I know parenting an autistic child is hard – because I am that parent. I’ve been so exhausted that I’ve actually stumbled and fallen down the stairs, breaking my tailbone and causing me years of pain that took even more sleep from me. I’ve lost my kid in busy malls and churches and playgrounds because he used to wander away with innocence, chasing whatever light caught his eye. I’ve been frustrated to the point that I’ve had to deadbolt all of the exterior doors to the house so no one could escape, and go into my room and shut the door and just fall on my knees, unable to speak words, sobbing silently for God to help me get through another day. I’ve cleaned up after the daily bowel movement accident that my 8-year-old had, again, wondering if I was going to have to be doing that when he was 18. I’ve sat through the meeting where a school administrator kicked our son out of their kindergarten program because the teacher just didn’t want him anymore. We’ve pulled our family out of a church we loved because our son couldn’t deal with the noise in the children’s church or the worship service. And, God help me, I know more about Stampy Longnose than I would ever want to know.
Our daughter was 9 when our son Scott was born. Around that time, she learned that all of the magical beings in her life (Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy) were not real and she was devastated. Not because these magical creatures turned out false, but because we’d told her they were real.
So, the first time I watched the first two episodes of of the show Parenthood, the overwhelming emotion that had me sobbing into my couch pillow really surprised me.
Really surprised me.
As we researched autism and all of the senses the condition affects, we discovered that to Scott — to his brain’s situational awareness in the world where all of his senses come in unfiltered and out of sync — his perception is that his life did depend on him clinging to me. Much like vertigo can attack someone with a fear of heights, as soon as those wheels wobbled even fractionally on his bike, his brain immediately told him that his life was in peril. No amount of encouragement could redirect him long enough to focus on his other senses and control the bike.
To our little third wheel, he felt like he was drowning while fleeing from a shark.