My son, Malcolm, was diagnosed with PDD-NOS when he was three. I remember learning, long before I gave motherhood even a glancing thought, that former CFL quarterback Doug Flutie had an autistic son, and wondering how he could possibly handle such a thing. Finding myself in the same position didn’t answer my question, since each autistic person is different. And yet, all parents of autistic children face the same choice: learn to raise your kid, or abdicate responsibility. The latter never crossed my mind.

I should mention that the learning goes both ways. On one hand, I began to research the current wisdom about mitigating or “curing” the symptoms of autism; on the other, Malcolm began to teach me how to grow. My efforts have had limited success, by society’s standards — Mal struggles with complete sentences unless they follow a pattern, and is often unable to respond to “how” and “why” questions. He stims by forming shapes with his hands or making high-pitched noises at sometimes inappropriate times (like in the middle of a concert, which is why I only take him to shows that are very amplified). His instruction of me, however, is effortless, and while still a work in progress, has had far greater success. In no particular order, here are five things I have learned from my autistic son:

Patience

When he was very young, Malcolm was the fastest thing on two feet, but the years (and perhaps the medications I reluctantly added to his care protocol) have slowed him considerably. While he can do a large number of self-care tasks by himself, he rarely seems to see the urgency behind them unless I prompt him. If left on his own, he will do what he needs to do, but on a schedule that has no correlation to my often harried pace, and if I push him too hard, he resists. The thing is, the need to deal with him gently is good for me. I can’t say I’m always calm, but my urging him to do a good job because I know he can seems like a better parenting strategy than yelling that he’s going to be late. Either way, I get better results with honey than vinegar, and have found that the discipline I’ve learned in being forced to adopt this strategy carries over into the way I deal with other people. Most of the time, anyway.

Read the rest on Medium.

Stay in the loop!

Stay in the loop!

Join our mailing list to receive periodic updates from Malcolm.

Thank you!

Pin It on Pinterest