Through Other People's Eyes
by BrianRobinson
Aug 03, 2011 | 1972 views |  0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

You adjust things to be your new normal.  When Tracy was pregnant with our little guy, if someone would have told me the things we would have to do for Xander, I doubt I would been as accepting and cavalier about it as I am today.  Normality is different for everyone and you get used to whatever circumstances you're in.

In the same way you get adjusted, you also accept what you go through as normal, and normal it stays.  Sometimes you're so immersed in your normal that you don't notice small, incremental changes.  At camp, many counselors mentioned how much more Xan was talking since last time and how verbal he was getting.  I didn't see that, since I'm with him all the time and small changes/little improvements blend together into day by day normal.  But people who hadn't seen him for a while noticed.

So new people see Xan different than I do. 

Tracy and I see Xander differently too.  I tend to be more cautious and nervous about him trying new things.  If I had my way, he'd probably stay home a lot more - I've seen the meltdowns and had to deal with the damage, and that's things you don't want repeated.  Tracy, though, wants to see him do things and is more willing to take 'risks' and push him a bit more.  It's a good balance between us - she won't let him stagnate and I can keep him with what he can handle.  I'm happy for that.  I know that sometimes I choose the safety of routine over the chance of new experiences, which is not good.  I need her to see things her way and push me out of what I'm used to.

So Tracy and I see Xan differently.

Because Xan is high-level, sometimes I have a problem.  People will talk to him and he'll do various things in response.  Maybe echolalia, where he repeats the last few words said to him.  Perhaps covers his ears, or keens happily at them, or holds out his hand in a gimme-high-five gesture.  Sometimes I don't know if I need to explain he's autistic.  There are times when an explanation is mandatory.  We were shopping, and next to us was a family with a teenage girl.  She was wearing something shimmery and Xan was fascinated.  So he leaned out of the cart and began stroking it...unfortunately, the part he reached was a part you don't stroke in public.  She turned around ready to be upset - most justifiably - and I rushed in to apologize and explain.  She forgave me, let him touch her shirt some more, on the sleeve, and her family and I talked a bit. 

Other times, I don't know if I should make an excuse for him or just not say anything.  Is whatever he's doing at that moment normal enough that it's not a big deal, and my explaining sets him apart when he didn't need to be?  That may seem strange, but I don't want to jump into giving him a reason to be different if it's not needed.  Cases like that, in my mind, come down to if Xander understands - is he aware of social cues and choosing to ignore them, or does he understand and I'm not giving him a chance to be 'normal'?  It's hard to say.  Many parents of autistic children, once communication is set up in a give-and-take conversation, find their kids understood a lot more than ever thought, in all areas.  When my mom died suddenly last year, we didn't think Xan would really understand what was going on - we explained it to him as best we could, but I guessed that given his youth and his autism he wouldn't wholly get it.

I was so wrong, and that's stood out as one of my biggest regrets.  He ended up breaking down at the graveside service.  He also has never asked to 'go see Nana' since then.  He was grieving without crying.  Maybe someone else would have noticed that - I didn't.  He seemed his usual self.  Maybe someone else would have seen clues he was in mourning. 

Perhaps the biggest reason he needs to do more is so I can see how other people see him, and what they notice I don't.  Maybe he can see more of himself too, reflected in other people's eyes.

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