Courage and Autism: Being “A Little More Brave”

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My oldest daughter started Kindergarten this week. She’d been excited all summer, up until the night before.

“I just want to stay home and be a baby a little bit longer,” she confessed.

I handed her the bottle I was using for Jo, the baby. She demurred. Being a baby doesn’t have the advantages she thinks it does.

But we talked about this transition, this pivotal episode.

I remembered my own first day of Kindergarten, as an undiagnosed autistic boy, whose precociousness and vocabulary would—my parents hoped—account for the myriad social struggles I faced at a young age.

The round, domed classroom had us all in quadrants, each in little collective groups of four, seated together under cold lights cascading harsh on muted colors.

I told Mo the story of how I wasn’t brave. 

The anxiety kicked in early. I was kicked out of preschool at first, so my organized schooling always began auspiciously.

I missed my parents, my routines; the alien environment began to creep into the loose-knit fabrics of my courage and unravel them.

But there was Irene.

Inconsolable.

Irene didn’t seem to be handling this well. I didn’t know her. But she was bawling, crying,   shaking. Her quaking little fear scared me. I didn’t know how to react.

It must have scared the teachers too – she was soon taken out of the class.

“I never saw Irene again,” I told Mo. “I don’t what happened to her. I wasn’t the bravest in my class, and I was just as scared, but I was just a little more brave that day.

A little more brave.

Did I know what I was back in Kindergarten? Did anyone? No.

Did I know I’d be facing some of the first of many challenges in my autistic childhood? No.

Did I ever think I’d share this story to my own future kindergartner? No.

Was I the bravest in this new little world? Hardly.

Mo did great; she’s amazing and far better at life at 5 than I was at 10. Typical neurotypical :p

I’ve come a long way myself — where even as an autistic adult, I don’t aspire to be the most courageous. Because I can’t. Or the most daring. I’d rather not.

So what’s the next best thing, to press up against the worrisome edges of anxious moments, to extend the borders of what I can feel is possible, doable?

Being a little more brave.

Courage is forged in the little things, even if they feel “big.” There’s a lot of little-big things in autism. To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram. Thanks!

 

The Life Autistic: How I Survived School

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How did I manage through school?

Easy, I was homeschooled. Next question.

Ok, so there’s a little more to it than that.

Due to a variety of factors that included moving every 2.5 years, cost, flexibility, religious reasons, you name it — most of my schooling ended up being done from the comfort and constraints of my own home.

My parents hadn’t quite cracked the code on my autism yet, but they did find that I took to the setup of this ACE curriculum, something that suited my independence and autodidactic attributes all too well.

“You mean I can just rip through all of this at my own pace? I don’t have to slow down for anyone? SOLD!”

Oh, Hunter, if only you knew.

It explains a lot of where I mined out advantages and ran into disadvantages in The Life Autistic.

Sure, it freed me to flex my skills in almost unimpeded (even if narrow) learning.

But I had to navigate social skills elsewhere.

Would I recommend the experience for others on the spectrum?

It’s hard for me to say.

It would have been nice having friends, even if it meant maybe making enemies.

It’d have been good to learn how to adjust and adapt to others sooner, rather than later.

Perhaps I’d have hated the regular school experience more, but I’d have hit the obstacles then and not later. I might have had a shot at passing as “normal.”

But I didn’t.

I remember the day I finished my last test. I was 16.

That afternoon, I told my boss: “Hey, so I’m like, done with school? Can you flex me up to 40 hours now?”

I was a free man and ready for life.

So I thought.