Anyone on the autistic spectrum is only too well aware of the daily struggles they face. What isn’t so easy is to be on the outside looking in and trying to understand the extent of just how hard everyday life can be when you live with it. The autistic brain runs at a million miles an hour with thoughts, patterns, compulsive processes etc….all running in unison on top of trying to manage the mundanities of everyday life. It’s no wonder they hit a point of ‘meltdown’ every so often.
The problem is that there may be no external signs of how much they are struggling until the ‘meltdown’ hits and it’s too late. I have had years of people telling me that my children ‘don’t look autistic’! So what does autism ‘look’ like? Hmmmm….well, therein lies the problem, autism doesn’t ‘look’ like anything. Some more severely autistic people may show external signs of rocking etc…but the majority look the same as everyone else. Sadly, it’s like any mental malfunction….you can’t see it but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there and causing huge distress.
My children…six are on the spectrum, can you tell which ones?
So…look at the photo above, of the seven children, six are on the autistic spectrum and the other is severely dyslexic which is an associated condition. They all look lovely and perfectly ‘normal’ huh? From left right we have Mirie-Marie (autistic), Nikita-Nina (autistic), Kacie-Kimie (dyslexic), Pippa-Peita ( autistic and also has cerebral palsy), Jamie-Jodie (autistic), Osborn-Oran (autistic and also has cerebral palsy) and Lorie-Lanie (autistic). Would you know by looking at them? No. They look like a bunch of perfectly able kids but the autistic ones face all kinds of challenges every single moment of their daily lives.
We neurotypicals have no perception of what it’s like to be counting every single step we take in a day when it’s driving us nuts doing it but we have no control or the tools to stop ourselves. We can’t begin to imagine how debilitating it is to not be able to tolerate being touched by anyone and if they do they have to ‘make it even’ by touching the other side at exactly the same spot with the other hand. How would you cope if your brain was constantly breaking down sentences into sets of three letters whilst still trying to focus on the conversation or have your conversation scrolling across your minds eye like an autocue? Seeing and looking for patterns in everything and ‘seeing’ numbers, days of the week etc…as colours and shapes?
I love my children but at the same time I have the deepest respect for them. They all have amazing talents and abilities that I would love to have. Their ability to focus on the task in hand is second to none, their determination to master a craft they have decided to become extraordinary at is nothing less than awesome and their ability to recall facts and figures is startling. They can ‘watch’ a film together in their heads and laugh at the same thing at exactly the right part of the film and recite the script word for word! How cool is that?
I’ve brought my children up to not only be aware of and accept their autism but to also see it as a positive attribute. Autism gets a bad press but I can assure you that autism is actually pretty awesome if it’s approached in the right way. My kids have learnt how to work with it, not against it and to understand when the challengeds they face are down to their autism or other factors. Autism is actually just when the electrical connections in the brain are either missing or not formed properly so their brains work in a different way to ours. Not better or worse….just different. Let’s celebrate difference….it’s a good thing!