It is something that is so easy and yet so difficult.
This is my 9-year-old son Jayden.
He has Autism. He is one of the 1 in 88 who has been diagnosed.
He does not want sympathy. He does not want pity. All he wants is understanding.
Understanding that while his brain is wired a little differently than your 9-year-old child’s, he still has feelings. He still wants to have friends. He wants to be accepted.
He has difficulty finding the right words to go with his emotions.
He has difficulty with certain sounds.
He has difficulty when his routine or schedule changes.
He does not like to wear socks and shoes.
He has realized that putting things in his mouth helps him to calm down so he chews gum a lot.
He has amazing hearing so he can hear every single noise in the classroom and is easily distracted.
He does not have the skill of empathy.
He likes to be alone a lot of the time.
When he cannot cope with a situation he often has a meltdown which resembles a 3yr olds tantrum.
He can become aggressive when his black and white thoughts are not understood or when he cannot express himself to others clearly.
These are some of the things Jayden struggles with because he has Autism. Yet, despite all of those things, in many ways he is just a regular, average 9yr old boy. And because of his Autism, he has some amazing abilities.
He has an impeccable memory and can remember the minutest of details.
He has an amazing amount of creativity and imagination; he can create things using paper, scissor and tape that I would never have imagined possible.
He loves Legos.
His favorite food is chocolate and he would survive on it if I would let him.
He loves to listen to music and likes any music that has a good beat to it.
He loves to cook; in fact, he makes dinner all on his own once a week for us and he wants to be a chef when he grows up.
He loves to run and has in fact become my running partner.
He loves his family. Most of all he loves God.
Despite all of his amazing qualities, what he craves most in life is a friend. A friend who will accept him for who he is. A friend who will look past some of his difficulties and differences and just accept him for who he is. A friend who will learn to look past the barriers and see what amazing qualities he has to offer in a friendship. A friend who will go to bat for him and defend him; a friend who will love him.
Kids can be cruel. They do not always understand that different is okay. It is up to you to teach them that. It is up to you to teach them acceptance. It is up to you to teach them to be aware that someone may not always appear to be who you think they are. It is up to you to teach them to love.
I cannot even count how many times my son has come home upset and in tears because all he wants is a friend. My heart just aches for him. He just wants to be like the other 9 year old boys at his school. He knows he has Autism. He knows he is different. But he cannot or does not always want to express that to others because then they would know for sure that he isn’t “normal.” On the surface he can appear mean because he doesn’t always know how to initiate play with others. I understand that this can keep others from wanting to play with him, but he does not. His little heart just craves for what we all crave; to be loved and accepted unconditionally.
While my goal today is to help raise acceptance of Autism, it is also to reach out to all of the parents and ask them to teach their children about Autism. Please teach your children about other kids around them that may have Autism. Teach them what it means. Teach them acceptance and love for them. Teach them how to be a friend.