This “In Their Own Words” is by Shelley Stolaroff Segal. Segal is a playwright, performer, and essayist living in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her latest play focused on autism and race and was performed at the Manhattan Repertory Theater and TEDxEast. Her fourteen-year-old autistic son, Josh, is her divine inspiration, as is his equally divine twin sister, Jordan.
It’s that time of year again. Time to reflect on the past twelve months and count my blessings. 2011 was a strange ride, full of jarring twists and turns. I’ve lost a few marbles but added a dress size. My son, Josh, a low-functioning but charming fifteen-year-old, is still in the throes of puberty. (Geez, will it ever end?) Despite some cognitive regression, his social skills have improved greatly. He knows more restaurant managers than I do. Good thing, because I’m a lousy cook. So, I will give thanks for my son’s growing sociability, his love of school and family, and recognize a few more of the year’s blessings:
*I’m grateful that Josh likes the cafeteria as much as I do. We try to arrive around 4:00 to miss the dinner rush.
*I’m grateful that Josh’s limited vocabulary is becoming more age-appropriate. Gus, one of his longtime aides, has taught him how to say, “I want to drink beer at Hooters.” It doesn’t matter that Josh doesn’t understand what he’s saying. Gus is still delighted.
*I’m grateful that only chemicals give me headaches instead of the pubescent odors that assault my nose every day.
*I’m grateful for Josh’s laugh.
*I’m grateful–thrilled actually—that my son and his twin sister, Jordan, are going to the same school for the first time in their lives. Schlepping them to and fro every day is a pleasure. Really. I tear up sometimes when I watch them walk in together. Jordan hugs her brother goodbye and shakes hands with his classmates before beating the bell to her own class.
*I’m grateful that I don’t pull my hair out over Josh’s seizures. It falls out painlessly.
*I’m grateful that we haven’t given up on Josh’s speech.
*I’m grateful that Josh is obsessed with “sook.” With school. Every morning he shouts the word deliriously in the shower, and at the table, and from the rooftops. “SOOK! SOOK!!” It’s only a problem on weekends and holidays.
*I’m grateful that the thickening hair on Josh’s legs is finally covering his bug bites.
*I’m grateful that homecoming weekend was more sweet than bitter. I allowed myself to cry only for a minute when nobody was around. I always thought my twins would be double-dating in high school. But I was thrilled for my daughter, who looked radiant, thrilled about her very sweet boyfriend, and thrilled that my son didn’t care one bit about what he was supposedly missing.
“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 email@example.com. 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.