Opening the Autism Box

For eighteen years, I believed all of the experts…the doctors, teachers and therapists.  I never once doubted them.  I was told that Buddy was in his own little world, that he didn’t understand, that he never would.  And that I shouldn’t waste my time on manners or explanations. That all of this was a waste of time and effort.

So I talked AT Buddy, not to him.   The mom in me never gave up on the manners part though, I am a stickler for manners.

Then our lives changed. Three major pieces of the puzzle fit into place that year…  I saw a movie on HBO about Temple Grandin.  I had read a few of her books, so I knew her background, but seeing the movie and watching with her commentary was the first eye opener. I also met my cousin and his wife, they have a son a year older than Buddy, that also has autism.  My cousin gave me the best advice…”play dumb”. Then I saw Carly Fleischmann on 20/20…that was it icing on the cake.

These 3 factors changed life as we knew it.  I started playing dumb.  I started saying “Buddy, I don’t know what you want, you need to show me” and “Can you help me, please?” I also started paying closer attention to what he was looking at.  And I would imagine what I would be thinking if I was looking at the same thing.  Then I would talk about it and imagine Buddy’s curiosity.  Saying things like “Did you see that plane, Buddy?  It had cool red wings, did you see the red wings?”

I started thinking about what I thought were coincidences. Like the time he was about 4, he had a little train Christmas tree ornament. It made this cute little “choo choo” sound.  Well, it WAS cute the first few dozen times.  I got tired of hearing the annoying little train, so when Buddy wasn’t looking, I stuck it on top of the fridge.  A day or two later, Buddy had found it and I had to give it back.  The next time it annoyed me, I stuck it in a cabinet.  Buddy discovered it there too.  So the next time it drove me crazy, I thought “That’s it!”  I waited until Buddy was in the living room and I took the train into my bedroom, closed the door, lifted the mattress corner, and tucked it a few inches between the mattress and box spring.  I felt like a champion…I won the battle of the choo choo!  Or so I thought.  About a week later…guess who had the train?!  I never thought about it, just thought he found it somehow.   Fast forward back to the present…I realized that I TOLD everyone where it was.  I spoke about it freely, assuming that Buddy either wouldn’t listen or understand.  Never thinking that he not only heard me, but understood EXACTLY what I was saying.

I am so grateful, for these 3 life changers.  Autism is a box, and I was keeping Buddy inside.  I am so glad that we opened the box and let my sweet boy out.  It may just be my perception, but Buddy has grown more in these last 5 years than in the 18 prior.

~ASM

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