As we continue to celebrate Autism Awareness Month, I have been humbled by the outpouring of support for the autism community that I have witnessed over the past couple weeks. From my first introduction to autism, I knew this was a relationship I would cherish for a long time. It’s inspiring to see that a lot of you feel the same way. In the spirit of continuing our celebration of autism and the Colorado ASD community, I took the time to write a letter reflecting on the origins of my relationship with autism and how this relationship has blossomed over time. I encourage anyone reading to do the same and share your story with us!
The individuals I work with in the ASD community mean the world to me, I’d love to hear what makes them so special to all of you. If you’d like to share your story with Spectra, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We often approach relationships with ourselves in mind. In doing so, we ask ourselves the difficult questions: What are my needs in this relationship? My desires? My expectations?
This is by no means a harmful approach to relationship building. It is important to understand what we expect from a relationship, however, it was autism that showed me that there are some relationships that must form organically. Free of expectations, desires, or personal needs. Autism asks that we listen before we speak, give before we ask, and help before we ask why.
I fell in love with autism and its intricacies from the moment we met. From the moment we were introduced, autism asked that I give before I could ever hope to receive. I was asked to give myself to listening, to learning, to observing, and to taking care of another. As I listened, I learned. Yes, I learned about autism. More importantly, however, I learned about the individuals I was working with. I learned about their emotions, how they think, and how they react. Above all, I learned how naive I was to believe that I could ever obtain an understanding of autism on a macro scale.
As these unique, diverse, and passionate relationships bloomed, I began to notice an unspoken trust being established with the individuals I had grown so close to. This trust is paramount to building successful relationships, as is true for most relationships, and the relationship that it prompts is more raw and honest than any relationship I have ever experienced. This means seeing everything for what it is, including myself and my own contributions to the relationship. Loving autism means loving everything that it is, which often goes hand in hand with understanding everything that I am not. When challenges or deficits occur, they can be frequent and intense.
As my relationship with autism continues to evolve, I continue to surprise myself with what I thought I knew about this miraculous and misunderstood condition. Autism is kind and intelligent. Autism is silly and fun-spirited. Autism means well and is forgiving. Autism is also passionate and determined. Loving autism, and the relationships that it fosters, is no different than loving anyone else unconditionally for all that they are. And, when given the opportunity — through patience, a vested curiosity, and a genuine sense of love — autism gladly loves back.