I look at my teenage Aspie son with genuine admiration and respect. I hate the discomfort that being on the autism spectrum brings him. But I can’t even conjure up the words that show how grateful I am for him. He has inspired this list of five things I love about my Aspie.
1.“It just doesn’t matter!”
He’s not attached to others’ opinions. We drove by a pink house once. I commented, “Wow. Can you imagine living in a pink house?!” My boy responded with genuine disdain, “Who cares what color your house is?” Slowly it dawned on me that he was right. Who really cares?
He holds other people’s opinions very lightly. What a lesson in freedom for me! Honestly I care too much about other people’s opinions. My penchant for people-pleasing takes time and energy away from being simply me. I love how my boy can be straightforward in his purposes and skip the whole sea of undulating self-esteem based on people’s praise or disapproval. It’s a constant struggle for me, and I’m thankful to have a living, breathing reminder that shows me a better way.
2. Be all in.
It takes my boy some time to commit to something. He really mulls it over. But once he decides he’s in, he’s in. Wild horses can’t stop his commitment once he’s given his word. When he gets up on a school day, my zealous teenager will barely drink some juice before he demands to dive into his homeschool and chores. I’m actually trying to temper the zeal a little so he will eat something to sustain him for his work.
I love the energy, though! I also love that it’s contagious. His siblings look up to him and are challenged to give their all in the tedium of daily life also.
3. Just do it.
When the kids were little I would try incentive charts to help guide them into strong character traits. From the get go my Aspie bucked that system. To this day he scorns incentives. I love his internal motivation. If he decides to do it, incentives seem like an insult to him.
4. “After you.”
I’m not sure where this endearing quirk comes from or if other spectrum friends have this. But, my guy refuses to eat or take a turn of any kind until everyone else has been served. We are working on the flexibility part of it, but his heart is pure gold. He would rather go without than let anyone not have enough.
5. It’s hard to fit in.
We all feel like that at least sometimes. I think back on my own junior high years. Wow. I barely felt comfortable in my own skin, let alone with society at large. Overall, though, I’ve adapted pretty well. As an adult I feel pretty at home here on Earth.
It’s harder for those anywhere on the spectrum. Going to the grocery store or church involves loud background noise and bright lights and looking people in the eye and small talk and countless uncomfortable things that I don’t even notice.
And the stalwart reminder in the sometimes debilitating discomfort pulses: “This is not my home. I am made for another place.” So a healthy longing for God is deeply rooted in my boy. And a refreshing resonance with this C.S. Lewis observation nestles in his heart. “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
Brant Hansen, a clear-thinking, truth-bringing fellow Aspie of Christian radio fame, has a 5 minute segment here http://branthansen.com/2015/04/07/april-6th-podcast/ (from minute 10 – 14) where he shares the exhilarating reality that it’s a blessing to not “fit in.” And as we soak in the liberating truth of being profoundly loved by Jesus on the margin, we receive His baton of purpose to love others on the margin like He does.
My list could go on and on and on. And if you have a beloved one on the spectrum, you know what I mean! Feel free to add what you love about autism in the comments! Yes, being on the autism spectrum is super, super hard. But my boy radiates joy and inspiration as he musters courage and simply does the hard stuff.