My son, now in his twenties, was diagnosed with mild autistic tendencies when he was three. As he aged those tendencies became more marked. He is now in his late twenties. In todays society he would more than likely have been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome.
Throughout his life he has been challenged by his disability and has often struggled to be accepted at his chronological age. While our family accept him as a God given gift who plays an integral role in the functioning of the family, others sometimes struggle with that same acceptance.
There are times when I really feel that if we allow ourselves to be more open minded about our own limitations we can often learn from our more unique family members as they struggle to find their place and be accepted in the community.
We now watch as he struggles for acceptance in various ways. He shows a strong faith in God as He walks his walk in life. His aim is to become a mature child of God, a responsible family member and an important part of the community. To this end he attends church regularly and serves within it, helps other families wherever he can and is involved in many community functions. He is finding his place.
At times he actually becomes my teacher. Let me explain:
We all know that differences are not always accepted. My son loves children but some people understandably are not comfortable with his involvement with them. One such family distanced themselves from us through other circumstances which developed in their lives. After a few years we again came into contact with them. Recently my son broached the past (we had not known that he even realized there was any discomfort). His method of handling it was clumsy but effective.
He simply approached the couple saying “I need to say that if I have done anything to hurt or offend you I am sorry even if it was a long time ago.” Their response was “You are a great bloke and we have nothing to hold against you.” Our conversation when he told me weeks later went like this:
Me “Why did you do that?”
Him “I felt the urge to, so that is God leading isn’t it?”
Me “Yes, but I don’t understand why.”
Him “Because a long time ago I know they didn’t like me to be around their kids.”
You could have wiped me off the floor.
Me “Oh. So how do you feel now that you did that?”
Him “ It’s better to clear the air so we can all move on.”
Well I don’t know about you but I think I learned something. “Man up” as Dr Phil would say, face the challenges whenever the right time appears and then move on with or without the forgiveness of others.
For our family it is often a challenge to understand the way he thinks or processes what is being said or required of him. In children, meltdowns and volcanic eruptions are often the result of what we mainstream people feel is a simple request. We need to understand the challenge in order to know how to formulate our instructions and understand what caused the meltdown in the first place.
Its worth the effort and certainly worth taking advantage of every resource in order to understand and build a safe, accepting environment for all the family to live in harmony.