Saturday, December 08, 2007

present with me

Not so long ago, I was giving a speech to a group of educators about autism. I was explaining that individuals with this disorder tend to lack something called "experience sharing" -- i.e., the understanding that we have our own inner reality of thoughts and experiences, that others have separate inner realities, and that the purpose of most human communication is sharing those realities with each other. So you'll see kids with autism do a lot of asking for things or repeating certain phrases over and over, but their ability to just comment on something (or to build a conversation by responding to someone else's comment) is limited. This is the primary reason why they tend to be delayed in speech, actually.

So we've been working on this ability with our son Patrick (Jacob mastered it long ago), and recently we've seen these big strides. He'll point out things that interest him and say "wow!" or "cool!" He'll point to his brother when he is in distress and say things like "Jacob is sad" with this look of concern on his face. In the last few weeks in particular, he is making it a point when we're cuddling with him to say things like "I love you, Daddy."

Now I know, I know that such moments are meaningful for all parents. The sense of one's heart melting in response to these words from your child is by no means unique. But I think this moment has been particularly meaningful for my wife and I this season because it has meanings on so many levels -- hearing his love for us, seeing his sweet personality emerge, seeing his progress on this thing we call autism, knowing that he is present with us in ways more complex and sophisticated than he has experienced in the past.

It is difficult to describe the joy, gratitude, and love I experience in such moments. And I am reminded at those times when I curse my inability to find a Nintendo Wii for our family this Christmas what it truly means to be given a present.

5 comments:

more cows than people said...

yes, a true gift. alleluia.

Diane said...

our former choir director's son is autistic, and I know how much those words mean.

blessings.

Wyldth1ng said...

I hope your Christmas continues to be merry.

Magdalene6127 said...

Oh Steve, I am so happy for all of you. I imagine this feels a bit like a miracle... blessings and joy!

Katherine E. said...

beautiful...