Autism is lonely.
Well, I speak as a mom of a teenager who has autism.
But, my 14 year old son would agree that, although there are real blessings in having autism, there are many moments when he feels alone.
So, running into another person on the autism spectrum is like bumping into an old friend who gets you in ways that many people don’t. That’s how I felt when I found a post from Chris Bonnello, aka “Captain Quirk.” Fabulous name, isn’t it?
It was like a breath of fresh air to read the perspective of someone who struggles in ways that my son does and who has made it through childhood into thriving adulthood. His list of ten tips for navigating adolescence on the autism spectrum is pure gold.
For now I’m just soaking in the true comfort of his first tip. “You are not alone.”
According to the CDC, one percent of the world’s population is on the autism spectrum. In America the number is higher. The current estimate is that one in 68 people are on the spectrum. And, even higher, one out of 42 boys is on the spectrum.
Even if you only look at the one percent figure, there is comfort. One percent sounds small, but if your high school has 2,000 students in it that means 20 of them are on the spectrum.
Whether or not you ever talk to those 20 people, it is a comfort. Because you know that you are not in this alone. There are others who think and feel and experience things so much like you. Of course, to find them and connect with them brings even greater comfort. Not for advice. Just to be understood. Just to speak and for someone to say, “Yeah, me too.”
I have been in recovery group meetings where the rule is that you cannot interrupt or even comment on what someone else shares. It seems crazy that it would help anyone to sit in a circle of people and listen to others’ stories and tell your own when it’s your turn and not give any comments. But it does!
There is strange power in knowing that you are heard. Odd healing in expressing the deep stuff that you’ve never told anyone. When your turn is over and you hear the next person’s story, it’s like them saying, “Yeah, me too.”
What a beautiful, healing statement for those of us who experience pain. No solutions or suggestions or even words of comfort. Just “Yeah, me too.” We are not alone.
As a fellow human being, we have the power of offering the comfort of those words. Whether or not we have experienced the exact circumstances, there is some point of connection that we are bound to share. As Henri Nouwen said, “That which is most personal is most universal.”
The deeper down we go into feelings like rejection, fear, and being alone, the more universal those feelings are.
So, if my son feels very deeply like he doesn’t “fit in,” I can honestly say I get it. I have definitely had times where I feel like an alien here. I bet you have too.
Like Lucy in “The Chronicles of Narnia,” we carry around with us a bottle of magical healing potion. Our experience as humans can give comfort and healing to our beloved spectrum friends and to anyone else with just three words: “Yeah, me too.”