When my son was young I went to an autism conference, the speaker said during their presentation, “Autistic kids don’t fall far from the tree,” and everyone in the room clapped and agreed with him. Last week, I was reading an article that again read, “Autistic children do not fall far from the tree,” meaning they take after their parents. And when I saw the very same sentence in a book today, I thought, “I have to see how far from the tree my autistic son falls.” Me being the tree.
Now that my son is a teenager, I’m seeing more of myself in him, or him in me, not sure which. Since my brain functions best with lists, I made one.
Top 9 ways my Autistic Son and I are Similar (and I think it’s awesome!)
1. Repetition. While working out on the elliptical this am, I listened to the same song over and over for 45 minutes. I liked the beat and utilized the “repeat song” option. A true creature of habit, just like my kiddo. Maybe all those years of him watching the same Dora episode 9853 times wasn’t so “different.”
2. Rules. One of my self-imposed rules is that I don’t make left turns while driving. Hear me out, UPS drivers do not make left turns as a policy, so I’m not that cray-cray. First, I’m impatient, and second, I don’t like playing Frogger. My mind automatically maps out my route before I even depart my destination, using all right hand turns. My son plans out his entire day using his own rules. His whole universe is mapped out in his head, so when something goes out of alignment, he gets upset. Kind of like when I have to make left turns.
3. Sensory Processing Dysfunction. Both my son and I have huge sensory issues. Noises can be torturous, clothes itchy, smells hideous, motion sickness, and the list goes on and on. It’s a wonder we are functioning! We are learning to mange our sensory systems together and can always tell if either of us needs a sensory break.
4. Picky eaters. My son in an insanely picky eater, but so am I. And my food preferences are all out of wack from years of researching and trying different diets, fads, and crazes. Classic Yo-Yo! Add in gluten and casein intolerance and being highly sensitive to dyes, being borderline hypoglycemic, and meals are exhausting before we’ve even decided on lunch. My dream would be to have a magical chef to make it all better, but until then I’ll keep on trying to be as Betty Crocker as I can.
5. No = keep asking. If he gets “No” for an answer, he will dig deeper, make a presentation, badger me relentlessly. I’ll be asked the same request endlessly and respond with a no forever, but he will never give up. Ever. And neither do I. When I set a goal, I’ll move mountains, knock on every door, and sneak in the back way if needed. No is not really in our vocabulary. If we hear it, it just motivates us to try harder.
6. Debilitating anxiety. Oh how we have struggled with this beast, since both of us have suffered with anxiety our entire lives. I’ve learned to manage it with meditation, processing therapy, eating clean, exercise, and self reflection. My son has learned coping skills and a lot of times uses humor to get through challenging times. We both still have anxiety, but we are always working through it, often together.
7. Fairness. We like for things to be distributed as fairly as possible, with the same amount for everyone. My son scans the room, makes sure that everyone is taken care of and has an equal amount. Mostly, he’s still young so he wants to make sure no one got a bigger piece of cake than him or an unequal number of presents, but he does make sure the ones he loves are taken care of. I’m a stickler for fair too, maybe because so many things in life are not equal, we control what we can.
8. Hardly sleep. Neither one of us sleep very much, and prefer to go to bed super late. Usually, my fellow night owl and I are the only two people in the house still awake and it’s our quiet time to hang out and read or watch TV. With school and life, we’re up early, but when we do sleep we are like bears that hibernate, soundly with drool dripping out of our mouths. And if we ever get the opportunity to sleep in, we take it.
9. Grammar and punctuation are lost on us. Commas go where? Semi colon? No, thank you. I’ve studied grammar books as if my life depended on it, taken classes, online coaching, and nothing has stuck. So, when my son shows me his English papers and the punctuation looks like it’s been thrown onto the page like spaghetti, I know he’s inherited his lack of grammar sense from me.
What characteristics do you see of yourself in your child? Just maybe this list exercise will help you understand them better, or at least be able to relate to one another on another level. What I really noticed is that some of his behaviors that are seen as “different” aren’t that different at all. We all have our quirks. Yes, his autism is more than idiosyncrasies and he has struggles that I do not have, but it’s awesome that we do have so much in common.
I’m happy that I did this exercise and asked for his help, it was yet another thing that brought us closer together, as apple and tree. How far does your child fall from the tree? XO, Jackie Linder Olson