Before getting into the field of autism, I had some pretty clear expectations for what ‘autism’ was, based on my experiences with Jon. To me, autism was: Rewinding a movie to watch the same scene 20 times over? Check. Always getting to sit in the front seat no matter who calls ‘shotgun’? Check. Obsessed with pop? To this day, Check. Refusing to listen to me when I was his babysitter? A million times check.
Now that I’ve had many more experiences with individuals on the spectrum, I’ve come to realize that some of what I think of as ‘autistic traits’ is actually just Jon being Jon. Individuals (with autism) are so unique – they have their own strengths, interests, emotions, frustrations – none of which is limited or defined by their autism.
So how many parts autism, and how many parts individual? Does it really matter?
One of Jon’s personal traits is that he LOVES to retell stories from our childhood. As you know, Jon doesn’t have great communication skills – he can struggle to carry on a conversation, express his emotions, or ask other people questions – but he is awesomely verbal when recalling memories (see Walking the Turtle post).
And the best part about this trait? He cracks himself up when he talks about the ridiculous things he used to do or the crazy situations he would get us into. Even though many of these situations were, at the time, incredibly stressful (i.e. him driving the van into the side of our house when he was 6), Jon manages to find them hilarious now. He retells them in a way that has us all laughing. It’s a pretty endearing trait – 20/20 hindsight at its finest.