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.
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.Add a Comment