“I would not change my son for the world. I would change the world for my son.” I came across this quote the other day and it reminded me: This is why I share my son’s story. There is so much about his autism experience that is out of my control. What I can do is spread awareness and hope that it leads to a little understanding, patience and compassion.
Many people are unaware of the reasons behind some “autistic behaviors”. Autism affects communication, social development and sensory processing, with the degree to which these areas are affected being unique to each individual. Sensory processing difficulties are really hard to understand because the triggers can be invisible to neurotypical people. I am slowly learning more about the triggers and sensitivities in Wilson’s world. He is very sensitive to bright lights and certain sounds. He has left the room screaming or cowered in my lap over noises that a random toy will make. He is very particular about what clothing he will wear and what foods he will eat. He often studies toys or objects by turning his head completely sideways or upside down. He seeks movement and pressure and likes to bump into people or be wrapped up tightly in hugs or blankets.
He is learning ways to cope with his anxiety and sensory reactions, like chewing on something or taking deep breaths. Sometimes singing a familiar song will help. Many people with autism find comfort in routines and repetition, just like Wilson. He says things repetitively, plays with toys in the same manner or repeats little scenes over and over. He gets irritated if we take a different route to therapy or home. His memory is truly incredible.
When his sensory system is overloaded, he breaks down. His first reaction is to scream. His screams have reached an all-new high pitch. He usually becomes limp, hits, or tries to run away. Sometimes he’ll hit himself in the head, slam doors or push furniture down. People stare and make snarky remarks. Luckily, this only bothers my husband and I. Wilson doesn’t read other’s emotions well or understand the comments. Someday he will though.
So let’s talk to our kids about how all their friends are unique, and that it is a beautiful thing. How we all learn at a different pace, and speak in distinct ways, but can still have so much in common with one another. All children could benefit from a friend to help them overcome challenges and build confidence and self-worth. Let’s teach them acceptance and inclusion. Let’s change the world.