Autistic Autonomy 

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The Social Learning Theory basically suggests that people learn by watching other people do things. Typically, we observe and imitate others’ behaviors. This is seen with in almost every facet of society, from adults at a bar for the first time to toddlers in the toy kitchen.

But what do we do when there are people who can be in the same room as other people or even be very physically close to them and not notice them at all? What do we do when  there are people who have to be taught how to observe behaviors? Why do we feel like we have to teach them to be like us?

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with people on the autism spectrum. A few of them are labeled as “non-verbal” so my definition of communication has been stretched more than I thought possible. I’ve had to learn to understand what that longing look means. It has taken work to figure out why they smile when they hear certain sounds.

It is interesting how much external motivation plays a role in our everyday behaviors. I never realized that until I wanted to motivate a child who didn’t notice me in the room. It left me frustrated at the beginning until I reevaluated the situations. After changing my perception and my focus, I gained an appreciation for their ability to completely escape whenever they want to. I learned to be comfortable when they distanced themselves when they were only sitting a foot away.

In reality, I wasn’t frustrated because the kids didn’t listen. I was frustrated because I wish I could live in a world where no one could influence me to do or be something I didn’t want to do or be.

So many times I have done and said things or NOT done or said things because of the social implications of being rude for not speaking or for speaking.

I’m the educator and I have been all of my post pubescent life. I always learn from my babies. So, I’m taking a page from my newest children. I will do what I want. I will not do what I don’t want, regardless of social implications.

I’m looking for the autistic autonomy.

autism

It would be easier if…

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Here we are, me and my littlest boo (let’s call her Five because that’s how old she is) sitting in the basement building a puzzle. She was so cute stacking the pieces of her anatomy puzzle. You see that pic at the top? The pieces stack according to how our bodies are made from the inside out. 

About halfway through it, Five decides to start stacking the pieces and trying to put them in the spaces at once. So instead of placing the muscled leg, followed by the organ leg, then the skin covered leg and finally clothed leg one by one she stacked each leg together and tried to put them in the spot. Logically, that makes sense. Realistically, it was a hassle. By the time she’d get it to the spot some of the pieces had moved around so she had to jam them in there. Then move some around so they would finally fit. After she tried that with one leg, she did the next leg the same way and one of the arms. 

Finally, after watching Five struggle, I chimed in “You know, it’d be easier and more efficient if you’d just place one piece in at a time.”

She looked up at me and said “No, it won’t.” and she continued to struggle to do it her way for a few more body parts. 

I watched her struggle. Inwardly, I shook my head and got frustrated that she didn’t take my advice. As I retold my advice, I heard Holy Spirit say “Look at you. That’s how you act sometimes. You have to do things your way even when it’s not working and I’ve told you there’s a better way.”

That was a sobering moment. I can’t even remember everything that went through my mind after He said that. One thing I’ll share is that I had to ask myself why I do that. Five loves me. She trusts me. We have a great time together. And in that moment, I could tell that she knew I was right, but she insisted on struggling through it by finishing it her way. 

Why do I try to skip steps to fast forward to end? I do it my way and it ends up taking longer because my way ignores the fact that there is a process. Five was supposed to be able to see how each piece fit on each other. She thought she had figured out the point of the puzzle and decided to jump ahead and she missed key elements and in turn took longer than she would have if she would’ve just gone step by step.

To get to the finishline, it would be easier if we would just learn to listen to the One who loves us and be faithful to the process. There is something to be gained at each point.

Footprints

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 There was a day back in March when we had a really big snowfall here in Michigan. A couple days later we got rain and sleet and it made a really weird shimmering sheet of ice to cover the snow. The ice was kinda thin. When I stepped on it, it gave way and it had a sound and sensation that reminded me of how it probably feels when someone is ice skating on a frozen lake and they there’s a thin layered spot. 

Anywho, I was walking my girls to school one morning after that rain came. We walked across the lawn because the driveway was pure ice. With every step I’d hear and feel the ice give way as my foot sunk down through the 8 inches of snow beneath it. My oldest kiddo, who’s 8, was just trudging through it ahead of me. My little one, who’s 5, was falling with every step. She had on all her winter gear and she was having fun so I didn’t trip. But eventually, I noticed that she was catching up to me. Just when I noticed she called out to me and said “Claricha, I’m walking in your footprints.” 

I could hear the Holy Spirit talking to me through her words. After I dropped them off, I took a moment to ask the Lord what He was saying. He took me to this scripture

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. (‭John‬ ‭14‬:‭6‬ NLT)

He began to explain to me one of the things He meant there. My little one was falling because she was trying to create her own path, but she was ill-equipped. When she looked up, she could see the a safe path was already made for her. All she had to do was walk in it. And that’s what the Lord is saying to us today. Just as He told His disciples that day, He’s the way. He has already paved the way. If we would stop trying to do things in our own strength and look up we will see that the way has already been made for us. All we have to do is look up and walk in the footprints. 

The funny thing is when we came back she started making her own tracks again and falling again. Then I reminded her to just walk in my steps. She got back on track and she was fine. The Lord is saying that to you today. Even if you’ve made a misstep, you have time to get back in line with Him. 

OhCAE?