The Light of Trust

An Essay By Jenny // 6/16/2007

I am new to this site - though only new to writing on it, I've been a "lurker" for quite some time. My life journey has been an interesting one, at times full of stony roads and thorns, and at other times smooth and flower-lined. I graduated from my family's homeschool many years ago (my youngest sister is the last one learning there), and now I am passing on this particular blessing to my own little boys.
I recently wrote out a description for a writing class of a time when my oldest son was very young (he's nine now), and I thought this might be a good place to post it. If anyone is interested in further information on life with this particular issue I have a website dedicated to it at:
Spectrum Perspectives.

The Light of Trust

His screams echoed off the walls. Every person in the small shoe store was staring at us as I forcefully carried my flailing son through the aisles of shoes and out the door. It was humiliating to endure the stares and judgments of complete strangers, but at least I had managed to get outside without anyone offering me unsought advice, “Don’t give him his way now, or you’ll regret it.” “Just swat him a couple of times, he needs to learn you’re the boss.” “Children, especially toddlers, are looking for boundaries; you need to be the one in control.” Strangers didn’t realize that my small son was not angry, or throwing a temper-tantrum, he was just scared. While much of what they said was true, it simply did not apply to my son. I held him tightly against my warmth, trying to calm him and keep the autumn wind from taking his breath away as I walked to the car. In the shelter of my arms his panic began to subside, and I concentrated on calmly humming a favorite tune in his ear. The only place he really seemed to be at peace was in my arms. I was his anchor in the storm of stimuli the world engulfed him in, and he trusted me completely.

Safely in the confines of the car, I shifted him over to his car seat and buckled him in. It was time to go to our favorite park and take a break from the rest of the world. Taking my son almost everywhere was hard because he just couldn’t handle confusing environments with too much sensory input. For a while I thought his reactions were related to my parenting, and that maybe all the strangers were right. Still, even in my greatest moments of self-doubt I knew in my gut that my son was different, and I had been chosen to be his mother for a reason. I tried to focus on taking him places with calm, predictable environments as much as possible, and this particular park was one of our favorites. Others rarely visited it outside of the summer season, so with the onset of autumn we were free to enjoy its peace without human interruptions.

The drive was long, but the time we spent at the park was worth it. Two little arms reached for me as I opened the car door, and I smiled at my little boy as I carried him over to the swings and carefully sat on one. The autumn sun shone through the branches above us, tracing patterns of light and shadow all over the ground. The air carried the scent of recent rain: wet earth mixed with what my mother called, “The Smell of Green.” This early in the season the foliage was still alive and vibrant as it reveled in the few moments remaining before the great sleep of winter arrived, and it gave the air that scent of “life” my family loved so much. In the distance the roar of the creek created a canopy of sound over us, but we wouldn’t be going any closer to it since the water was so high. My toes traced circles in the rich, damp earth at my feet as I gently nudged the swing back and forth rocking at just the perfect rhythm to encourage peace. On my lap my small son sat nervously; at about eighteen months his environment upset him much too easily, but I really didn't know why. My head and shoulders curved over him, as if sensing his need for protection, and my arms wrapped around the swing chains, snuggly pulling his tiny frame against my strength.

He was so little, just a small boy, brilliant and full of life. The blue of his eyes was unlike any blue I had ever seen. To compare them to the blue of the sky or the blue of the sea just didn’t do them justice. In the sunlight they seemed to shine a light of their own back at the world around them. Looking at his face I could understand why the ancients believed sight was created by rays coming from the eyes, instead of light being received by them. The smile on his face lit up those eyes from within, and his golden hair finished off the angelic effect. He really seemed to come from some other place, heaven perhaps, another world certainly. Light was his first obsession, and he never tired of watching it play in the world around him. As the wind danced in the trees, it made the shadows and light dance together on the earth at our feet, and he thought the dance was mesmerizing. In environments like this, his unique sensory system seemed to experience the beauty on a level others could never really know. Yet, in the rest of the world this strength became a debilitating weakness, and he needed me to help him feel secure in the overwhelming flood of stimuli.

I watched him as he gazed at the world around him. He was wearing a multi-colored sweatshirt with jeans, and his ever-present “light-up” shoes I had to replace earlier in the day. I couldn’t get shoes on his feet if they didn’t light up when he walked, no matter how many times I tried. This was not the insistence of a child who just wanted his way. Shoes that did not light up actually caused him intense fear that would throw him into a screaming panic. It was my fault he had a meltdown in the shoe store, every once in awhile I thought maybe I was imagining his struggles and pushed him too far trying to make him like everyone else. I shouldn’t have tried to put those other sneakers on him, but it seemed so reasonable at the time, and I hadn’t even thought twice about it. My entire experience of motherhood was summed up in the saying, “Hind-sight is twenty/twenty.” In every decision I made I tended to “second guess” myself, and I often felt I was wrong more than half the time. Yet, my son continued to trust me, and he looked to me as his source of comfort and stability in an ever-changing world.

