It has been a long time since I wrote a post about what I love about autism. In the time since I wrote that post Avi has changed and grown a lot. I may have changed a bit too. In light of these changes I thought I'd update my original post.
It is impossible to know how things would have turned out if Avi did not have autism. Perhaps some of the things I love about autism would have been true even if he was not one of the 1 children in 88 diagnosed with autism, but since this is the reality I know, and the reality I embrace, this is what I love.
I love little victories. I love that I have learned to accept victories both big and small. When Avi was born I imagined all of the things that he could be: the president, an athlete, a father. The day of his diagnosis most of the things I had hoped and imagined for him were dashed. I still have so many hopes for him, but mostly I hope he's happy. I love that I have learned to celebrate his little victories as well as the little victories of others. I believe it makes me a more whole human and a better father. This song by Matt Nathanson called "Little Victories" is one of my all time favorites because it reminds me of how important learning the value of little victories is.
I love little moments. Little moments can happen when you least expect, or even when you least want it, but I love them. The little moment that stands out most in my mind was one of Avi's middle of the night awakenings. I was exhausted and he was happy and energetic. He was trying my patience without trying to. Suddenly, even though I was frustrated, he gave me a huge hug and kiss. Would this moment have happened if he did not have a sleep disorder related to autism? Possibly. A similar moment would definitely have happened, but I recognize that this moment did happen and I loved it.
I love the person that Itai is and the person he is becoming. Again, he could have turned out just as sweet and caring as he is now, but studies show that siblings of children with chronic illnesses or disabilities frequently score higher on measurements of empathy and compassion. Itai is certainly empathic and compassionate. I love that he will follow Avi to make sure he eats enough, that he tries so hard to help Avi speak, and that he makes sure to share with Avi, even if his style of sharing is slightly more 60/40 than 50/50. (Hey, he's a toddler, of course he's not sharing perfectly!) Itai loves his brother and is learning empathy and compassion for others.
I have always enjoyed different perspectives. I love reading books by people whose lives and life experiences are different from my own. Even if I don't agree with everything they say or think, I enjoy seeing things from another angle. Avi has certainly brought a new perspective into my life. He literally sees things differently than I do. Sometimes I am completely surprised by what he sees and what he thinks. Autism has also given me a new perspective on everything. I love looking for similarities between autism and the non-autism world.
I love the bond I have with Avi. My bond with Itai is strong. It is strong because I love him for who he is. For the great things he does and the happiness he brings me, but I also love him for his constant striving to overcome his shortcomings. My bond with Avi is no different. I love him for all of the same reasons. I love him for all he is, and part of who he is includes the things that come with autism. Perhaps some of the bond comes from a realization that Avi does depend on me. I believe he and I would probably have shared a loving relationship even if he did not have autism, but autism is a part of our relationship and I recognize that. Whether he wakes up tomorrow and suddenly does not have autism or not, our bond is eternal and I love that.
During the summer I read a book about play therapy by Gary Landreth. He emphasized that all behavior is communication. Even a child who does not wish to speak to a therapist is communicating something. I read this and started thinking of Avi. I love that he communicates. I love that he communicates that he loves me. I love that he tells me that he loves water, he loves running, he loves jumping, he loves climbing and he loves school. He hates nuts (good thing because he's allergic to them!), he hates leaving the pool, he hates sitting for dinner and he really isn't interested in TV that doesn't involve the Little Einsteins.
Autism has certainly complicated my life. It changed my plans, my views, and my perspective. But I have learned that changes do not have to mean a negative. I still cannot say that I love everything that autism I can say that these are some of the things I love about autism.