It’s Autism Awareness Month! Actually, in our house, every day is Autism Awareness Month. I think people in general are much more aware of Autism now than when I first became aware of it. Which is great. April is always about Reflection, for me. Every reminder that it’s Autism Awareness Month makes me think about what that means for me and my family. I also think about the things that people that don’t live with Autism probably aren’t aware of.
1. Children aren’t the only people with Autism. I wish there was more focus on adults with Autism. For a parent of an autistic child, that is the nightmare. One day, your child isn’t going to be small and cute and the awkward, inappropriate shenanigans won’t go over as well. Hell, it could get them arrested. One day, your child will be an adult and most likely have to survive without you. Homeless people have become a lot more terrifying for me.
2. Puberty is as bad as I thought it would be. And it’s just begun. It’s… ew. After an hour of bouncing on a yoga ball to Sia, Alex smells like a for real dude. A dude that forgot to put on deodorant and sweats like he’s getting paid by the gallon. I won’t creep you out with the obvious physical changes and why doors are one of the best inventions ever.
3. There will never be a made for t.v. movie about my life. If there were, I’d want Christina Hendricks to play me. My character would be sassy and roll with the punches. She’d definitely swear a lot less and she’d manage her time better. Which is why there won’t be a movie. I’ve accepted that it’s ok to hate Autism. I’m not brave and I fail. A lot. I’ve been asked about being a mentor for other parents and I’ve declined. I’m not a model for successful Special Needs Parenting. I don’t have a lot of healthy coping mechanisms. Mostly because I don’t feel like I need them. But, I don’t do support groups because I know I won’t enjoy the people or talking to them. I have no shame in admitting that I’m a fan of Day Drinking, especially if a particular day feels a little long. Sometimes, a day is long before noon. If I journaled, it would look like this:
Alex peed on my reading chair. Asshole.
None of this makes for an uplifting movie and the other parents are probably better off sorting themselves out.
4. Your opinion is not needed when it comes to another parent medicating their child. Unless you’ve been there and you’ve been asked. I STILL have to defend this. After eight years of living with Alex on and off of various prescription drugs, I feel completely certain that they have worked wonders. For us. After having Alex off of ALL medications since last November, I’m very aware of their benefits. For us. We took him off because puberty has been like a wrench in the brain chemical balance we worked so hard to achieve. We needed to see where Alex was, eight years later, what needed to be treated, what could be treated, what was Autism and what was puberty, what was being caused by the medications themselves. I will say this: It hasn’t been fun. Alex isn’t a lot of fun right now and it’s hard to watch him struggle. He’s not back on medications yet because we’re just not sure what is going to work well enough with all that his brain and body are going through. He’s on a hormone roller coaster and that makes it all more complicated. But one day, hopefully soon, he’ll be back on medications. Why? Because right now, he CAN’T speak loud enough for us to hear him. He’s injuring himself a lot more than he used to. His level of eye contact is plummeting. He will fall apart and lose his shit over nothing. Just knowing that he’s going to Target the next day is enough to raise his anxiety to the point that we will discuss it forty times in 24 hours. Literally. Who got time for that? I don’t. He doesn’t.
5. Even on his worst day and even with eye watering body odor, he’s still better than 99.9% of the people in the world. I’d take him over any of the people I have to suffer when I go to the grocery store or the post office. Always. Which isn’t saying a lot, now that I think of it. My point is, he’s pretty amazing, even on a bad day. I’m still homeschooling him and he impresses me every day. I may have to fight him more to get it out of him but it happens. He’s still improving despite puberty and being off of medications. When we can hear what he’s saying, there’s a statement or just a word that stops us in our tracks and tells us he’s paying attention and wants to be included.
6. Alex loves us and he knows we love him. The perception that people with Autism don’t connect with others emotionally is wrong. Alex is almost solely motivated by Love. And Angry Birds and YouTube. But, mostly Love. Every big revelation is based on an act of love or a desire to receive love, on Alex’s part. That’s how we get through to him, that’s what works.