Autism and Affection

There is a social media post going around, that I technically don’t want to share because, hopefully, it was written in a bad place. Something a caregiver would like to forget that they had said and done on a very public forum.

Essentially, he or she was musing on the lack of connection and “innate self centered-ness” of autistic people, and that their child would never love them and it was all about “yellow lights, fairy princesses, silly repetitive cartoons, and chewelry.”

Now I understand being tired, but yellow lights, fairy princesses, and silly repetitive cartoons still sounds pretty damn great.

And my beautiful boy is the most affectionate little guy I’ve ever known autistic or not. He finds all the non-verbal ways to show affection and love. He kisses my cheek about fifty times a day. Pets my arm or holds my face to show he misses me or loves me.

I wish I could hear his voice. I wish it everyday. But connection and affection is more than just language. Listen harder, my friend.

This Old House is Killing ME

So, during one of my son’s telehealth speech therapy sessions, we found that he was a lot happier outside in our screened in porch. Of course, I decided to turn it into an outdoor classroom IMMEDIATELY. Because my biggest special interest is my son, like you might imagine.

But our sweet little screened in porch was being held together by vines, hole ridden netting, and rust. So honestly, I’ve been working non-stop for the last four days, and the following things have happened.

In no particular order, because my brain won’t function in any particular order.

-I bought a bee house to pull the carpenter bees away from my porch

-The carpenter bees decided that my paltry little house was insufficient and continued to eat my big one.

-I punted one bee coming at me with my boot. It felt like an angry little shuttlecock.

-While changing the old exposed outlet covers to proper outdoor outlets covers, discovered a wiring problem that resulted in a small fire. Immediately shut off the power.

-No, first screamed obscenities while stamping out said fire with my glove. Then shut off the power. First, then.

-Murdered a garden hose trying to remove it from my old tap.

-Murdered a second garden hose when I neglected to clean off the sediment from the old tap.

-Cleaned off the sediment, and attached my favorite, most fancy hose yet. Turned on the tap to have water gush out of the aluminum siding in several places.

-Removed aluminum siding to fix trillion year old tap and discovered that my house used to be pink (YAY!)

-Decided to remove all the siding in just the screened in porch. Found what was holding it together was spiders, mold, and a wretched smell.

-Cut my hand on a sharp aluminum edge. Used my son’s mickey bandaids, which has caused him to try and steal them from my hand every time he sees my wound.

-Made watercolor style drop cloth curtains to save some money and return some of the lattice I planned to use for privacy. (The new tap and tools for dealing with the siding were busting my budget. It’s apparently a very fancy tap. Also, I’ve bought like three cans of liquid wrench to deal with all the rusted bolts and screws.)

-Fixed storm door that kept crashing open at the slightest breeze and causing my sensory issues to flare.

-Re-listened to the Raven Boys series read by Will Patton. His voice is delicious.

-Digged a drainage ditch in the hardest clay I’ve seen since I lived in Georgia, all to stop wood rot. So not even pretty.

-Hauled rocks from the garage to the porch, for said drainage ditch, thinking of greek mythology characters.

-Bent my machete on a bunch of vines, but felt like a total badass for like two seconds. Used my much less badass pruning knife to take out the rest.

-Dug up old rocks and bricks in my backyard to use in the drainage ditch, hoping I wouldn’t unearth a dead pet or anything. There were some really pretty rocks, I would have considered them tombstone worthy. There was no pet cemetery though.

-Spray painted an old chandelier for a planter.

-Had a waterballoon fight with my son to make him happy.

And now I am currently waiting for the liquid wrench to dissolve the corrosion around a pipe that is stuck, with my water off, trying not to loose my mind.

Float sinks for me

A different perspective for Inspirational Autism Stories ON “AUTISM AWARENESS WEEK”

Just like millions of other people, my family has the Disney+ streaming service. We use it multiple times a day. We find Nemo, we find Dory, we visit Mickey’s clubhouse an exhaustible amount, and don’t even get me started on the amount of times we are in Riley’s head. But there is one video that I really can’t get behind, no matter how much I want to…

It’s Float.

Float is a father, son story about a little boy who, for whatever reason can float. Not to give the story away, but basically it’s about the dad’s response to his son’s floating. And I’m gonna be harsh here, but he does a real shit job of it for the majority of the short film. He keeps his son locked inside at all times, when he does go outside he puts rocks in his bags to keep him down, and then, at the climax of the film, he screams at his son, “Why can’t you just be normal?!”

“Uh… What.. the… fuck?”

That’s a direct quote from me after watching this movie by the way. “What the fuck?”

Having heard about how inspirational this short film was, I clicked on it one night with my husband and son. And as soon as the credits rolled, I turned to my husband and we both just looked horrified. Not only did we never have any reactions to our son like that, there wasn’t a world where we would ever be tempted to treat him in such a way. This isn’t me being righteously indignant, it’s just the truth.

Now let me back up a bit, and tell you why a lot of people would find that particular film inspirational, and let me first start with this: The Dad in this little story was not a bad guy, not at all. In fact, he’s a real guy. The man who wrote and produced the short film, Bobby Rubio, was taking from his own experience to create what he hoped would be a film about acceptance. AND yes, I think ultimately on some level it is. But mostly I think this still falls into the limiting “awareness” category.

What’s the difference you might ask? “Autism Awareness” is often about alerting neurotypicals to the differences that autistic people experience. Sure, on the surface, that’s good. But it is also much more about pathology, mostly focused on a cure, or a “fix.” Or even worse than that, it’s meant to make you pity autistic people’s parents. Not autistic people, but the families that are “burdened” by autistic children. “Autism Awareness” is about tolerance. And to be tolerated, you must first be an object of irritation, anger, or worse, even hatred. How does that sound to you? Does that feel good? Do you want to be merely tolerated?

Acceptance is a very different thing. And to be fair to “Float,” in the end the father character is very accepting of his son’s ability. Playing happily with him in the park and not giving a single fuck about who gawks. That is acceptance. “Autism Acceptance” is giving autistic people the respect to know their own minds. Acceptance is allowing autistic people to change, despite the limitations that they may deal with in a society that is built around neurotypicals. Acceptance is about pride and celebration.

And perhaps it is because both my husband and I are neurodiverse that we never even thought to treat our son that way. We have never ever been normal. So the heartache we have in the little prince’s more autistic behavior, is only because he will have to live in a world that does not accept autism. We’ve never wanted him to be normal. We’ve only wanted things to be easier for him. (But who’s life is easy anyway, right?)

Sometimes I know that I really need to give neurotypical parents a break, and I honestly do strive to do so. I understand that parents go through a grieving process when they are told that their children are different. But still, no one has died. Only your perception and assumptions about your child have perished. I think all parents should have such a death. The sooner they stop assuming that their child is exactly like them, the better. They are their own people, different or not.

And again, “Float” definitely gets a lot of things right. Like the general disarray that the house is in? Oh man, is that true. The crayon marks on the ceiling? I think we have those and our kid is gravity bound. The way that people will respond to unexpected behavior in the park. Right on target. Fear, anger, and escape.

But that’s human nature isn’t it? Difference is often associated with danger. And until we stop that association we are always going to get those looks from “normal” families and strangers. Until we accept autistic people as another kind of person, and not a problem for parents, we are all going to sink.

Our family on a walk. No one stared by the way.
Even though I put them in matching outfits.