What I‘ve learned from my autistic son
This April 2nd 2020 is different and unique. Never before have we experienced how autistic people feel and what they know from birth. Most of these people (including my son) don’t know or understand time, money, honour and power. Paradoxically, these things are (or at least have been until now) the most valued things in the modern world. For some people, they might be the purpose of their lives.
My son recognizes morning and evening according to whether it‘s light or dark outside the window. He describes ‘tomorrow’ as ‘I go to sleep and wake up’. He only knows that Saturday and Sunday are the two days when he doesn‘t go to school. Just imagine how much happier and less stressful we would be without having to constantly watch the clock and rush everywhere. I think that many of us during this crazy period are secretly happy that we don‘t have to set an alarm because we don‘t have to rush anywhere. Right now we have a great opportunity to enjoy every moment and realize that ‘here and now’ is the key.
“He enjoys the smallest and cheapest things that make more sense to him than the mountains of toys he could get.”
My son doesn‘t understand or value money. I have convinced myself more than once that for him it has been simply a tool, but not a purpose in life. Once upon a time, when his special interest was car models, his favorite was a particular make and model that cost exactly 1 euro. I remember that year, just before Christmas, we asked what he would like to get from Santa. We knew the answer, so my husband and I bought probably all his beloved models for 1 euro from all the nearest shops. Feeling guilty that this gift from Santa is very ‘cheap’, we also bought a big expensive toy. When he opened the big box on Christmas morning, we only saw a lot of frustration and disappointment on his face… But when he saw his ‘dream’ car models it became clear to us that size, price and quantity were not important to this little man. He enjoys the smallest and cheapest things that make more sense to him than the mountains of toys he could get.
Just recently, when we were in the supermarket, he asked me for money because he wanted to buy some sweets independently. I handed him a 2cent coin because I was pretty sure he will lose it anyway. My husband and I were giggling at how naive he was, as he clearly didn’t understand the value of money. But at the same time, we came to the conclusion, that for him money is just a tool to buy an item and this is actually not bad… It would be much worse if he, like some children of his age, stole money from our wallets to impress his friends.
“<…> he is sincerely happy for the others and likes to say to his opponent: ‘you are the winner’.”
Honour and power are another things that autistic people do not always understand or seek. I have repeatedly seen other kids wanting to race with Linas in the relay race because he always lets them win. He is so sincere towards the others that he even stops at the finish line and sees his rival catching up with him, even when he comes first. We often laugh with other parents about it, but at the same time, I am proud of my son. Even though he knows he is faster, he is sincerely happy for the others and likes to say to his opponent: ‘you are the winner’.
On this World Autism Awareness Day, my wish is for everyone to look at autistic children and adults with a slightly different perspective. Let’s learn from them to appreciate what we have and to love the people around us, not to be jealous or focus on what we feel we are lacking materially. Let’s try to be happy with their achievements and success. Hopefully, this difficult period will help us to realize that time, money, honour, and power are temporary and unimportant – and that neither money nor any amount of it plays any role in this nor in any other virus or disease. My dearest son, thank you for teaching us to be better people every day. Let’s celebrate this 2nd of April!