Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Hero

I had an interesting conversation with my son today.My son is a person with autism. He is 26 years old. I started questioning his pediatrician when he was just a little more than a year old.We visited our first so-called expert when he was 18 months old. Much has changed since then, thankfully. Those first 'experts' were so wrong about so many things.

My son is my hero. He meets every day with optimism, and is truly the most content person I have ever known. Things most of us take for granted can be difficult for him,but perseveres and learns how to deal with any challenge.

Having a conversation is not easy for him. He talks to me the easiest when we are in the car. There is a reason for this, when we are in the car, Mom has to pay attention to driving, so I can't ask him for eye contact, or even to look at me. Because his brain works differently, he doesn't see things the way most do. He can't read body language or facial expression. He is challenged by tone of voice. Today, it dawned on me that that also describes those of us who communicate with others on the computer. When we read a post on facebook, or a message board, we can only read the words. We can't read body language, or facial expression. We can't hear the tone of voice.

So, back to the conversation I had with my son. We were discussing a commercial we had seen while watching some NASCAR programming. In the commercial, a driver mentions that the rate of autism in our children is now 1 in 110. When my son was diagnosed nearly 25 years ago it was thought the rate was 1 in 10,000. So our conversation was centered on not only the need for awareness campaigns, but on the increase in numbers of persons with autism.

I guess I need to point out that we have always considered my sons autism as a blessing. We accept that his brain works differently, and that that difference is not bad, it is just different. I am often astounded at the way he thinks. I was told I was "an unrealistic" parent by certain experts because I said that if we can figure out how the autistic brain works we would find the answers to most of the worlds problems. I thought that when my son was a toddler, I totally believe it now that he is a young man.

When we talked, my son said awareness is necessary so that more people can see that different is just different, not wrong, or bad. Just different.People need to see that there is nothing to be afraid of when someone is different,and that being different doesn't make you less of a person. We also talked about how awareness campaigns might help those who aren't blessed with autism to be more patient with some who are.

Then we talked about how many more people are being born blessed with autism. That is when I was reminded that the answers to our problems might just be in those autistic brains. "What if," he said, "there are more people with autism because the world needs the way we think. What if our brains are evolving to help."

What if, indeed! In a world where more and more communication takes place on the computer. More and more communication takes place where we are unable to read body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. In a world where in my lifetime technology has evolved more than I can even comprehend some days, what if more people are being born with brains that function differently because we need them.  I was definitely given something to think about, and that is only one of the reasons he is my hero!

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