An enigma, wrapped in a mystery, locked inside a puzzle, creating a quandary. That’s my definition of AUTISM, or in shorter terms, “DAVEN” my son.
How could I ever explain to someone without autism in their lives what life is with it. How could I explain what it is like in the mind of my child when I can’t understand it myself.
Here is how I imagine Daven’s world.
I imagine a kaleidoscope of soft shapes and soothing colors gently lofting across his mind like the Aurora Borealis. Soft rhythmic sounds vibrate through his world, gently lulling his mind into a calm relaxing state. I see it as something beautiful and relaxing. Daven’s problem is our world is constantly invading his. Between the colorful shapes and soothing sounds , our world mounts its attack invading like a foreign army. All the sights and sounds of our world jam themselves into his serene setting disrupting his world.
His mind bounces to and fro picking out cues from our world. They are relentless, demanding a response as his mind struggles to remain in the world he finds comfort in.
Our world is so foreign to him. Nothing makes sense. Lights and sounds that we relegate to background noise assault his very being. Daven has no idea how to sort the background input from the relevant so he tries to process it all. His mind goes into overload. He is overwhelmed.
Those of us without a pass into his world do not understand his responses. We ask “where is the common sense?” By its very definition common sense infers common past experiences as a reference. Daven doesn’t share any of these with us. He may have shared common experiences but he processed them quite differently than us. There is no common reference points.
His world is so different from ours. It might be a wonderful world that we could all reside and be happy if it were not constantly intruded upon by ours, forcing itself in and demanding attention.
I feel almost sad to be responsible for the destruction of his world. I have to do it. He will need to live in our world to survive and the two worlds are not able to coexist. For Daven to survive he will need the tools to understand and function in this strange place. We force our world upon Daven and will not tolerate any alternatives.
He understands the challenge. He wants to please those around him, forcing this alternate world upon him. He tries hard. But when the pressure of this new world becomes unbearable he retreats to the place he finds comfort.
For those of you old enough, there was a popular television series “St. Elsewhere”. In the last episode we see several of the series’ characters sitting in a living room. In the center of the room, on the floor, is a small boy. He appeared in several episodes as the autistic grandson of a leading character. In this final scene, sitting on the floor we notice he is mesmerized by a snow globe. As we move in closer we find the hospital that was the setting for the series in the snow globe. Was any of it supposed to happen or was it the creation of the mind of this autistic child. His WORLD.
Is Daven playing a fantasy of this world of which we are all actors in his mind? I doubt it. I think he struggles to join our world everyday, attempting to conform with what we call “NORMAL”. Normal only exists as an agreement of the majority. It must be normal if everyone, or almost everyone acts this way. It’s not normal to him.
The only thing I do know is, sometimes, not often, Daven will lay his head on my shoulder as I wrap my arm around him. We often drift off to sleep like this. For those fleeting minutes our worlds do coexist in perfect harmony.
I like those times.