Voices of Autism: ‘I Love Jonah for Who He Is’

Every day throughout April–Autism Awareness Month–we will be featuring a different reader-submitted story about living with autism. Today’s story was written by Amy Wink Krebs, mother of Jonah, 9, and author of the blog Normal is a Dryer Setting.

Jonah_Krebs My son Jonah just turned 9, and while it seems he was a baby just yesterday, so much has happened in those nine years that I can easily accept that almost a decade has gone by.  It’s hard to believe there was a time when Jonah accomplished things before most kids his age, but he did. He held his head up unaided at 10 days old, walked on his own before he was nine months old, and took to water so naturally he was swimming before we could even consider teaching him how.

But we worried he wasn’t progressing like his peers in other ways. And we worried over what he was doing–spinning, grunting, and engaging in repetitive actions that seemed meaningless. Then came the diagnosis, when he was 22 months old: autism. Our only child had autism. I suppose if there is a good time to have a child with autism, this is it. 

And yet I don’t think people typically recognize autism when they see it.  News stories about autism seem to focus on those at the higher end of the autism spectrum. I’ve never seen any show or story highlighting the struggles, behaviors, and triumphs of those on the lower end of the spectrum–kids like Jonah.  As a result, I think most people end up with an incomplete understanding of autism. 

Recently, in line at a big-box hardware store, a lady in front of me had a 5-year-old boy with her. The boy was happily clutching a wooden key-hanger, painted and covered with stickers, which he’d just constructed at the store’s free workshop. I complimented him on his creation and his mother asked me if I had children. “One,” I answered. She recommended I bring him to the workshop. I could have simply agreed, but I decided to speak up. “My son has autism,” I began, but before I could continue, the kind clerk assured me the autism wouldn’t be a problem. “He’s kind of low functioning,” I tried to explain, and the clerk told me he would be happy to go in the back and get materials for me so we could do the project at home. “No thank you,” I declined politely.

The idea of convincing Jonah to sit down and piece together a project, then paint and sticker it, almost made me laugh aloud. Somehow the teachers at his school will occasionally persuade Jonah to complete a creative task, but lately even they’ve had trouble getting him to cooperate. 

Lower-functioning kids on the spectrum are out there – you just might not recognize them. Maybe you don’t see them at all. Maybe they’re at home because they’re too violent, or they’ll try to wander away. But they’re as significant a piece of autism’s puzzle as high-functioning kids. I love Jonah for who he is. More often than not, people try to be inclusive and understanding, and that’s worth more than all the expertise in the world. So thank you.

Happy birthday, precious boy.

To read previous stories in this series, click here. For instructions on how to submit your story, click here.

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  1. by Alysia

    On April 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Amy – thank you for sharing your story. Your love for your son comes through with every word. We too shy away from, well, almost everything. All of our kids are pieces of the big puzzle. Thank you so much for highlighting yours.

  2. by Ilene

    On April 7, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Amy — Thank you for sharing your story of Jonah. My 4 year old twins both have “Classic Autism” but at this point we can’t say whether they are higher or lower functioning — they are who they are. But I understand keeping them from certain activities because I just can’t imagine how they would handle both the activity and the other children participating. Thank you for speaking on this subject about your son. He is lucky to have you for a Mom.

  3. by Maya

    On April 7, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    It’s interesting. I have a son who is higher functioning, and people tend to give us a difficult time about his diagnosis because they only picture the kids who are lower functioning. Because our son is now verbal we get a lot of “oh, he doesn’t have autism, he can talk” comments. It’s beyond frustrating! There is so much confusion in the general public about what autism is that I guess people are going to make assumptions about the diagnosis no matter where on the spectrum our children fall. Thank you for sharing your story, and happy birthday to Jonah :-)

  4. by Barbara Manatee

    On April 13, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    I can see view from both ends of the spectrum. I am a teacher for kids with Autism. I’ve taught for 11 years and I’ve had high functioning kids, low functioning kids, verbal kids, nonverbal kids, kids with behaviors and the calmest kids ever…each child is so different. Its hard for others who aren’t aware of what the spectrum really means to ‘get it.’

    your son is lucky to have a mom like you who does!

    April is Autism Awareness Month. I’m dedicating my blog all month long to Autism.

  5. by Build A Gaming PC

    On June 20, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Great article and right to the point. I don’t know if this is truly the best place to ask but do you folks have any ideea where to get some professional writers? Thx :)