Anyone who saw the two of us sitting on the swing together would not have known the intense struggles we faced head-on. Rocking to our own rhythm we let the frustrations of the day melt away as we enjoyed the peace of being alone together in our own little corner of the universe. From the perspective of the rest of the world we looked like any other mother and son spending a day together, enjoying the beauty, the light and shadow play, and the sounds of the world around us. However, we were and are unique, different from others, and set apart by what we came to know as autism. Through the eyes of my son I see the world in a completely different light, and I understand its beauty and intricacies on a whole new level. The dance of light and shadow we watched was like the light and shadow of our lives; autism is a dance of deficit and gift. I continue to be my son’s anchor and translator in a world of confusing stimuli that he will never really be a part of because he is as different from other children as if he really did come from some other world. The strength of my arms around him was his comfort then, and I am still his comfort. In all the confusion and difficulties I am his mother, and I am the one he trusts.

Comments

Jenny Whoa...I've heard of

Jenny
Whoa...I've heard of autism before and i know a little boy who has it, but I've never read anything like this from someone who's had to deal with it. This post was truly amazing.
There's a camp close to Purdy, Missouri, called Camp Barnabas, that is a Christian-run camp for disabled kids. I worked there last summer for one week and it's just absolutely amazing. I love it...it's like a second home to me. I could describe it to you, but there are some things that I just can't put into words about Camp Barnabas. Check it out at www.campbarnabas.org
It's an awesome place! Your son would probably love it there, and actually you would too!

Heather | Wed, 06/20/2007

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

Camp Barnabas

Heather,
What an amazing opportunity! This camp sounds like a really amazing place - it's no wonder that you enjoyed working there. Missouri is pretty far away from our home in the Northwest :) - but this camp sounds like it would be worth a trip someday. Now that my sons are older it's easier to travel, even with their "different-abilites".
Thanks for dropping me a note to let me know how my article went over :) - I wasn't sure if anyone would enjoy it.
Peace be with you....
Jenny

Jenny | Wed, 06/20/2007

Thank you

That was beautiful! The way in which you explained it was so refreshing. You are a wonderful mother.

Thank you so much for sharing that. :)

Anonymous | Fri, 06/22/2007

Whoa!

OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS! Jenny, just TWO minutes before coming on apricotpie, I was sitting here and writing in a notebook about my seven-year old brother with autism (about his beautiful eyes, his heavenly innocence, how good Mom is with him, and how I had been cuddling him outside), and I came on here to compose and post something, and instead I found YOUR post on autism!! I was so shocked. Thank you so much for posting it!! (I almost feel like it's kind of pointless for me to now, hehe.) It was beautiful. What strikes me again and again is how similiar the experiences us families with autism have... Thank you for being such a good mother!! I'll say a prayer for your family. Goodness knows we know how hard it is! Autism brings unimaginable difficulties, but unimaginable gifts as well. God bless you and your son ~ Sarah S. (18)
(I'd love to talk to you more...)

Anonymous | Tue, 06/26/2007

Hi Sarah

Sarah,
It's always encouraging to hear from someone else who's life is touched in a similar way. :) Autism has shaped my motherhood in unexpected ways. My other son is not autistic, but he has sensory processing disorder - which is almost as complicated. It's like autism, without the social issues - other than those related to sensory overload (which happens more often than you'd think). Anyway, I 'd love to talk more if you have time - believe me, I know how busy life can be when autism is in your family! :)

Anonymous | Fri, 07/13/2007

Wow

Jen i can't believe you have only posted one thing, you're on the frequent writers list, i thought you would have written more!

Anyways, i read your bio like you told me to, i like th part about the soft belly fur of a cat and running your fingers threw it. My cat is sleeping at my feet beneathe my desk chair. I almost stepped on his face earlier today. At least he wasn't sitting in front of the computer screen like he was earlier today.
Aneeeewaysssssss.

-Tami

Tamerah | Fri, 07/13/2007

Аэроблоки от ТЕПЛОК газобетон Итонг теплый экономдом быстро

Можно ли построить дом дешевле 1000 уе за метр? Можно комплексные решения от ТЕПЛОК из качественных аэроблоков позволяют строить быстро индивидуальные дома при цене квадратного метра до 300 уе!
Вы знаете существуют нормальные европейские технологии каменного домостроения малоэтажного например технология ИТОНГ и комплексные решения от ТЕПЛОК где высококачественные материалы и просте решения позволяют существенно экономить на возведении стен и отделке!

Anonymous | Mon, 02/23/2009

Touched my heart, opened my eyes

It's a little hard to put into words, but I really loved this piece. I put a whole new spin on autism that I've never thought about before. When you said that too much stimulus frightened him, I felt sad that he has to deal with this fast-paced modern world. I almost wonder if it would have been easier back in the days before all this modernization...

You gave me a glimpse of your world. The two of you, you have your own world and your own understanding. You said he trusts you - cherish that. It is indeed a gift. "Tho' much is taken, much abides..." Thank you for writing this. :)

Sarah B. | Mon, 03/30/2009

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