I removed the Autism Awareness bumper magnet from my car today. I took it off for the car wash, as usual, because I’ve lost them that way. This time, though, I didn’t put it back on.
A friend asked me recently if my life isn’t sometimes “all autism, all the time,” and if that doesn’t get to be too much. I had to admit, a lot of times, it does. I know it’s been too much for my older son. Being the brother of a kid with autism has been a major theme of his life. I do love my work, which involves giving referrals, information, guidance, and advice to parents, teachers, other professionals, and sometimes adults on the Spectrum. It’s purposeful and rewarding. But then I go home to autism.
At one time I needed the bumper sticker; and the t-shirt and the jewelry. I hoped these things would offer a shorthand to explain my “bad parenting” to insulting strangers. Certainly, people ought to be aware of autism and how profoundly it affects so many people’s lives.
But can a bumper sticker really do all that?
We are all so much more than a bumper sticker. My son is who he is: wonderfully and perfectly and happily, Colin. I suspect that without the autism he’d still be a handful – defiant, busy, active, sassy, and a challenge to the most patient parenting skills. There are places we still can’t easily and comfortably go and things we can’t do that other people get to do all the time. But want to stop fighting it, stop being angry and feeling gypped. I’m learning to accept, to be content. I’ve decided it’s unhealthy for both my children to be raised to think in such restricted terms about life – theirs or mine. There is so much we can be and do.
At the same time, autism has given me a purpose. It’s given me a job that I find satisfaction from after two decades of wondering what the hell work was for, other than earning money to get away from work. Autism was the catalyst that gave me something, finally, that I felt strongly enough about to get me writing, something that I finally felt I had something to say about that might be of value.
So while I intend to no longer allow it to define my son, define my life, I thank God for the opportunity to live my life a different way, to slow down, to enjoy, to be content, and aim to provide the same for my children and the people I talk to who might feel freer doing the same.