Autism Spectrum and the Things That Break

Life with our son on the autism spectrum teaches us many new things every single day. We have learned about strategies for navigating difficult behaviors. We have learned about coping skills. We have learned to manage our expectations in order to protect ourselves from disappointment. We have learned to navigate a life filled with evaluations and assessments and third party opinions. We have learned that nothing around us is free from the autism in our lives.

Not us. Not our life. Not our house. Or any of the things inside of it.

This journey is teaching us not to get too attached to things. Because things break. Things shatter. Things rip and tare and unravel at the seams. Things are tossed around carelessly. Things are thrown in anger. Things are dismissed and disregarded without much thought. Things get lost in the moment. Things cause problems and need to be removed. Things are often temporary; and attaching to them only makes it harder down the road.

When we first moved into our home I had so many ideas for projects and updates in my head. And just four short months later our son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age two. It is amazing how quickly ideas change. Just how fast projects are pushed to the side. Life in our house became less about updating and more about repairing damage. Damage that did not exist when we moved in.

You may walk around my house and see a typical family home. But our home is anything but typical. Take a closer. Look at the things that I ordinarily do not want you to see.

Look at our living room TV and notice the acrylic screen protector. This is our 3rd television in this room in two  years. The first two were victims of my son’s juice cup in a moment of rage. The first time is happened out of nowhere. He was sitting happily on the couch and in a split second his mood changed and he whipped his cup at the TV. The second time he got angry because I left the house in the “wrong” car. He needed me to drive our gray car, my husband’s car. My decision to leave in my own car, the red car, cost me a television.

Look at our Ipads and phones and notice the hundreds of dollars in protective cases. Cases that we put to the test every single day. Cases that have failed us three times before. Ipads thrown because the video did not load fast enough. Phones slammed because the volume was not switched on. Valuable and expensive electronics tossed around without a care.

Look at the walls of our home and notice the disrepair. Our home is filled with holes. Even the patched holes still look broken. Maybe that is because we are too busy or tired to really repair the holes. Or maybe it is because no matter how good the repair job my eye will always know what lies behind the surface.

Wreckage. Fragments. Remnants of the broken things.  The hidden scars of a life along the autism spectrum.

And each time we stair at the static screen of a broken electronic or the vast opening of a fresh hole in the wall; we cannot help but feel like we should be doing better. We should be catching the behaviors. We should be saving our possessions from this journey.

But we cannot. Nothing is safe. Nothing is free from the autism in our life.

Sure, they are just possessions. And to some extent it is normal for things to break. But something else breaks too. Maybe it is my spirit. Maybe it is my heart. But something inside of me breaks when I watch my son destroy the possessions in our life.

There is a feeling that hits you deep in the pit of your stomach when something valuable breaks. A feeling you all but choke on. In the blink of an eye hundreds of dollars turned to nothing. Garbage. Waste.

And after living long enough among holes and discarded pieces of past possessions; you learn to detach from the broken things. And then things all together.  Because things break. In our house things break more than usual. And to protect our hearts from the sadness of the breakage; we have learned that we cannot attach to things.

Our house is still filled with projects and ideas and updates. But those projects will have to wait. Those ideas will remain in my head. The needed updates will grow more and more out of date.  Because in the moments of time when we are not working or parenting or adulating through the laundry and cleaning; we are repairing the broken things around our house.

We live along the autism spectrum with our son. And here in this space that we call a home we feel the weight of this journey every single day. We see it in the things that our eyes can see. And, we see it in the things our hearts know lie just behind the surface.

We see it. We feel it. We live it. Every single day. Things break. Possessions. Spirits. Hearts. But somehow our will remains intact.

And so we will ourselves forward. To live among the broken things. To face another day.

JS

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