As I am quietly trying to sort out a head full of conflicting and controversial thoughts about the world and autism, I thought I would republish this post from January 2012. I liked revisiting this post and being reminded of how Ted sees the world and his place in it. For someone so young, he has a tremendous sense of self-awareness. He doesn’t trip over so many of the things a lot of us trip over. (Things I am currently tripping over.) No. He learns but he doesn’t over think. He adjusts but he doesn’t over analyze. He just does. And then he presses on without worry and without regret. To me, Ted so succinctly sums up what it means to live an authentic life.
Excerpt from Teddy Update: November 5, 1998 – First Grade
October 8 Scratched a student and ruined teacher’s paperwork. Loud in line in the hallways.
October 14 Slapped a girl on the face at recess. Did not return to class after going to the bathroom. Was missing for 30 minutes and teachers had to search for him.
October 19 Threw away lunch money check from home.
October 20 Arguing with the girls at recess.
October 22 Chewing on a student’s shirt.
October 23 Hitting with a rope at recess.
October 27 Fighting with a boy at recess.
October 28 Noisy at assembly.
October 30 Put hands around a girl’s neck at recess.
November 2, 3, 4 Fell asleep in class
I talked to Ted about why he does some of the things he does at recess and he said he likes to hit even though he knows he shouldn’t because, “It tells the kids who are bothering me that I want them to leave me alone.” He said he does this most often when he is teased. Last Friday he put his hands around the girl’s neck because she said to him, “I bet you can’t beat me up!” – End of Excerpt
Yesterday afternoon, more than 13 years after this was written, a now 20-year-old Ted and I talked about this time. What could he remember? And with maturity and distance could he help me understand what he experienced? His response…
I don’t really remember much about that time. I was out of my mind. But what I do know is I didn’t care about the social contract. I still don’t. The example of putting my hands around the girl’s neck, I think I understood the consequences of my actions, that I would get in trouble for it, most six years old do. But I think I wanted to surprise her more by actually doing it because I figured she thought I wouldn’t, and so to me, it was worth being punished to do it. I wanted people to leave me alone more than I cared about being punished. Wanting to be left alone hasn’t changed. I can just control myself better now than I could then.
Take making eye contact for example. I don’t want to. I would rather be looking at the oven. (We were in the kitchen.) I have to MAKE myself look at you. I used to not be able to do that and talk to you. I can now and will when I think I should, not for me, but because I think the situation calls for me to. I can use my intelligence to make myself do things I am supposed to, when I HAVE to, not because I naturally would.
I think that is why I stopped having meltdowns. Because as I got older, I could use my intelligence to make myself do what I HAD to do, not necessarily what I wanted to do. I also started caring less about more of what happened and when I cared less it helped me just want to get out of the situation quicker, easier, and get back to what I wanted. I play the game if you will. But then, really, doesn’t everybody?
When I asked him if his OCD was problematic he said it was at times. Then he laughed and pointed over his shoulder to the plate rack just behind him. “But I also enjoy it. Haven’t you noticed when I unload the dishwasher I always put the plates back in color spectrum order?”
I nodded and said that indeed I had.
“But you know,” he added, “we are missing violet.”
I told him I would be happy to get a couple purple plates.
And so did I.
My boy just keeps teaching me you gotta roll with life.
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