The upside of autism

When I did a Google search to prepare for this post, I discovered that The Wall Street Journal had published an article with the same title at the end of March. That wasn’t what I was looking for, but it still seemed like a good omen.

What I was actually searching for was a Storify version of tweets with the hashtag #autismupside. Earlier this month, I was up in the middle of the night. I had logged into Twittter, and my feed was full of autistics and parents sharing the positive aspects of autism. Every other tweet included #autismupside. It made me smile.

The Twitter campaign was launched by the Autism Women’s Network as part of Autism Acceptance Month. I’ve linked the Storify versions below. I recommend you click on at least one of the samples to read some lovely, positive comments.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

I don’t know what Philip would consider an autism upside, so I don’t claim to speaking for him now. However, I know that I’ve grown to appreciate his eye for detail. I used to put that on my résumé, but I’ve come to realize that my claim is a complete fabrication. In all honestly, I’ve always been one to get so engrossed in a television show or book or some other task that I don’t pay attention to what’s around me. I can’t tell if a coworker has changed her hairstyle. I don’t notice when they tear that old building down. “When did that store go out of business?” Don’t ask me, I’m oblivious.

Philip, on the other hand, helps bring things to my attention. A few weeks ago, we were out for a walk when he froze in place on the sidewalk. He was looking at the neighbor’s house, but I couldn’t figure out why. Of course, that’s because I quickly glanced at it and then moved my attention elsewhere. We’ve lived here for almost two years. I know what the house looks like.

Philip wasn’t moving, so I realized I needed to copy him. I stopped, not just walking, but from thinking about other stuff. Once I was still, I looked in the same direction as he did. Even though we’ve walked or drove by this house hundreds of times, I knew I needed to really look. I took my time visually sweeping the front porch until I spotted it: a decorative object hanging along the eaves. It was a birdhouse shaped like a camper.

I had never noticed it before.

In all honesty, I probably would never have thought about it again, but Philip likes to stop each time we pass to make sure it is still in place. So, I stop with him and watch it dangle there. Then, we move a few steps and stop to look at the bird feeder hanging in their backyard. Half-way up the block, another resident has a shiny globe hanging near their front steps. If we happen to start our walk in the opposite direction, we find any number of hanging objects to gaze at as we stroll.

In moments like that, I truly embrace Philip’s autism. I love how he finds delight in everyday objects. I guess most children do that, but first you have to notice them. While hyper-awareness must be draining and anxiety-inducing at times, the moments when you spy new things or take comfort in seeing familiar objects once more are an upside to autism.

U is for upside.
I’m writing on the theme of autism acceptance as part of the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge.


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