Friday, December 31, 2010

The Teacher

This space is usually reserved for my thoughts on the world of business or an occasional semi-coherent rant about assorted nonsense.

Today I wanted to mention my finest teacher on how to be a decent and better human being.

That teacher is my only child, my eight year old son Sam. Sam has Autism. Sam is verbal and can show affection. For parents whose autistic child can do neither, my heart breaks for you. I'll never know nor feel your special type of sadness.

My son is very different from other children his age. Because of this, Sam does not really have any friends. Though he very occasionally mentions the loneliness this brings , he is a very happy child. He is unflinchingly kind to others, regardless of how others may react to him. He is, literally, incapable of judging others. He is almost entirely unaffected by praise or criticism. His "disability" allows him to live without any regret for the past or fear of the future. He's the ultimate Zen Master, living only in the present. He appears to be incapable of employing guile to trick or misrepresent in any way. His literalness- a trait of all people on the Autistic Spectrum- renders him incapable of baldface lying. (He can fib a bit..though he spills the truth after a few seconds).

Much of what I mentioned above is true for all Autistic people. It's part of the reason why many people close to Autism insist the search for a cure is wrong. I have mixed feelings. I'm scared to death of him one day being alone in this world.

Sam has a VERY hard time doing numerous mental and physical activities that most children his age have either mastered or are becoming quite adept at. I don't know if Sam will ever be able to live what society calls a "normal" life. In some respects, he has a tough road ahead. We're a social species and everything that falls under that realm is exceptionally difficult for him. He does not posses any savant-like abilities so he will need to be interdependent if he is one day to be independent. (Roughly 10% of Autistic people have a savant-like talent. Most people not close to Autism think that number is much higher...not so).

I would be lying if I claimed to never feel self-pity about certain things that will never be part of Sam's life. It doesn't last long, however, because spending just a few moments in Sams' presence morphs that self-pity into boundless gratitude.