When my boys were younger, I always felt I had to explain to people that they were autistic when they weren't behaving. And in the early years, Michael was really tough. David had his moments as well, but Michael was a terror. It wasn't until someone said to me 'Different is a gift' that I began to look at things in a new light.
I started an ebay business when the boys were young as my husband and I felt it was more important for me to be home with them. I would routinely take them to the post office when I dropped of my orders. Sometimes Michael would be impatient if we had to stand in line. One particular day, he was walking around the counter. He wasn't crying or being overly disruptive, just walking around and around the counter which was like an island in the middle of the room. There were about a half a dozen people in line. An older woman looked at me and snottily remarked, "what an ill-behaved little boy!" But that day, I was in no mood. Instead of meekly apologizing for something that wasn't even apology-worthy, I looked her straight in the eye and retorted, "He's autistic, what's YOUR excuse?" If she had been able, I think she would have crawled under the cabinet. She was next in line, completed her transaction and hurried out. A couple of others in line snickered. The postal clerk was a woman I had grown to know and she tried really hard not to laugh out loud. Michael was only four it was one of the few times he really wasn't acting that badly. That woman would have had a stroke if she saw him in a full blown meltdown!
We visit upstate NY a couple of times a year and have made some wonderful friends in Sharon Springs and Cooperstown. During one of the Garden Festivals in Sharon Springs we were speaking with Josh Kilmer-Purcell, one of the Fabulous Beekman Boys. We were discussing some of the challenges and concerns we had with the boys. One of things I brought up was how different they were and Josh looked me right in the eye and said, "Different is a gift. Different is good." And I will never forget that. I think that conversation actually changed some of my perspective and I cannot thank Josh enough for making me look at things a little more optimistically. He proceeded to talk with David and Michael about what subjects they liked in school and when he heard that Michael liked maps, he marched us right into the Beekman mansion and showed Michael the old maps of Sharon Springs that were hanging on the living room wall. They were thrilled (as was I) to get a peek inside Josh's beautiful home!
|Josh (Fabulous Beekman Boys), David, Michael & me with the Beekman Mansion in the background.|
We have learned autism isn't the end of the world. David and Michael may think and act differently, but maybe Josh was right and it is a gift. No one is perfect, not even the "normal" kids. Everyone is a work in progress. We couldn't love David and Michael any more or be any more proud of their accomplishments. And we continue to work on the little 'glitches' that need to be fine-tuned...Doesn't everyone?