Glass half-full: The gifts of autism

From the Asbury Park Press Online (New Jersey, USA) is this incredible article by the father of a 10 year old autistic girl. Though I usually try not to put long excerpts of posts/articles, Chris Collins’ words really hit home with me. (The emphasis in the excerpt below is mine.)

Lessons

During the last seven-plus years, we have learned more about love, appreciation and the things that really matter in life than we could have ever imagined. Nikki is an amazing human being who teaches very strong lessons each and every day.

One very significant characteristic of autism is that she only sees the world in a literal sense. There is no sarcasm, exaggeration, substitution or lies. Everything is what it is, and what a wonderful influence and lesson that has been for our family.

One recent day, while on vacation, my wife and I were casually talking about the possibility of every finding a cure for autism. My 12-year-old son, Christopher, quickly interrupted and with tremendous conviction and emotion said, “I hope not. I want Nikki to stay exactly the way she is.”

We as a family have no illusions and do not labor in the belief of a miracle cure. My wife and I know it is a very difficult road ahead. Every day brings new challenges in the world of autism.

Nikki will most likely live with us for the rest of our lives. She will never have close friends or ever be interested in the fun things that are so important to little girls.

We know that the stares and the embarrassment over her peculiar behavior in public places will be there forever. We know that every public venture or event could have the potential for unknown adventure.

We also know that having Nikki has been a gift that far exceeds anything that we could have ever hoped for in life.

Perspective

Although a major characteristic of autism is the need for sameness, a day does not go by that Nikki does not do or say something new that makes us stop and think about how special her perspective on her surroundings is.

She’s a little girl who loves Christmas but couldn’t care less about gifts. It’s the lights, the decorations and the warmth that she feels in the house that make her so happy. One year it took until June for her to open the last of her Christmas presents.

As a family, we have chosen to appreciate that gift and live our lives, thankful every day for an autistic child to be part of our lives. We have made the conscious decision that we would not let autism slow us down, but rather allow it to make the ride of life more rewarding.

Really, I wanted to emphasize the whole thing. I think I would get along very well with Mr. Chris Collins and his family.

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