On my way back from the VI (Visual Impairment) centre I was so ecstatic about this experience (another one, since I have been working with these children for two years now) that I had to sit for a while in the car and reflect on various things. I parked my car next to a local shop to watch the people who were crossing the zebra line for just 5 minutes. I had no intension to observe anything in particular. I just wanted to clear my mind, re-organise my thoughts before I drive back home.
And there I saw him. A thin-tall young man, accompanied by a lady, probably his mom. I could not see his face; he was wearing skinny jeans and high boots and was walking on his tiptoes. I said walking... Well, he was actually flying. I watched him and recognized by his walking style all the autistic boys I have been treating for the past 15 years; I don’t know why. Maybe it’s my work that makes me be so observative. Then, he flew away and I had this moment of reflection and realization.
What have I created in my brain all these years! Boxes. Little wired Autism-boxes with classifications, symptoms, characteristics, high functioning, low functioning, verbal, non-verbal.
I’m not autistic. But I can easily pretend how to be one. And I admire all parents with autistic children. They are my super-heroes.
I have got what I like to call my “comfort-zone” which is a system that works like a balloon.
I sometimes blow it to stretch it out so that I can be likeable, productive, sociable, good parent – husband – friend - colleague and other times I keep it deflated and small, so that I can be on my own world, with my obsessions and unconscious repetitive routines, with no interest to connect and interact with others.
That’s how I visualise Autism in my head.
It is a constant battle, a non-stop negotiation between the parent and the child with the unique autistic mind. The parent tries his best to stretch out the balloon, that is his child’s comfort zone. The boy (I say boy because 90% of the autistic children I see are boys) uses whatever he’s got in his "arsenal", language, behaviour, repetitive self-stimulating / self-regulating / self-harm routines to keep the balloon small and non-expandable.
And this battle lasts forever.
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