7 of my son's traits that I wish I had

Tulika Prasad

Like most individuals on the autism spectrum, my son has his fair share of challenges. Most days, we are focused on how to enhance his life experiences and enable and empower him towards a more independent life. I know that people probably look at him and either pity him or sympathize with us. However, in the midst of all these, what people fail to see are the extraordinary traits my son has. If you spent more time with him, you would realize how little credit he gets for all that he is, mostly because his autism casts a huge shadow over everything else people could see or appreciate in him. Or probably, it is because of his autism that he has these extraordinary traits that most of us strive for.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not eulogizing my son’s autism. Almost every single day I wish he did not have the challenges that he has, so it might sound counterintuitive that I want to have some of his traits , but hear me out and decide for yourself. Here is a list of the top 7 characteristics of my son, I wish I could have.

Mindfulness is defined as “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment”. If this is correct then my son is the master of mindfulness--always living in the moment, relishing it, tasting its sweetness, chuckling on its spiciness, and making the most of it. I have never seen him worrying about what’s going to happen next or jump to a different thought than what’s in the now. I think he gets this because of his autism. He is not an overthinker. He thinks in small, tangible chunks. That probably keeps him in the present and really see it for what it is. Most of us are so caught up in obsessing about the past and focusing on the future that the present mostly slips out of our hands. He, on the other hand, really celebrates the present in a non-judgmental way. I wish I had this ability to live a moment to its fullest, just like him and accept life as it comes rather than fussing over every bits and pieces of my being.

Ability to forgive/move on
Considering that my son’s autism makes him different, he has had many incidents where he has been discriminated against or treated differently, thought less of, or faced insensitive people. While I cannot get over that moment and brood, sulk and even get enraged, he seems to have moved on. While I fill myself with rage, he can walk away from a situation as if it never happened. I know he is very perceptive. He might not speak much but he can make sense of situations pretty well, so he clearly knows what transpired, but that does not affect him as much as it hurts me. I get hung up. He moves on. I wish I could do that. This alone would make my life so much more peaceful.

Art of being happy
If you have met my son, you know I am not lying when I say that if there is one thing you will remember about him it would be his smile that reaches his eyes. He seems so happy and content with his life. Most of us, if we don’t have a reason to worry, will find one. For us, being happy needs a very strong reason, being stressed is our perpetual or sometimes preferred state of mind. If I sit down to compare my son’s everyday challenges with another person twice his age, my son’s list would put many to shame. Still, he seems happy in what life has given him. He has his meltdowns, of course, but beyond that, if you are looking for a poster boy for bliss, it has to be him and the content look on his handsome face. He seems to walk with an air of cheer around him, spreading some giggles and magic wherever he goes. It’s easy to get infected by his cheerfulness. What is more difficult is to sustain it the way he does. I am learning from him but I know I have a long way to go.

Love, unadulterated
Ok, I have to say that a tight hug from my son can fix almost anything. His hugs are prolific and therapeutic. They don’t come with a condition and they don’t see your color, class, country, or your diagnosis. He wants nothing in return and he needs no reason to love you. I have never seen him hold a grudge against someone, or get turned off by people. I have always seen him flash a smile, give a warm hug and make people feel loved. If we had half of his judgment-free, no holds barred way of loving people, the world would be a more wonderful place to be in. There is absolutely no place for bitterness in his heart. He just loves. Pure, unadulterated love.

Having no vices
Have you ever noticed a baby? Their face has a particular innocence you will not find anywhere else. I believe that is because it reflects their soul – pure and guileless. This is how my son is. As we grow more world-wise, while we gain wisdom, we also take on a lot of vices- jealousy, deception, hatred, arrogance. I see none of these in him. He is as pure as a newborn baby. His soul, as innocent as a child. This is the most beautiful characteristic of his autism – the purity of his intention and his being. I know he is only 12 but it is easy to see glimpses of jealously and meanness at this age. I see not an iota of vice in him. He is as simple, and innocent as they come. If this is what developmental delay looks like, I wish we all had a bit of it.

No pretense
They say those with autism have a hard time understanding social cues. While this makes it difficult for them to navigate the world and interact with people, it is also a characteristic that makes them very special. They do not know how to put up a pretense. They speak/show their heart all the time – true inside out. While we have learned the art of pretense, putting up a different facade every time a situation arises, they do not know how to do that. My son is honest, sincere, and transparent. That’s all he will always be because he has autism.

Speak less, say more
I have said this multiple times, words are overrated. I live with a severely speech-delayed son and a dog. They both don’t know how to have a conversation, but I love to sit and talk to them, listen to them and see their thoughts. Most of us get entangled in the web of words – playing with words to sometimes sell and sometimes get sold, to be understood and many a time misunderstood, to hurt and to heal. We use words all the time but for someone like my son, communication is more than using words. It’s in his actions, in the way his body moves, in how his eyes express what his heart wants to say. Sometimes the most beautiful things are said when they are unsaid. I want to learn that from him – the power of communication that transcends words. I am not saying that his speech is not a concern. It is. I would give an arm and a leg for it, but even without it, he can say so much, and how he says it is an art I want to learn.

If you would notice, there is a theme to these qualities, they all arise out of the ability to appreciate life and judge none. I have seen this in almost every autistic individual I have come across. I don’t call my son special because of his needs, I call him special because he genuinely is. The qualities that he has, I wish more of us did. It would make the world a much better place. Others see his autism and get blindsided by its “difference”. They don’t see the beauty that lies behind that uniqueness. If they did, they would embrace rather than ignore him. He is like a rainbow, it’s the world around him that is color blind.

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