Autism looks different in every family because autism is different in every person. My experience with autism is unique and different from my friend’s experience with her son with autism. There are similarities, yes. The frustration, and the damage to our sons’ brains is the same. But her son exhibits behaviors my sons don’t and vice versa.
Raising identical twins with autism definitely had (and has) challenges. They are almost 22-years-old now, and many of these challenges have integrated so much into our daily lives, that I forget other families don’t live like we do. (Yes, the twins still live at home with us.)
Because of autism, I have numeric key pad doorknobs on my bedroom and office doors. This is because autism in this house loves to rifle through closests and drawers. Most of the time it results in something being broken or ruined. It only took us 21 years to finally install locks. I don’t know why we waited so long. It has solved so many problems. Why a keyless entry? They can pick locks or twist the doorknob hard enough to get in. Also, keyless keeps me from having to carry a key with me all the time.
Because of autism, my expensive watch (a gift from my husband) was broken the other day because I left it in the kitchen after removing it for doing dishes. Autism tried to wear it. A 22-year-old man’s wrist is a lot larger than mine. And I have exceptionally small wrists. I don’t know when I’ll ever have the time or money to get that watch fixed.
Because of autism, I can’t leave my laundry basket in the laundry room when washing clothes. I have to lock my clothes up in my bedroom and take them load by load to the laundry room. Then, I have to guard the dryer very carefully so that nothing gets stolen. Autism loves the sensory input Mom’s soft, warm clothes provide.
Because of autism, my husband and I can’t go anywhere alone because the twins can’t be left unsupervised. If they are, they could rifle through every drawer, eat every morsel of food in the fridge, or worse, burn the house down (they are fascinated with candles and, well, fire). Plus, if you’ve ever had twins, you know the nuclear fallout sibling rivalry can cause. They don’t know their strength. They are the best of buds when things are going well. But you never know when a fight over the remote can erupt into a firestorm. (There’s that fire thing again…)
And yes. Sometimes? Autism sucks. But beause of autism, I get to laugh every single day at the funny things that happen. Like the times we ask the twins to drive their golf cart to the store (close to home) to get something and they come back with a very literal load of something. If you send them for five bananas, they’ll come home with five bunches of bananas. If you send them for a large can of something, they’ll return with a gallon can.
Because of autism watching comedy is a lot more fun. Watching them laugh is the best part. They’re the best chortlers. Taking them to the movies is the best. Even people in the theater get a kick out of how tickled they get. It’s awesome.
Because of autism I know the theme songs to almost every cop show on TV. I not only know the theme songs, I have the scripts memorized.
Because of autism, I never have to wonder about the weather. I get hour by hour updates by my very own weather men.
Because of autism I see things differently. I’m more patient, kind and tolerant. Little things don’t get to me. I have very few pet peeves. There’s a different level of normal for me. I can study and read in a hurricane. I can tune out a train coming through the living room. I’ve learned how to go with the flow. I’m more flexible than Gumby and have amazing reflexes for a grandma. I can catch anything coming at me or falling off a table. And messes? What mess?
Because of autism I’m a good shot when throwing things across the room into the trash bin. Because the twins didn’t potty train until they were almost nine means I’ve changed diapers for 21 years straight. (I had other children and foster children before we adopted the twins.) I’ve thrown my share of dirty diapers into a bin while holding down a child having a melt down. Right-handed, even. (I’m left-handed.)
There are drawbacks to this autism thing. There are. But there are far more blessings when I stop to look for them. I pray I continue to focus on the blessings. I’m no saint. I dislike the meltdowns and the inconveniences and embarrassments autism brings us at times. But if I can focus on the blessings, I can face it with joy each day.
In this house, we see autism as a type of gift. Its wrapping isn’t very pretty. It’s downright ugly at times. But I guarantee these young men have given me much more than I’ve given them. Much, much more.
Because of autism in this family there is love. So much love. And I think that’s the greatest gift autism brings. I’ve learned to love unconditionally and outrageously. And the twins’ love for everyone around them is boundless and pure. I’m grateful I get to experience it. So, so grateful.
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