I recently read an article in which a young man with autism discussed what he’d like other people to know about autism. I wondered if I posed that question to Ryan, what would he say? What surprised me were his responses. It started in a manner that I expected; his first comments were about stimming. Children with autism like to stim, and Ryan is certainly no different. He described how he waves his fingers as a stim that allows him to relax and feel calm. He could even recall that he began this stim at three years old, which I thought was remarkable.
From there, he turned to school – admittedly, this was a difficult time for us both. He did remember a principal from middle school who was exceptionally kind to him. However, I did not expect him to focus on many of the challenges he’s faced. Some were so long ago, even I had forgotten them! Yet he remembered the date, the location, and exactly what occurred. Frankly, I have always thought he’s had many, many more accomplishments than difficulties.
I am first and foremost a believer in the power of positivity. I strive, both at work and at home, to create a positive atmosphere and deal with challenges in a positive manner. This conversation reinforced my belief that each of us should strive to make every interaction, when possible, a positive one. We never know how strongly, or how lasting, an experience can be for a person emotionally, whether they are typical or not.
I am grateful for this (unexpected) lesson from Ryan… and amazed at how much he teaches me every day!