World Autism Awareness Day


It’s hard to write about this topic because there’s so much I could say. My boys are both teenagers now. One was diagnosed 10 years ago, the other about 4. What a ride it’s been!

Alex, Daniel and Me, a couple Summers ago.
Alex, Daniel and Me, a couple Summers ago.

Daniel’s autism diagnosis came between first and second grades, around the time we discovered he had such a severe ear infection that he’d effectively lost 90% of his hearing in one ear, and 50% in the other. He never said a word. We knew he was quirky. His first grade teacher didn’t like him very much because he didn’t follow directions, and he did “weird” things. For example, if an older kid asked him to eat dirt, he would, just because it was the nice thing to do. He also sat in the back of the class, disoriented and mostly unable to hear, and thus unable to follow instructions. I think Judi and I still haven’t overcome our dislike for the woman who spent 40 hours a week with our son for 40 weeks, and never noticed there might be something different about him.

In first grade, he went from virtually non-literate in September (he knew a few letters here and there, to reading his first Harry Potter novel in December. He has a very good grasp of content, often remembering things literally. Don’t force him to make eye contact. he doesn’t like that. He can’t take notes–his handwriting was an impedement over the years, but we overcame much of this by introducing him to keyboarding skills at around 2nd or 3rd grade. He loves reading, and he’s hilarious! Whether or not he knows it, he’s the king of non-sequiturs, and he often notices peculiar things about the world that nobody else would.

He struggles with his temper, and sometimes forgets it’s not okay to hit. He’s seventeen years old. No, we didn’t beat this out of him, or set him in a corner until he was fourteen. It’s Daniel. I wouldn’t trade his quirks for a “healthy” brain.

Alexander is also smart, and like his brother, much much bigger than most of the people in his class. He’s possibly a math genius. he takes to it at an intuitive level. He wrote his seventh-grade class project on the Laws of Thermodynamics, because he “wanted to teach African kids more about the fundamental principles of science.”

Yet, for years, he struggled with his emotions. If he received too much stimulation, he’d go fetal under his classroom desk, and start bawling (screeching, really). We had to include a self-advocacy clause in his education program in order for him to be allowed to take himself out of the classroom, and get a drink of water or take a walk, when he felt this coming on. It seemed to work well, and he no longer needs the breaks.

He loves video games of all kinds, and his favorite two websites are Wikipedia and YouTube, where he studies gaming strategies with unrivaled intensity. He loves to laugh, and to interact in groups. He took drama in 7th and 8th grade, and particularly enjoyed improv. This is his fourth year in choir, and he loves to sing.

They’re good boys. They have autism. Maybe autism has them. But, oddly, to me it doesn’t really define them. Daniel refuses to accept the label, and Alex takes it in due course but you won’t catch him reading up on it. There was a sci-fi book a few years back, about a world where someone with autism could take a drug regimen and become “normal.” I am certain neither of my boys would take on such a thing. They are both comfortable with themselves, and the autism doesn’t limit them; rather, it defines them. They wouldn’t trade it. Neither would I. They’ve made peace with themselves and I hope others can too.

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18 thoughts on “World Autism Awareness Day”

  1. I should have explained that Sarah can say more than just her name. She cannot tell you her address or last name but the knowledge will come when she is ready!

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  2. Autism is truly a varied disorder. My daughter can only tell you her first name. She cannot do what other 5-year-olds can do, but she is making great strides. Thank you for sharing! It is good for the public to know the struggles that our families face every day.

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  3. WOW yet again you write it well Cuz ! keep up the great work Brian ! I look to my email every morning like the Sunday paper ! in hope’s you have blogged while I was sleeping
    🙂

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  4. Brian you are good man. I wish I had gotten to know you better in school. The things you write about always seem to brighten my day or make me realize that there are worse things in life than having to write a six page term paper. THANKS

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  5. That touched me Brian. I can feel the love you have for you boys in the way you describe them. Would that all parents felt that way about their “normal” kids. Congrats to you and Judi for being such active and involved parents.

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  6. Brian, this is a very touching story.. I’m sure Daniel and Alex wouldn’t have it any other way, u guys are awesome parents! 🙂

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  7. Wow. What Melissa said so very, very well…Your family rocks! 😉 You are all lucky to have each other, and it’s no wonder that you have gazillions of friends…bright lights, indeed! Love to all! ❤ –SH

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  8. Well, all I’ve got to say is that Daniel and Alex sure picked the right parents. You both have done a wonderful job. I will always remember, with smiles, the stories you used to tell of them around the lunch table at Bethany. God I miss those times!

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  9. If I click “like”, will you, like, make me re-read, like, the last one, like? 🙂 What if I simply say that you and Judi are even more cool than I remembered. Thank you for loving your boys the way they are – and for shining brights lights on the wondrous variety of our world.

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    1. Thanks, Melissa! We figured out they were each quirky in their own special ways when they were each still infants. After all, it’s not like either Brian or I hit the social norm spot on. We are a family of quirk, and we like us best that way. 🙂

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