Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Our Children: Love and Autism

No, this post is not about adult autistics being able to have a loving and healthy adult relationship. But you can read about one such relationship HERE. Just as a fun note, the youngman in the story is the son of John Elder Robinson the author.
This post is about the fact that people insist on telling you that your child does not understand the concept of love. I remember when CM1 was first diagnosed and we moved to our town, the disability director told us that there is no way he could understand love. We told her she was wrong but she kept insisting that we had no idea what we were talking about. You know that tsk tsk tsk shake of the head towards us the ignorant-blinded-by-need parent by those know-it-all professionals. I know you know what I am talking about.

As I have written before CM1 was always a very caring child. He never liked people crying. He never liked watching his Disney cartoons when the characters were upset. He never liked sad songs. He always had a connection to other people's emotions. He also, while not being able to always control his emotions, knew what they were and that he was having them. He was and is still a very empathetic individual. He goes out of his way to be supportive, helpful and kind to those in his life. Silly little things, like bringing his brother a bag of cheese crackers from school because he thought CM2 would like them as a snack. Now isn't that what love is ultimately all about, thinking of others and remembering their importance?

I suppose the attitude to our children's ability to love, is alot like how these "professionals," you know the ones that have brought you the new DSM5, have decided that our children cannot feel empathy. These professionals come to some inane and archaic conclusion based upon flawed data or their own very limited personal experiences and then decide this is the way things are.  Sorry but considering the enormous number of autistics in the world and that each one is an individual person, how any study can be said to be representative of the entire autism community defies my understanding of reality. Yet the "failure to love theory" is as accepted as the  "failure to empathize theory." In truth, it's simply the same concepts with just a single word change in the title proposed by the psychiatric chattering classes. You know, basically the same crap, just a different day.

Luckily we did not have too much to do with that district director in the few years to follow. She was actually denied tenure and went back into teaching, or so she said. She had a PhD and taught at the college level some of this nation's future teachers. Which is a little scary considering that she was teaching future special educators about what autism is and  is not. If  you ever wondered why so many teachers out there have outdated and ill informed notions about our children and who they are and how they function, now you know. (No, not just this one woman for certain, but it's the entire mentality that pervades the system.)

Anyway, I am here to tell you that our children do love and they love with all their hearts. They have a connection to the people around them. Their attachment to people, pets, places  and objects with personal meaning, is total and complete. In fact sometimes too complete. It is hard for them to let go. Moreover they become overwhelmed by the loss to a greater extent than a neurotypical. For  autistics lack the filter that neurotypicals naturally have that would protect an individual from such emotional tsunamis. It is not a bad thing by any means. Autistics just need more support and help to make it through these rough patches, that's all. But mostly this intensity of emotion needs to be honored and respected by all.

I remember just recently the boys got into a fight during one their joint therapy sessions because the doctor brought up the subject of hubby and me dying. The session was suppose to be about them taking more control and responsibility in their lives and that one day they will have no choice in the matter. It wasn't meant as a cruel idea. It was just meant as a fact that they needed to understand. The therapist was trying to get CM2 to take responsibility for his studies and to not leave it to everyone else to remember his assignments and schedule. It in all honesty was simply an off handed comment.

Well the session went downhill from there. CM1 while talking about how would like to be more independent and more "adult," CM2 began to cry. And not just a little crying either. Balling his head off to the point that CM1 started yelling at him, which of course made the crying worse.

I think for CM2 there was a realization that at some point in the future people close to him will die. I don't think he really thinks about that much. Hubby's parents died when CM2 was very young, a baby as a matter of fact and he didn't really know them. His great-grandparents the same. My parents live in Florida and they talk every once in a while and we go visit them. But to CM2 this is life. Nothing has changed. The people he knows and cares about are around. His pets are here and not really changing, albeit getting older which he has failed to notice. Of course,  that is something we would all like to forget, our own aging. CM2's day to day existence is just what it is and he is content and happy.  However, with the mention of our eventual passing the reality of death sunk in. He did not like it. No sirree.

In fact by the time the boys got back in the car after the session, you could hear CM2 still whimpering a little in the background. He did say he was OK when we finally got home though. I did reassure him, that on my side of the family everyone lives to a very ripe old age so he was going to have to put up with his dad and me for a very long time to come.

They used to say that there are only two things in life you can't avoid: death and taxes. But as we have seen, some really can avoid paying taxes in life (at least the federal kind if you are part of the 47%  or have a good enough accountant and tax attorney who can figure out how to manipulate the tax code if you are part of the 1%). But the reality is that death is a part of life. It is the great equalizer. No one, no matter who, even the rich,  even the well-connected,  even someone who has the ear of God, can void it.

Ironically, hubby was nonpulsed when I told him the story about the therapy session. I thought he would at least take some kind of pleasure in knowing that his second born loved him. He said it had to do with CM2 not doing well with change and that was all. I told him he was being ridiculous. Honestly I think that was hubby's way of dealing with the reality of death and the fact that it upset his child.  How he could think his child wouldn't be upset if he dies is beyond me. CM2 asks hubby to scratch his back every morning and still to this day, CM2 likes when hubby spends time with him doing anything. A silly little thing is they read bedtime stories together. Of course CM2's stories are a little more grownup now, but honestly its a way for them to connect and CM2 likes it. By the way so does hubby.

I remember recently I asked CM2 about love and liking me when he wanted me to do something imparticular for him. It wasn't anything out of the norm nor special, but I brokered the subject anyway.

"Why do you want me to do this?" I asked. "Do you even love me?"

Then without skipping a beat, came his response, "I always love you,  I just don't always like you." CM2 is nothing if not honest and very matter of fact.

For that he got a huge kiss. Which he in his own inimical CM2 fashion, cringed when the kiss landed, mostly because he thinks kisses are slimy. Now I am sure if a very pretty girl his own age kissed him it would be a whole other ballgame. I know for a fact it would be, as his para tells me how different he is around pretty girls in school. A completely different youngman, almost with a split personality....one for the girls and one for the rest of us in the adult world.  Was I insulted? Not in the least. Truly, what 18 year old really wants their mom to kiss them even on the forehead....gag-me-with-a-spoon....

The reality is that our children feel love, sadness, joy and  a connection to the universe that is individual to them. No one person, no matter who, has the same level of emotions, intensity and feelings about anything. Our emotions are as personal to us as our fingerprints and our DNA. So it is with our children.

In the final analysis, do our children love? You bet they do and don't let anyone ever tell you any different.

Until next time,

Happy Valentine's Day,