|Wearing blue for #LIUB|
“We’re lighting it up blue for you tomorrow,” his father told him while wielding the ladder back inside. “You like it?”
“Why for me?”
“Because you’re autistic.”
“I know I’m artistic but what does that have to do with the blue light?”
It hit me then that we’d never actually called David autistic to his face. We’d never sat him down and explained what it means to be on the spectrum and while his entire life has revolved around being autistic to us, he’d never seen it as anything but his own life.
I wasn’t a fan of labels when he was diagnosed. I just didn’t like thinking of people as anything but people and denounced it when he was little. We always spoke of autism with hushed tones in our house not because we’re ashamed of it (quite the contrary if you know us at all) but because I didn’t want people identifying him by a condition instead of his name. I wanted him to just be David, my oldest son, not David my autistic son.
As he got older though, I realized that labels, when self-appointed or used to self-identify could be positive and should be encouraged. When my youngest came out, he wasn’t my gay son but… he was. When my daughter started dating a girl, she wasn’t lesbian, she self-identified as bisexual. But I never thought of David self-identifying as autistic even though, I’d started using the label when talking about my kids to anyone (and everyone as I’m just too damn proud of them not to talk about them to anyone who’ll listen) except that he didn’t self-identify as autistic because he doesn’t know he has autism.
For nearly 19 years, he’s lived his life in a special needs classroom, with kids just like him. He’s referred to kids outside of his classroom as “normals” but not because he thinks of himself as abnormal but because that’s what his classmates call them and he tends to follow the crowd. I realized yesterday that while we have worked hard to bring awareness to everyone he comes in contact with about autism, we didn’t make HIM aware of it.
|15 years of school, 3 years old to 18 years old|
You see, as an adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder, we have to prepare him for a world that’s not as insular as his life has been while in school. He has to work. He has to learn to drive. He has to prepare himself for self-sufficiency and he has to know that others will call him autistic to identify his needs as much as to identify him. I just hadn’t thought he didn’t already know but why would he? He’s David. Just David. Autistic. Artistic. Awesome!