Autism in my life

For those of you who didn’t know:

My older son has what I describe as mild to moderate autism. He’s happy; he smiles; he talks; he reads; he does math – add, subtract, multiply, and learning to divide. He’s very affectionate: I know he loves his brother and me, and he knows that we love him.

He attends a private nonprofit school for kids with autism. Learning things is both easy for him – deep down I believe his skills are there – and hard: learning is sometimes really slow. It takes a lot of work for him to focus: far more than those random adult who describe themselves as “a little ADD.” His memory plays tricks on him: he was able to teach himself the sign language alphabet from a placard at the playground and the capitals of all 50 states, but at the same time he can’t reliably remember what he ate that day for lunch or dinner. In some very fundamental sense, he knows what matters to him and pretty much ignores the rest.

I work regularly at trying to give him more and more responsibility for his own life. After all, as I’ve written before, self-determination is the touchstone of freedom.

I’m not sure what his future will be, in much the same way that I don’t know whether my other son will go to Caltech or Stanford or Allegheny or MCC. But I know that my son’s life will get better; every day his future improves, and that might be all that really matters. After all, isn’t that what matters for all of our children? I’d rather they be happy freelance poets than miserable, insufferable, self-medicating, suicidal neurosurgeons (or lawyers).

Feel free to ask me questions. This isn’t any big secret in our lives.

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