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By Jessi Cash
I refuse to view autism through rose-colored glasses. My pen is not warped by glitter and I believe myself to be a truth-teller.
Our autism is not always fun. It is not without tears on all sides, worry, or uncertainty. Some days, autism is just really hard to live with, to watch, and to process on all sides.
However, there is beauty in our autism.
My son is autistic and I was recently diagnosed as High Functioning Autistic. I see things in both of us that I would never want to shed because I believe that these traits are special and unique to us. Perhaps other autistics share these traits, but I’m not speaking for them, only Morgan and me.
Our attention to detail can be all encompassing, to the point of shutting all other things out. Morgan builds his train sets and becomes so absorbed with recreating what he might have seen in a video or picture and must get it right and then must show it off, but until then, nothing is in his way to complete it. I will work on something in a hyperfocused state, like I’m in a bubble, until I’m done, barely surfacing for air. Things must be perfect and the details must be to my specifications, they always are. The details are all beautiful to us.
When we visit our city, Morgan holds onto me and I him. We note things others don’t. The fish mouth spouts around Jackson Square, that Royal Street has more awnings than any other street in New Orleans’ French Quarter, the “lace” on the homes, the flowers hanging everywhere off of the galleries, a chalk drawing placed randomly up high- we wonder how it got there. I take pictures all of the time, sometimes of “nothing,” because I want to remember the “somethings” I saw. These things are all of beauty to us.
Our long term memories are extensive. My earliest memory is that of living by the bayou in Florida when I was maybe a year and a half old. I was playing in the yard with my brother, close to the water. The air smelled like salt and the Blue Angels flew over us regularly back to their base. Morgan tells me he remembers a room with a truck, plane, boat, letters, and a car on the wall and a blanket with trucks, boats and planes. He hasn’t had that room since he was less than two. I find that incredible. This, to me, is beauty. He couldn’t say a word then, but he remembers.
The things we both collect crack me up. Sometimes they make zero sense to anyone but us. He collects Thomas the Tank Engine and, to date, has well over 200 engines. He also will bring home pieces of paper from school, beads, two recipe cards from when he was three, a hat that has never fit him, shirts that no longer fit, and now collects Mardi Gras throws- which he never plays with. When I was a child, I collected rocks, leaves, and shells. The rocks were very dear to me and I was fascinated with them. I now collect masks, art supplies that don’t get used, ribbon, fabric, yarn, cleaning supplies, and things that are in the shade of teal. Oh, and sea glass. I don’t actually do much of anything with these collections, I just love them.
When Morgan reaches a milestone which is on or off the books, when I attain a personal goal I didn’t think possible, when either of us get through a sensory nightmare without an anxiety attack- that’s beauty in personal management.
Morgan knows very few personal boundaries. For now, I see this as a positive. He’s friendly. He gives hugs and says, “hello” to everyone.
I choose to see more beauty in our world rather than always focusing on the negative. I know where the negative is- it can be found in every single positive I listed. The beauty in autism is what makes autism hard. For every pro, there is a con.
My hyperfocus has landed me in trouble plenty of times. Our attention to details has caused both of us to become lost within our surroundings, no matter how familiar they might be. Morgan’s affectionate side is something which terrifies me – the wrong person could perceive him as doing something bad or take advantage of him. Most of those milestones were hard won. After he accomplished them, or I spoke in public yet again, I closed myself in a room and had an ugly cry.
Parenting autism or being autistic can be what you want to make of it. No matter how frustrated I get, I choose joy most of the time, even though it’s hard.
When you’re being given the choice of gray and bleak versus glimpses of color and beauty, choose beauty.
**Jessi Cash lives in southeast Louisiana with her husband Thomas, and their two sons, Morgan—awesomely autistic—and Bay—ginger and NTish. She writes about her marital bliss, forays into the PTA, and her attempts at developing the parental art of cultivating joy and humor in what less understanding people might consider fallow fields. She spends most of her free time speculating about what she could do if only she had more free time, and growing her artist within in fancy graphics and crappy selfies. BLOG | FACEBOOK | TWITTER
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With a network of affiliates across the United States, the Autism Society is the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization. Their mission is to increase public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocate for appropriate services for individuals across the lifespan, and provide the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy. Contact and join a local affiliate and get involved! To find the affiliate nearest to you, click on your state below.