Tonight, my son Ethan will join several other students from his school district to speak on a panel to teachers, administrators, parents and other members of our community. I am very excited, proud (and just a slight bit nervous) about the event. Ethan loves the spotlight, so I know that he will enjoy speaking to everyone about how Asperger’s Syndrome impacts his life. This panel is the brainchild of our school district’s lead In-Home/Parent Trainer. I love that she asked herself, “Who better to learn about 'Autism Awareness' than from the students who live with it every day?” Simply brilliant! I shared an invitation with friends, family, neighbors, therapists, Ethan’s teachers & doctors and other local parents raising children with ASD. I’ve been very touched by the interest level and number of people taking time out of their evening to come learn more from Ethan and his panel mates.
Ethan and I have worked together over the past several days to review a set of prepared questions (for which Ethan dictated answers and I typed as quickly as I could). Most of his answers were just about what I expected them to be. Further, most of them were painfully short (so I gently prodded for additional details). However, I was surprised when Ethan more or less chose (respectfully) not to answer a question; he said it was “too personal.” Wow. Too personal? This from my little guy who has been such an open book with teachers and classmates (strangers in the grocery store even) about how autism and Asperger’s affect him? Again – WOW. Ethan is growing and maturing and needs to know that it IS okay not to share things with others that feel “too personal.” The fact that he is to a point in his life where he’s able #1 – to recognize that, #2 – to honor it and #3 – to verbalize it respectfully, well – it makes my heart swell with joy. ♥
The past 5-½ years filled with special diets, intensive (and various) therapies, countless doctor visits, daily supplements, lab tests (blood, urine, & stool) at regular intervals, empty bank accounts, book reading, internet searching, conference/workshop attending, parent support group lurking, social story writing, worrying, celebrating, more worrying…and so much more…well – it is all paying off!
Just hours away from Ethan taking the stage with other brave kids in our community, while I know he’s going to thrive in the spotlight (and will probably even improv a few answers that will make me cringe and/or blush), I have to share that I’m eternally grateful for something in Ethan’s life that’s “too personal” to share with the general public. Well really, more concisely, I’m grateful that he understands that it is “too personal”…that’s he’s carefully filtering what he choses to share about himself with others. Parents of typical children probably view something like this as a natrual step (one of many) on the road to independence, but for us, this is a HUGE leap in the right direction.
Leigh Attaway Wilcox is Editor in Charge of the internationally acclaimed AutismSpot.com and her work can be found on many of the pLDNetworks sites. Leigh is the author of ALL BETTER: A Touch-and-Heal Book published by Piggy Toes Press in 2007 (now available for digital download via Moving Picture Books). Leigh lives in North Texas with her husband and young son who loves reading, LEGOs, Mario Bros. and also happens to live with Asperger's Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder.