Archive | 11:48 pm

How To Love A Boy With Autism

4 Apr

He gets off the bus, takes my proffered hand, then half-hops, half-skips in a straaaaaight line to the entrance. Patiently, he waits for the mechanized door to close, then presses the handicap access button that swings it open again. Still skipping, he makes it over the threshold and fixates on the lines on the floor. Several moments and some coaxing later, we go jump-jump-jumping into the classroom, where he puts his name on the paper school bus, to triumphantly announce his arrival. Exhausted by the effort, he looks up at me, his slanting eyes reflecting the sweetest smile, and I can’t help but strongly feel I was meant to love him.

Little C is 5 years old, a sturdy fellow with poker straight hair, slits for eyes and the occasional sudden laugh. He vocalizes in echoes, has inexplicable meltdowns, loves the security of straps and boundaries, and lives in his own world of strained communication and minimal social interaction.  C, who has only ever kissed two people—his mother and me—has an autism spectrum disorder.

We started off in a loop of unknowns, him and I, both newbies in a pre-kindergarten classroom. Quickly, his position escalated to Most Difficult Child, given his tendency to flop on the floor and resist efforts to remove him from inconvenient spots. That he radiated joy and was at peace with himself even amidst the anxiety that is typical of being on the Spectrum was overlooked by those keen to help him-fix him-pour him into a preset mould. I chose to be his one-on-one person every time I was in the classroom.

And there have been interesting times. Frequent battles of wills, the need to be hugged, chortles when tickled, tears for no apparent reason, grabbing my hand to be let out of his seat, and sometimes just to sit with me, my boy and I, we’ve come a long way. He still chooses to skip in the back of the class during Circle Time. Just this afternoon, I tried to get him to chase me and he looked the other way. But there is trust. And that incident, one afternoon, when he climbed onto my lap, drew his face to my cheek and pushed his puckered mouth against it, in a special Little C version of a kiss, followed by a wide grin on his part and stunned immobility on mine.

I must’ve been your mother in another lifetime, I tell him telepathically, not really expecting the message to get anywhere. But with that logic, I will have birthed dozens of children, my hoo-ha busier than the Suez Canal, because that storyline plays in my head absurdly often. Still, the feeling persists, and I brush it aside for more tangible things—like giving him his chewy toy and putting on his pressure vest.

“Squeezes!” I say, before hugging him tight, and he enjoys the sensory input before going all 5-year-old-boy on me and squirming away. I will be with Little C only one more time, before our paths diverge and we walk away. Correction: I will walk. Little C, my ray of sunshine, will skip-hop, skip-hop, to the beat in his own head, in a way he and he alone can. And I will collect one more stake in a heart that is littered with half a lifetime of such memories.