Hello all! It’s been many years of being MIA from this wonderful method of communicating, but it’s time to come back. I can’t think of a better time to start. We are now embarking on the teenage chapter of life!
My love for writing has been dormant for a very long time. It feels good to sit with my computer in my lap and let my thoughts flow. So much life has been lived and many changes have happened since I have last been here! I have decided to wake up my love of sharing our story. This is a wonderful creative outlet for me, but the overall intention has always been to connect with others out there that have loved ones in their lives whose brains may function different than whatever the f@#k “normal” is supposed to be in society.
I will be eternally grateful for my son coming in to my life experience. My mind’s view of the world has been broadened in so many ways. Thirteen years ago he flipped on a light switch in me. It has been a journey, but I am in a place where I do my best to learn and dive into a loving, accepting place for everyone I come across. I honestly don’t think I would have become the person I am today without him. (I could write a whole post on just that subject!)
It’s kind of funny…it seemed that during his actual birthday week, his attitude started to change. As I giggled to myself realizing that I definitely have a teenager now, I noticed right away that there will be a whole different set of challenges. I am sure that every parent feels that. The tricky part for me is that our situation is a bit different.
I hate comparisons, but sometimes they are necessary to make assessments. A very good friend of mine has twin boys that are 6 months older than Jasan. Occasionally we all get together and I watch her boys interact with the world. As our boys have grown, the differences have become more significant. Physical development obviously, same.
Mentally, very unalike. Not better or worse, just dissimilar. As you may guess, knowing what most of the world recognizes about autistic traits, reading social cues and interactions with peers run on different parallels. Neurotypical people have learned facial expressions and body language by default. Neurodiverse individuals struggle more in that regard, which I would assume makes living life in this society very effortful.
I have read many articles written by those on the autism spectrum that talk about masking. Masking would be defined as the act of hiding one’s autism related behaviors, as well as displaying socially expected behaviors, to fit in. It has also been explained that the process of masking involves applying social skills MANUALLY rather than UNCONSCIOUSLY. It requires constant focus, and effort.
That. Sounds. Exhausting.
It also seems unfair.
At this point, I don’t think that Jasan is experiencing this at a substantial level (yet.) He still does his own thing when I am with him; stimming the way that he does. At home he skips around the room, scripting videos from YouTube that are present in his mind at that moment. He always has his laminated pictures nearby (of whatever his interest is at the current time.) I have always presumed that those pictures are a comfort item. He literally has a few with him at ALL TIMES. His little pile will follow him around the house, and when he leaves for school he has a few in his hand and the rest that are meaningful that day go in his backpack.
At school they all remain in his backpack. That is the rule. This is probably helpful so he realizes he can function without them, because in his adult life that would be weird to walk around with laminated photos in his hands. (See? Right there. A form of masking that may occur. Having to act like the majority of the world and doing what everyone else does. In turn, he excludes a comfort item. Now, the comfort item may change and become something that doesn’t appear “odd” in society. But the point is, masking. An example of how it sucks.)
When we are in public, he has his iPad or phone in his hands. He has started to carry a bag or backpack wherever we go with his pictures inside. He is my budding photographer (yesterday we discovered that he has 34,000 photos in his phone right now!) but what he loves to take pictures of is entirely his own niche, and I absolutely love that about him. The reason I mention this is because when he is in action, I am SURE people are wondering why he is taking the pictures that he does.
Right now the main subject of interest is cars. He knows *almost* (but feels like everything) about models of cars and their aesthetics. His car photos always target the rear end of the vehicle. He also likes to focus on the license plates themselves.
So, you can imagine when we roll by a car that catches his eye in a parking lot and he jumps out to take a pic, people wonder WTF? We have even had to deal with some questioning why… or we just wait until people leave the area. (The easiest way, lol.)
We were at Woodfield Mall the other day and he noticed the address numbers on the bottom of the store windows. He crouched down and took a picture of each number as we walked past.
I had good friend participate in a craft show recently, and it was held in a large high school gym. Jasan’s eyes immediately took flight to the huge scoreboards with LED numbers and of course, he was totally all over that! Through the sea of people he made his way to each end of the gym and positioned himself, very obviously, to align himself with the best close up shot.
I stood behind him and noticed a few women nearby watching and questioning what he was doing. I usually look at inquisitive people and smile. It deflates the moment, of which Jasan doesn’t even recognize, but also makes me feel better. And hopefully, opens the mind of those that see him as strange.
Don’t judge. Just accept all humans for who they are. Instead of situations being weird, why can’t we as a society start to think, “Cool! What is that guy doing? Must be something interesting…”
Coming back around to social development, 13 year old autistic, neurodiverse Jasan compared to most 13 year old neurotypical kids is wildly obvious to me. The interests and conversations are distinctively different.
Having a group of buddies and talking about girls, playing team sports and starting to notice development of social circles in school is how I see the neurotypical 13 year old boys around me. Jasan, on the other hand, does not have a friend group outside of school. I highly doubt that he interacts with the kids in his class as if they are personal friends; he most likely just exists on his own in the same room with them all day.
He doesn’t like sports. He likes his school, but because all of the kids that attend are autistic, he is not experiencing diverse social groupings. That doesn’t exist there. There has not, even for a blip of a moment, been any mention of being attracted to another person in a teenage romantic sort of way. (THANK GOODNESS. I haven’t even began to wrap my head around that stage of life yet.)
Jasan currently seems to be happy in OUR bubble. Still hanging out with his mama and going on our version of adventures, or just hanging out each doing our own thing but in the same space. On dad’s days off, we have family days and he doesn’t want to stray from that yet…
He still finds joy in skipping in front of the house pushing the hand truck/dolly just like he did when he was a little guy. There are many little routines that continue to hang around that seem juvenile, but I envision his play on imagination during these times to be highly evolved. He doesn’t need anyone to walk along with him; he is happy in his own private moments of the movie he is acting out in his mind.
Now… I’m not going to lie. As I write this, I realize how selfish it is for me to want to hang onto this phase where he is cool just being with me. But, inevitably it will change, and I know that will feel weird. Sad in a way, but in the same breath, I always feel elated when he evolves. I feel unconventional in regards to parents who make mournful comments about their kids growing up. In my situation, these are exciting times. That excitement trumps the loss of the kid stage, every time.
The phrase “stay in the present” that we all hear often is my focus these days. I want to make a practice to keep it that way. Time is not slowing down. Independence is a wonderful thing that I am excited for him to embrace. I don’t want to miss a thing!
I think I’ll end this post here. There is a lot more to talk about as time goes on…
Thanks for spending a few minutes here with me.