|Posted on August 9, 2012 at 8:05 PM|
When Matt was first diagnosed some 23 years ago the professionals of the day considered autistic children incapable of showing true emotions. I look back now and smile, but back then it made me furious. There really wasn't anyone who knew anything concrete about autism then, even though some professed to know much.
The one behavior that each would spout but was totally wrong was that autistic individuals were basically unable to display real emotion. My experiences with my autistic son Matt, has made it indisputeable - there is plenty of emotion; sadness, joy, fear, love, - it's just not as obvious sometimes. Autism does not a mindless robot make. Over the years I have seen plenty of emotions. Empathy and love are the 2 emotions that are sometimes difficult to see - but they're there.
Let me tell you about a recent example. I had surgery a few weeks ago on my back and have been unable to sit comfortably at the computer for any length of time. I am just now getting back online from what seems like a very long absence. My mind has been on increasing my stamina, learning to walk and taking care of myself. Of course, my mind is also on how Matt deals with mommy's physical limitations. I have included him in the healing process - he immediately rose to the challenge. I first talked to him before the surgery. He knew the pain I was in and helped me around the house and with shopping and taking care of our three dogs. After surgery, he has been more than willing to get me up and moving again. The doctor suggested that I walk each and every day and so I have asked Matt to help me. We dress warmly and go out on the deck. Matt juts out his elbow for me to grab and then escorts me as we walk around the deck. His face shows both concern and strength. He slows at the steps and waits as I take the stairs. He knows I am determined to walk around the deck 3 times before heading back inside and keeps count as each lap is completed. Matt then opens the door, blocks the dogs from jumping on me, and escorts me to the couch where he then puts on a movie for us to sit and watch.
So what's the big deal? First, Matt demonstrates patience as he walks me around. He never hurries. He leads me away from any snow or slick areas and slows at the steps. I didn't tell him to slow down or to watch for ice - he just knows. Second, he blocks the dogs from jumping on me. We have big dogs and one good leap toward me could knock me down, but I don't worry about it after seeing Matt instinctively protect me from even the possibility of harm. These things demonstrate empathy.
After our walk we view a movie - which until lately was something Matt rarely ever did. He likes watching most movies alone so he can talk and laugh and act out certain scenes. Lately though, Matt and I have watched movie after movie for hours on end. Matt wants me to stay seated - I guess he doesn't trust me to just sit there without him (which, I must confess, I would not). Matt selects the DVD and also acts as the projectionist, which means I have nothing better to do than sit. This demonstrates caring and love. Matt wants me to rest, which will lead to me getting better and stronger.
Of course, everyday Matt shows he loves me. I get hugs. He hugs me when he gets up, when we finish our walk and again every night at bedtime. And he says, "I love you, momma", everyday, several times a day. It's obvious that he loves me. So if you come across any site that has "inability to express real emotion or show emotional bonding" listed as a trait of autism then you know it's pure BS.
Autism is not static. A young autistic child may at first appear not to care, but that by no means indicates they don't. If autism is anything it is dynamic and ever changing. And that brings with it another emotion . . . hope.