11/26/2011

Gratitude

As many of you know, my brother has Asperger's syndrome. Looking back on the eight years (wow) since he was diagnosed, I feel overwhelmingly grateful for all the skills he's learned and the confidence he's gained. While my family and I have supported him every step of the way, all the hard work has been his. Here are all the ways we've been blessed the last eight years, in no particular order.
  • He was diagnosed in a time when a concept of learning disabilities existed, so we knew he wasn't just a bad kid.
  • He was diagnosed at a time when we knew refrigerator mothers don't cause autism.
  • He was diagnosed at a time when kids with autism weren't automatically institutionalized. We knew college, a job, and independent living were possible for him.
  • He was able to get speech/language, visual-motor and social skills coaching when he needed it.
  • His therapists never abused him (not even "quiet hands" style).
  •  When he needed it most, he had teachers who loved and understood him and a school flexible enough to accommodate both his disabilities and his brilliance.
  • Even when his behavior was at his worst, his school never gave up on him and kicked him out.
  • My parents struggled with his diagnosis, but they didn't feel like they lost their child (or communicate that to him). They never grasped at pseudoscientific or dangerous cures. 
  • He can communicate his thoughts, feelings, and needs, verbally and nonverbally (though mostly, he talks about video games and Dungeons & Dragons! :D).
  • His peers like his sense of humor and accept him. Not bad for high school. He doesn't get invited to parties much, but he'd probably say parties are overrated anyway.
  • He's learned to prevent himself from having meltdowns, particularly at school.
  • He was once unable to write (organizing his thoughts was too much, especially combined with the physical effort of writing). Now he's a prolific and creative writer.
  • He's learned to understand metaphors and figures of speech, ask about what he doesn't understand, and use quotes in an appropriate context. If you hit on a topic of shared interest, he's an enthusiastic and witty conversationalist.
  • While he's still a picky eater, he's expanded his repertoire considerably.
  • He can now usually pass. (We have always told him he can choose to break the rules, but he's got to know what they are).
  • He's made a friend who shares his interests!!!
  • He works hard to be polite and kind to others, but he's not willing to turn himself into someone else to be popular. He'd rather hold out for true friends. (If only more NT kids had that kind of backbone!)
  • The world is no longer a terrifying, senseless place to him. 
  • While he knows he has things to work on, he's confident in who he is.
He's happy, confident, functioning well, and yes, still quirky and aspie. I wish we could have seen this eight years ago.

I hope my Internet friends with autistic children will have similar changes to be thankful for. I hope my Internet friends with autism have found, or will find, the same confidence and inner peace my brother has. Happy Thanksgiving.