Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Step 10: On what the fearlessness of autism has taught us.

Brandon has many "internal" challenges related to autism.  He's non-verbal, developmentally delayed, he has epilepsy and gastrointestinal diseases.  Yet on the "outside" he is pretty typical.  Physically, he is exceptional.

I think that before he learned to walk he was jumping on the trampoline!

He has always loved to climb as high as he could.  I remember times of my husband and I being in a complete panic thinking he slipped out of Fort Knox, aka our house, to wander off.  But no, we would eventually find him on the top shelf of his closet.  Just casually and carefree sitting there playing with his straws with a big smile on his face, just as if he were sitting in a lawn chair outside.  When we had an above ground pool, we had a deck around the ladder to get in the pool, and he would walk around that 2x4 railing that was about 8 feet off the ground just as if he were walking on the sidewalk. In our two story house we have an open foyer where there is a balcony.  I remember the day I walked through that entryway and looked up to see Brandon walking back and forth across that balcony rail.  Like two stories high with tile the only cushion should he fall.

He is fearless.

When you don't understand danger, when you aren't "smart" enough to know that you shouldn't do something, you have no limitations in doing anything. When you just see what you want to do, where you want to be, nothing stops you from getting there.  It took me a long time to realize that about Brandon's fearlessness and what it eventually taught me. 

When I would see him on the closet shelf, all I could think of was, "What if he falls?"  When he would walk around the top of the deck railing I could picture him splattered on the cement slab below.  I always saw danger when I would see him doing those things.  I would never see it in how the view was so beautiful up on the mountain that it didn't matter what danger you had to get through to get there.  The view was simply worth it.  For Brandon, whatever it was he got out of being up so very high, it was worth it for him to get there.

Brandon's insatiable love for being up high has taught me that. Brandon's fearless way of living has inspired me to live a less fearful life.  To just focus on the goal, not the dangers that could prevent me from getting there. To just see where I want to be, and not let my "intelligence" stop me from thinking I can get there.

When Brandon starts climbing on something, it is not a clumsy haphazard attempt.  You can see him calculate his steps.  You can see him start out slowly yet deliberately.  He is careful yet not fearless.  If his foot wobbles, he steadies himself, but does not get scared and stop.  He doesn't ever think he can't climb something. In his mind there is no "I can't."  It is simply, "I will walk this deck rail."

I have to laugh a sorry-kind-of-wasted-life laugh when I think of how many of us highly intelligent perfect people who have every resource and ability within us, waste opportunities to exceed our wildest expectations simply because we see the danger or doubt of even allowing ourselves to consider having a wild expectation in the first place.   We're so busy calculating the risks that we never get to try.  All the while there is my son now walking on the rail of a porch swing.  While the swing is swinging!

You can't think your voice doesn't count, you've got to be fearless in raising it anyway.

You can't think your actions as an autism advocate/activist won't make a difference, you've got to just be fearless and forge ahead where before you know it, you have made more of a difference than you'll ever know.

You can't sit at home paralyzed by the fear of autism, all its dangers, limitations, challenges, or the thought that you will never get anywhere or your child achieve anything because of it.

You've just got to live fearlessly in seeing where you want to be, where your child needs to be, and get out there and start climbing right over autism and anyone or anything that stands in your way and conquer it.  Conquer them.

And trust me, the view from on top of Mount Autism, is worth it.

I can now see why my son loves to climb so high...

Maybe that's how he's fearlessly leaving his own autism behind.