While there are things about having a child with autism that are challenging, there are also strengths he has that I believe are the result of having autism that I think will help him through life. In fact, I’d say that one of Buddy’s biggest strengths is that he is a problem solver. Further, he’s also a non-linear thinker. He thinks way outside the box.
When he was five months old he was on the verge of crawling, but not quite there yet. I had put him on a blanket with a ball that was just out of his reach to coax him into crawling. Well, it wasn’t long before he found that he could pull the blanket towards him and get the ball that way.
This has also been why baby proofing the house has been so challenging with him, he keeps finding ways around the baby proofing. Truly, if we kept score if would go something like Baby Proofing 2, Buddy 508.
For instance, we have locks on the pantry to keep him from dumping the flour. The lock requires a small, lever key, putting it in a hole in the handle and finding the locking mechanism and turning it. We keep the keys in a place that it is impossible for him to climb up to (so far).
One day I was hanging up pictures around the house. Later that day I noticed Buddy had some nails and that he was putting them in the door hole and trying to open it. I grabbed the nails from him and wondered where he had gotten them. Then I saw that the pictures I had hung up were on the floor and the nails were removed from the wall and an upside down laundry basket was beside the wall.
Buddy had seen me hammer in the nails, and while I was occupied elsewhere, took the laundry basket, climbed up on it, took the pictures off the wall and grabbed the nails and used them to try to pick the lock to the pantry. Buddy was 3 when this happened.
The nonlinear thinking? Definitely the autism. So too is the independence. When Buddy encounters a problem he tries to figure it out on his own. This has really been striking while raising Sissy. Take the challenge of climbing up the playground stairs. Buddy would find ways to do it on his own. Sissy could find ways to do it on her own, but she screams for me and insists that I hold her hand the whole way and help her with things that she can do herself. And I caulk up this fierce independence to the autism and difficulties he has asking for help.
Now, he will ask for help. But he’ll try to do it on his own first, and after giving it a few tries if he can’t he’ll say, “need some help!” Sissy doesn’t really try, she just goes straight to the asking for help.
It can be so easy to focus only on what Buddy is not doing and ignore the things that he is very good at. Autism is a double edged sword, as I believe that a lot of his strengths are tied to having autism. He’s amazing at doing puzzles. The daycare workers would comment on how good he was at getting them and would show the other kids how to do them. And he’s been able to count to 50 since he was 4, and was correctly identifying shapes such as ovals, hexagons and polygons, which stunned me when he started doing it.
Ultimately Buddy is an excellent problem solver. And that’s a trait that will help him in the future.