The fourth annual World Autism Awareness Day is winding down. But tomorrow morning our home will still be working hard to be aware of what autism is. Catherine is admittedly far better at this than I am. She is more patient, more understanding, and more willing to be flexible with Jackson than I’ve been. Which is why, even though we live with autism and Jackson’s Asperger’s every day, I AM glad that there is an official, world-recognized day devoted to raising awareness of what it means to have the condition. Because the blue logos on Facebook, the status updates, etc., help me step back from the daily rigamarole and let me be reminded of why things are the way they are with him. At least to some extent.
For a while now I’ve been wanting to do a blog post about what it’s like to live with and love someone with Asperger’s. I’m not going to go too deep or make this a focal point of this blog since there are a lot of really good blogs already about the topic. But the other day as I was helping my son get dressed we went through a process that was so quintessentially Asperger’s I can’t help myself but to post about it so my neurotypical (i.e., “normal”) readers have a better understanding of what it’s like.
My son is a smart boy. Yes, there is no doubt that you’re reading a bit of gloating in that statement. But please bear with me, because the juxtaposition of where this post is headed is EXACTLY the example of life with Asperger’s I want neurotypicals to know about on World Autism Awareness Day. (And again, as stated earlier, this is also a bit of self-help for yours truly).
If you read my wife Catherine’s blog you’ll see exactly how smart Jackson can be at times. He sees things at the Science Museum, for instance, that I don’t believe is standard for kids his age to understand. Set up some simple patterns and Jackson has the capability to push you a little bit beyond the simple.
Yes, you’re hearing the pride I have for my son. But what you’re not hearing is the intense frustration I have when this boy–who at once can be so brilliant [and charming, by the way]–has a complete and utter breakdown in front of his dresser during his excessively long getting-dressed routine. “Breakdown” means rivers of tears, a red face, and a throat sore enough from crying that we probably should be talking lozenges.
The reason why I am posting this on World Autism Awareness Day is that I myself need to be reminded of how complex Asperger’s can be even now as we’re nearly one year in to Jack’s official diagnosis. My boy is smart, friendly and keen. And yet despite his capabilities, the condition he has can serve as a seemingly insurmountable roadblock to something as simple as getting dressed in the morning.
The reason for the breakdown in front of the dresser is this: Jackson’s fear is that when he reaches in to the drawer, instead of finding the pants he knows he needs to wear at this time of the year he will instead grab a pair of shorts.
Jackson: I promise to continue to learn alongside you as we take this journey as a family. I will always help you with your pants. And don’t worry, Mommy knows when to switch to shorts. I love you buddy.