These two are the men in my life. They are confident, strong fighters who not only have the endurance to plough through their own problems but somehow manage to be my inspiration and driving force in everything I do. It’s hard to put into words how much he’s done for Chris, for all of us. Currently, he’s working 12+ hour shifts as a chef in one of the most popular hotels in our area. I didn’t see him much while I was in Cyprus but I know that everything he does is for us. He worries about our past/present/future, health, happiness; everything.
When Chris got diagnosed he was a rock. Both my parents became glue – they never gave up, they never let go. They did absolutely everything. I never remember them breaking down, or crying; they did it at their own time. No one can understand the pain of a parent of autism. No, not because the child is autistic, but because they are helpless against it. I never remember them falling an picking themselves up; they were always up, ready to go.
I’ve talked about my dad’s sacrifices, how he developed a whole menu for him in previous posts so, for now, back to the routine business.
If you’ve been reading previous posts, the theme is that an autistic routine is not the same for the entirety of someone’s life. There are people who live their lives following one single regime, because like i said before no two people on the spectrum have the same symptoms.
When he spends his time with my dad, he likes to play with a box of beans. This is a Winnie the Pooh box containing beans (ranging over the years from black eyed beans, broad beans, kidney beans, lima beans etc). Much like the whipped cream mentioned in previous post the texture, sound calms him down. It relaxes him and he looks forward to it. It’s important to not condemn such repetitive actions. Autism has certain sensory needs that we cant understand, so when an activity meets those needs its important for us to let them go through with it as often as possible. Other than that, he likes to play Wii Olympics which he is very good at, he used to play with his (my) game boy, watch cartoons (generally looney toons, Hysteria, Tom and Jerry etc) or Disney films.
They will prepare his meals together, like i mentioned before we have a special recipe for everything he eats and he loves helping and contributing to the process. He can basically make egg and lemon soup, curry, rice, pasta and sauce by himself but obviously we supervise. He also likes all the dishes to be cleaned up, he used to take care of his own but somehow fell out of the habit of doing so. This is one of the downfalls, you juggle so many things with the routine because everything that comes naturally to us doesn’t to him. He has to see it in his programme and if it slips through the cracks a couple of times its a struggle to get it back in. The first day I arrived I asked him to wash his cup – we fought for 5 hours – he did it but i never heard the end of it. When my dad isn’t working crazy hours they do activities together. They take walks to the beach, they use to play catch, tennis, ride his bike, but the one activity that Chris asks for is going to church. There’s a little church near the sea close to our house and my dad does the unofficial maintenance. They go there every week, sometimes more regularly, and I don’t know what it is but he loves it. Maybe its the calm, maybe its the routine.
My point is, you can demolish their wall, you can break their routine, you can make them listen. It takes strength and patience, consistency and persistence; and I know you have all these qualities.
When you see that kid on the playground that seems a tad too old to be there, or uninterested despite their parents every effort, be kind. It takes a lot more effort to ignore autism than to embrace it. Don’t condemn our kids to being alone in the playground. Educate yourself, pass it on to your children. Make our world accessible to everyone.