The boy plops down beside me on the couch and puts his hand on top of my head. He is preoccupied with my hair, to the extent that my lengthy locks have to spend most of the time living in a scrunched-up knot. Today, however, my hair is down, and the boy is making the most of the opportunities this provides.
As he runs his fingers through my hair, sometimes twirling, sometimes tugging a little, a thought runs unbidden through my mind.
If he didn’t have autism, who would he be? What would he like to do? Who would he play with? What summer activities would he ask to be signed up for?
Almost instantly, the thought is gone. I realize that it doesn’t matter. He is who he is. He is himself. He likes to play on his computer, assemble endless Mr. Potato Heads, and read his Biff and Chip books. He loves his family and enjoys playing with his little brother until the party gets rough. When he needs downtime, he’ll take a blanket and pillow outside and lie down on the back lawn. He likes junk food as much as the next kid, and he can go through endless quantities of milk. He’s not big on watching TV, but he loves going to the water park. He plots world domination with his brother and doesn’t always listen to me.
In other words, he is a kid with likes and dislikes, odd little quirks, and attachments to the people he loves. Just like anyone else.
Autism is a part of who he is, but it does not define him. If he didn’t have autism, he would be himself, just the way he is now. Maybe he would be a more social, verbal version of himself. Maybe he would play with other kids and be in a sports team. Or maybe he wouldn’t. It doesn’t matter. Asking myself what he would be like if he didn’t have autism is as pointless as asking what his brother would be like if he did have autism.
As he sits on the couch playing with my hair, I look over at him. He has a dreamy look in his eyes and a winning smile on his face.
He is himself. He is happy.
He is mine.
(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle. This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle.)