Laughing….Like It's My Job

Happy Autism Awareness Month!

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My son, T.J., is 16 years old. He has autism. He celebrates World Autism Awareness Day as if it’s his own day, just for him. Which I love. 

Over the years, his confidence has grown so much so that some may call him a little cocky. Let me give you an example.

“Mom”, T.J. just said to me, as he came downstairs, “part of autism is doing just what you want to do.”

Uh, no.

I explained to him that I don’t think there is anyone, autistic or not, who gets to do just what they want to do, all of the time.  
He didn’t like that. But too bad. It’s my job as his mom to raise him to be strongly independent, yet responsible.  Not to spoil him. He will never learn to live independently if I spoil him.

So ok. He accepted that one.

Then he said to me, “I think I’ll do my homework as you go to get Dad at the airport.”

Again, no. 

One of his traits is his strong desire to keep home and school separate. We all have had this, I think, to some degree, but this has been one of his strongest and toughest habits to break in raising T.J. For years. He has had full blown meltdowns over having to bring homework home, and not getting everything done during the school hours. Even to the point of lying. We have discovered from time to time that he will not write down assignments, so that when I check his assignment book after school I will think he has no homework.

He got away with it briefly. His teachers and I are in constant communication, so it wasn’t long before the jig was up.

And I know how hard he works during his school day to hold it together. Sensory-wise, it’s a tough place for him to be. When he finally gets home, all he wants to do is relax.

I get that, of course. But he also has to learn that part of being a student is bringing home homework. And studying for tests. At home.

He hates it. But he does it. I have to stay on my toes, though, because he will always try to get away with avoiding school work at home. Always.

These are just some of the things we, as a family, have learned over time. We have learned that it is pointless to decide that a lesson is learned, and therefore it is over. That’s not how it works. We have to see what the day brings us, what our boy’s mood and behavior is, what changes he may be going through, and what compromises we need to make to ensure his well being at all times.

That doesn’t mean he always gets his way. That rarely means he always gets his way.

It is a lot of work, every day. But that is our life with autism.

And I love this kid so much, just how he is.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

Happy Autism Awareness Month!  We are aware!

Barrington native Lauren Swick Jordan is a stay-at-home mom to her amazing boys, TJ and Peter, and wife to Sean (“The Dreamboat”). Since TJ was diagnosed with autism at age 2, Lauren’s mission has been to spread autism acceptance wherever she goes. She blogs at lauren-idonthaveajob.blogspot.com. She and her family live in northern Vermont.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.