Reframing autism

By Alive & Well


Recently I had to think about when I had had a stressful time in my life and turned it into a positive experience. This is known as reframing. Of course, autism came to mind immediately.

And this is what I wrote

via weheartit.comImagine having a child who exhibits behaviours that are really different to all the other children you know. Your child might rock back and forth in the same spot for minutes or hours on end, humming tunelessly. He might spin objects on their sides, anything from the kitchen plates to tissue boxes to pencils. He might watch the wheels turn on his toy car a couple of centimetres from his eyes, forwards and backwards, forwards and backwards.

That’s what my son used to do – he watched the wheels of his toy cars. And although it was a stressful time when he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, my initial reaction was: “I just want everyone to love him as much as I do.” That’s what I told the psychologist. I felt he was the most peaceful and gentle child I’d ever met. He was happy.

I knew that as an adult he would thrive and contribute. He would find his valuable place in this world. However, I recognised that he might need help to navigate the busy classrooms and murky playground waters of childhood. Searching for ways to help him in a world that views his behaviour as strange was challenging.

But what if those behaviours, instead of being strange and something to eradicate, were in fact the very key to understanding him. No longer did I need to stop him from doing them. I could look with fresh eyes that didn’t judge, but sought to understand the value of his behaviour.

Was he creating predictability? Was he cleverly shutting out all the other sensory information in his world, so that life was manageable? Happy even?

That is how I have come to view these activities.

And I’m not alone

The Son-Rise Program, the therapists at HANDLE, the play-based Occupational Therapists such as Shelly at Inspiring Possibilities do as well. We don’t see ‘strange’. We see a little boy who has learnt how to take care of himself. We see a way to connect with him by doing those activities too, like friends do.

Friends share. I can play my son’s games and find my own fun within them. I see a gentle soul who has come to this world to teach me the true meaning of love and acceptance. Of non-judgment, flexibility and generosity. Of the best that humankind has to offer.

This reframed view of the world is a much more positive and fun place for me to live in. No longer do I need my son to change and fit in. I can celebrate who he is and educate others to see his precious place in this world.

I enjoy that role. Life has lightness and joy and meaning.

When have you chosen to take a new perspective on something? How has it helped you?