Autistic: Loving and Being Loved

Post by Alexis Yael for the Love for Love series.

Autistic: Loving and Being Loved

This is a post for the mamas and papas of the kids who have been diagnosed. This is a post for the mamas and papas of kids who haven’t been diagnosed yet. This is post for you, my love, whether you have a kid or not. Whether your kid is autistic or not.

This is a post about love.

This isn’t a post about the hardships of raising a special needs kid.

You know those hardships (or about them) already. If you are in the trenches of raising a kid with any sort of special needs, you know them. I bow to your immense capacity for dealing with these challenges. You have all that you need inside you to rise up to the challenge before you (including unlimited internet resources).

This post is about acceptance of who our kids are fundamentally. Of who my kid is, fundamentally.

Autism is not a disease. You don’t catch it. It is a neurological difference. And while there are therapies to help, there is no cure. And there never will be. Autism isn’t asthma. It isn’t cancer. Autism is not a disease. It is a difference in the way the brain is wired. It changes everything about the way one perceives the world (and one’s self in the world). It is part of one’s identity, in the same way that being gay (or straight or bisexual or lesbian or…) becomes part of one’s identity.

And so, many adult autistics use the word autistic to describe themselves, shunning “people first” language (which is still a very good idea to use when one is an outsider). And some of us who are allied with adult autistics (who are the people our children will grow up to become) use that word, too. Not in a pejorative way, but in a loving, accepting way.

It can sound scary, the first time you hear it applied to your child. Autism can feel like a death sentence.

But that isn’t true.

Autistic kids grow up to be autistic adults. Autism is not at all a death sentence. Autism is part of our neurodiversity, as humans. (There’s even a possibility that if you have a biological kid on the spectrum, you are even a little spectrumy yourself, or the other biological parent is.) There have been many autistic adults who have done amazing, brilliant things with their lives. Some of them require assistance for daily living, and some don’t. Some require help to communicate, and some don’t.

Autistic kids aren’t the same as autistic adults (just like neurotypical kids aren’t the same as neurotypical adults)! Your five year old is not always going to be a five year old, whether she is autistic or not. Autistics grow and change, just like neurotypical children, but they may learn slower (or faster) depending on the subject matter.

Each autistic individual is unique (since autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning there are many ways of manifesting these unique qualities). Autism comes in many flavors, but it’s all one spectrum. We can each relate to one another. Parents of kids anywhere on the spectrum can relate to one another and autistics can relate to one another. That doesn’t mean we’re immediately friends – there can be a lot of fighting in our community – but it means that if we were at an event that suddenly started playing loud music, all the people on the spectrum would understand why my kid is going to try to get away from that music, immediately.

So, what is my response to having an autistic son? (And what do I hope any parent’s response will be to the diagnosis of Autism?)

Love.

Just that, love. Not fear, not pity, just love. I just want our children to be loved, the same as any human being is loved. The same way I love my son. The way I love all human beings.

My son loves. Deeply and passionately, he loves. He loves people and ideas (and toys and media) just like any child. Maybe more passionately than other children, because his love is unhampered by boundaries. Love is not hampered by being on the autism spectrum, it is increased. Despite the lack of understanding that other people are completely different than he is (a lack of empathy, some call this; I call it an abundance of empathy: not recognizing that other people’s pain is not your own), he knows what love is and he gives it, abundantly.

All human beings are born with this capacity. Some of us lose it as we age. That has more to do with pain and fear than with where you fall on the neurological scale of things, in my not-a-neurologist opinion. I do know my child is autistic and has always, always, always held a deep attachment to me and to the other loving people in his life, giving and receiving much love. That hasn’t changed from the time he was an infant til today. Love is a constant.

There is no reason to withhold love from any individual for who they are.

All there is, in the end, is love.

For more Autism Advocacy resources, please see these links:

“Don’t Mourn For Us” by Jim Sinclair

Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Autistics Speaking Day
Autism and Empathy
Autistic Hoya

Estée Klar
Stuart Duncan
Susan Senator

Rethinking Autism
Loving Lamposts
Wretches and Jabbers

The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism

Alexis Yael is a poet/ photographer living in northern New Jersey with her soul mate and their incredible, nerd to the second power (autistic) kid. She believes everything is beautiful, even in the darkest hour and that all people were born to love and be loved. She’s obsessed with many sci-fi /fantasy fandoms and one of her great triumphs this past year was getting her son hooked onto Star Wars. He decided The Hobbit was too scary, but she tried. She tried.

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