Our son Sam is now 22 years old. Together we have discovered Autism first from a stage of confusion, then diagnosis and ultimately the journey toward understanding and adjustment. This journey hasn’t been taken by just Sam or me. The education and life-changing decisions included our family of four and those whose chose to remain linked to us either by love or simple curiosity. Autism became us. As we learned to navigate the education system, employment and higher education, we’ve taken you along.
Through our website Aspergers101, together we have reached for stories of enlightenment and searched to navigate our next stage in life. Now at age 22, driving and nearing college graduation, Sam has reached a personal plateau that bares sharing. With an absolute delivery he declared, “Autism does not define me”. He further went on to explain that up til now, he would introduce himself to educators, peers or the seldom few who initiate conversation as “Hi I am Sam…and I have autism.” He felt he owed them an ‘explanation’ for his social awkwardness, his lack of eye contact or his seemingly bland behavior.
When starting a new college course of study, Sam would introduce himself to the Professor and offer a checklist of behaviors that potentially might appear odd or off-putting. Sam has always gone under the assertion that he would advert the looks of dismay by acknowledging his diagnosis of autism. As of last week….Sam no longer feels that way.
As I listened to my son, who rarely offers such introspect, an overwhelming sense of grateful satisfaction overcame me. Sam had found his stride and genuinely felt contentment with all the wonders that are him! No explanation required, he will (as he put it) be known as Sam the person and not Sam the person with Autism. I wanted to share this plateau with you as you make your journey. Whether you experience this feeling for yourself or with a loved one, it deserves pause as it reveals how the person with a diagnosis suddenly realized they are a person first. That all the behaviors and obsessions are a part of them as they are for all of us.
We then discussed how he is now positioned to take the knowledge of his journey and share it with others who’ve just begun theirs. For any young person, finding their strengths while addressing their weaknesses is a big accomplishment. Realizing you’ve found that balance while diagnosed with Autism, well, it’s worth a blog and a bit of a celebration! (we take those where we can!)
I will concluded this blog with a declarative statement Sam made many years ago. A conference-attending Mom asked him the question sheepishly: “What does it feel like to have autism and should I tell my son he was just diagnosed?” Sam paused a moment and replied:
“Why would you not tell him? He should know why he thinks differently. Don’t think of Autism as a weight, think of it as a pair of wings with which to fly.”
I think Sam has found his wings.
by: Jennifer Allen/Founder & CEO Aspergers101
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- Autism Does Not Define Him - February 8, 2018