Many people on the Autism spectrum credit their Autism for their intelligence and personality. While they strive for a “person first” attitude from the public, they insist that every fiber of their being is wrapped in their Autism and to separate them from the Autism would alter them in ways that are undesirable and maybe harmful. I respect their right to their views. After all, they have ASD and I do not.
At the same time, I question the accuracy of such views. What are they based upon? Many people are brilliant without having ASD. Many people are funny, sweet, adventurous, anxious, depressed, etc without having Autism. For every autistic trait there are countless other individuals who experience that trait without having ASD. For every personality trait, there are people who experience that trait with and without ASD. Since there is no cure for ASD, who is anyone to say how it would affect personality or intellect?
I happen to think my son is smarter than most give him credit for being. He is an excellent problem solver when motivated. He taught himself to read phonetically rather than using “sight” words. He has an excellent sense of direction. We can be any where that he has been even once and he knows which direction his favorite eateries and stores are located. At some point in his academic career, he was given a calculator for math but his new school is teaching him touch math and he has done beautifully…even to the point of being able to do without it for all one digit addition and subtraction and some double digit numbers. He can’t play an instrument but he loves using his drinking straws for drums. He even has certain straws that he uses to make certain noises. He keeps a beat. He sees me crying and he tries to comfort me. He is funny. He will lightly stamp your foot and wait for you to jump and down and say “ouch” and he will do the same if you touch his feet. He loves to tickle and be tickled. He is affectionate, freely giving hugs to those in his inner circle. He is an adreline junkie. He loves roller coasters, swimming, water slides, and boating. He also loves to travel and see new sights. He hates loud noises and the other children in his class scare him when they have melt downs. Finally, he is academically lazy. Some might try to convince me that he is all of these things because he has Autism. I say they are wrong.
You see, my son’s personality is this unique and delightful blend of me and my husband. Alex has all of my spunk, passion, and attitude but he also has his father’s charm…making him much more likable than I am. I happen to think my husband is brilliant. He has tested out of classes he has never studied. His math skills far outweigh my own (which I admit isn’t that hard to do) and he has lost none of it in the more than 20 years he has been out of school. He can play a few musical instruments. He has an excellent sense of direction. He has also always been academically lazy. Both my husband and I love to travel and have inner adrenaline junkies. We love swimming, water parks, and roller coasters. I don’t care for boating but my husband enjoys it. I also have problems with loud or repetitive noises. Some bother me so much that I find myself doing whatever possible to leave the environment.
Each of my son’s most endearing traits can be directly traced to either myself or my husband. Even some of his less endearing traints such as trying to sneak his way of school work or being stubborn can be traced to us. Neither of us are anywhere near being on the spectrum. Knowing that much of my son’s personality can be traced back to us makes it difficult for me to believe that if a cure were available, it would change the very foundation of who he is.
My son has a lot going for him and alot working against him in life. I hope that when he thinks of himself, he thinks of himself as more than his diagnosis. It would sadden me if he was so wrapped up in a word that he thinks that one word is all that defines him and without it he wouldn’t have a life worth living.