Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Zen of Autism

Sometimes I think my son would be worshipped as a bodhisattva in the Buddhist community.  He is perfectly Zen.  There is only now.  Each action is a pleasure (or displeasure) unto itself and outcomes are meaningless.  He isn't even attached to his artwork.  I could turn my front yard into a zen sand garden and he'd be perfectly happy to redraw it daily.

I think.

You see, I just don't know what he's really thinking.  He can't talk about it.  I don't mean in that "typical guy" way - he really can't express his thoughts verbally.  And when he writes, it's in bright fragments that don't connect.

And that's where the moments of displeasure come in.  Like last night, he started crying hard over some malfunction in a program.  "Why are you sad?"  "What do you want it to do?"  "How can we help you?"  All questions were met with the script, "This is the worst day ever!"

He just couldn't do it.  He couldn't say what he needed, because he works from moment to moment without a goal - without a plan - without an overarching idea, so when it doesn't work, he can't retrace his steps or tell where the problem is.  How can you find a weak link when there are no links?

(As it happened his free trial of "Videopad" was over and it's become his go-to for video and sound editing.   Guess what we just bought?)

Another example of missing meaning was when we went to the first meeting for Special Olympics for track.  He sort-of followed along, from moment to moment, but if he was too far from the person giving the instructions, he'd wander a few feet away and play kick-the-dirt or spin around.  Even running the track, he got distracted, started walking along the berm and eventually lost track of the other runners and ended up with the younger kids (the kids in his age group had long returned to the other end of the field).  He didn't have a problem with doing any of the things asked, but he clearly had no idea why he was there.  Why do you run?  What is a race?  What is competetion - or even sport?

If someone from another galaxy came to Earth and asked about competetion, how would you explain it?  "You try to do better than the other people."  "Why?"  "Because it's fun to win!"  "Why?"  Liam's social wiring is not able to take in the purpose of this getting-together-for-competetion idea.  In fact, if he's watching a movie or TV show and there is a bad guy, he will say, "NO - he's a GOOD guy!"  No competetion, no opposition.

In order to want to compete, you have to have an ego, and Liam shows no sign of it.  There is no value assigned to his ideas, his art or his work. It happened and it was fun or not.  Moving on.

So the little bodhisattva is both blessed to be so content and challenged to understand OUR need for meaning.  Because, one day, we won't be here to interpret for him, and others may not be as patient, kind or accepting of someone who wants, but can't say why and is brilliant, but cannot apply it to any purpose we can share.  We'll keep looking.  In the meantime - I'll work to appreciate the moments more - seems like there's some wisdom in that.

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