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In Their Own Words – What is Autism?

September 25, 2010 29 comments

This “In Their Own Words,” is written by Megan Winkler-Schmitt, who was inspired to write after her best friend’s son was diagnosed with autism.

I was thinking today, as I dried my hair, about what this mysterious thing called autism really is. I started making of list of what it is, based on what I’ve seen only, and I ran into the other room to write it down. I’d like to share it with you.

Please note that this is what autism looks like to me. These are the experiences I’ve had with it, and it differs from your own. I do not have a child with autism, but a little one very special to me and very dear to my heart struggles with it. I have learned so much from this little angel who is undeniably special and infinitely precious, and I see autism as something very real now. Let’s just say that for me, myths have been thrown out the window, and when you know someone with autism, you realize that what you thought you knew isn’t correct at all.

I don’t know why this jumped into my head. I wasn’t reading anything on it online. I wasn’t talking about it. I didn’t see a news program on it. But, sometimes, inspiration hits and you just have to listen. So, here are my thoughts. Please, please, share your thoughts with me, too.

 (And yes, I realize that it came out in very loose poetic form; it’s just how it works sometimes.)

 Autism is joy in little things.
It is pain and heartache.
It is the pleasure of bubbles;
the consistency of golden toast.
It is running through sprinklers,
because it just feels so good.
It is frustrated little grunts,
communication in screams,
a mommy who just wants to hear,
“I love you,” but even “Mommy” would be nice.

Banging your head against the wall,
it is the sleep of a sleepless night.
It is pleading and begging,
bargaining and weeping.
It is a mother and father clinging to one another,
and faith.

It is the crunch of a leaf,
it is the wind in your hair.
It is the simple joy of repetition,
the comfort of a pattern,
the security of routine.

It is unexpected moments,
of open-mouthed kisses:
those little things others take for granted.

It is loving a fluffy dog with your cheek,
and crossing your eyes,
just because the world looks curiously different that way.
It is inventing your own language
that only the fairies and Mommy speak.

It is struggle; it is strife.
It is imperfection,
but, then again,
so is everything,
in life.

It is tears and fears,
but it is simplicity and innocence.
It is not taking for granted,
it is cherishing, hoping,
running up a down escalator.

And if life is perfect,
just the way it is:
faults and imperfections,
second-guesses and small joys,
then what is autism but life,
lived in its own way?

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

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