Our beloved 4.5-year-old son, Kasra, is autistic. And it has taken a huge toll on our family. Not because of how he has been affected by autism, but because of the way I was.
I have been particularly ignorant about the autism spectrum and the characteristics of a high-functioning autistic person. My wife Shadi, who has been more informed on the subject, noticed early signs in Kasra and had brought them to my attention. I was adamant her observations and interpretations of his behavior was incorrect and, at points, even delusional.
My ignorance and denial lasted for years, as did the stress and anguish it caused Shadi. In fact, when we went to a specialist a few weeks ago, I opened the conversation with, “Doctor, I believe my wife worries unnecessarily”
It was no surprise that Shadi shut down. She quietly, yet very effectively, worked with our son on her own. I am ashamed of myself for being so ignorant and having caused this amazing mommy so much anxiety, insomnia, and unnecessary stress. All this agony was on top of the loss of our beloved little dog Tisa in 2017. Tisa was the cornerstone of our family. We miss her every day.
I have deeply, sincerely and repeatedly apologized to my lovely wife. But an apology is not enough.
In addition to taking full responsibility for my behavior, my goal now is to do everything I can to change course. And to share my experience in the hopes that no other family will have to go through the same thing.
Kasra may be different from a typical child because he is autistic, but that doesn’t make him less than. He is not abnormal. He is atypical. He does not have anything that needs to be cured. He is wired differently. He runs on a different operating system.
In general, he is more interested in things than people. Social interactions, verbal communication, and maintaining eye contact are not his strong suits at this point. His strengths are many: He is super smart. He knew the solar system by age 2 and the periodic table at age 4. He has an astounding memory and is able to read and write in English, Farsi and some Spanish.
Kasra is very good with analytical things, math and geometry, science, visualization, imagination, and art. He knows any random number up to gazillion! He is highly visual, so communicating with him is more effective when you show instead of tell him things.
There’s nothing wrong with a person’s gender identity, sexual orientation, race, physical challenges, etc. However, women, LGBTQ, blacks, people with disabilities, and other minority groups have historically faced misunderstanding, degradation, mistreatment, segregation, exclusion, and discrimination. Animals, too, have often been abused or even killed for no other reason than simply because they exist.
I read somewhere that men are from Mars, women are from Venus and people with autism are from Pluto. The more a Martian understands a Venusian, the better he understands that women are about sharing, emotion and connection. The more a Venusian understands a Martian, the better she understands men are more about mission and direction. Where men seek to feel appreciated, women seek to feel heard, understood and supported.
The same applies to an autistic person – and any other minority group. The greatest harm in this world is caused by a lack of love, understanding and positive attention. It’s caused by being unwanted, ridiculed, excluded, misunderstood and mistreated.
The more we are aware of the intricacies of each group, the better we can communicate. The more we love, understand and reach out to other living beings, the better our life experiences will be, both for us and every being around us.
As one of my favorite quotes says:
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes – the ones who see things differently…. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things.”
I am convinced Kasra will change things. He will change the world. In fact, he already has. He’s affected a lot of people through discussions, opened up people’s minds and mindsets, and helped raise awareness about autism.
We will continue to do everything in our power to make sure he lives a balanced, fulfilled, purpose-driven life, that he grows and contributes, and touches many more people along the way.
I know our family is on a long journey. We will have many challenges to face, many lessons to be learned, many pearls of wisdom to be acquired, and many beautiful things to be experienced. I am grateful my eyes have finally been opened so I will not miss a moment of it.
Please feel free to share your thoughts, questions, concerns, and inspiration with us. We would welcome it.
With love and respect,
Photo courtesy iStock.