– REAL challenges but, I wouldn’t trade him in… He is working hard to overcome his challenges, he tries– he’s a good boy who has to deal with things that I can’t relate to and in-spite of it; he is cheerful and persistent.  My son will overcome his speech and social issues. He will find a place where he will be a productive member of society. He will– and, I’ll help him.

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