The Serendipity Of Reality

Posted: February 19, 2016 in Community, Family
Tags: , , , ,

alex3  I know I talk about life a lot. The lessons we learn. The trials and tribulations we all go through that often make us stronger. The incidents of grandeur and also of failure. So many things can happen, both good and bad, that in many cases we cease to take chances. We play it safe. But life can get very boring if you are always eating oatmeal.

I also mention autism often enough. I can’t help it. I live with an autistic son as well as have married someone with Asperger’s (Google it if you don’t know what that is). For our family it is a daily reality that we are autistic in a neurotypicals world. Consequently ‘life lessons’ abound. We are resplendent in learning moments.

And so this leads me to our latest life lesson. My son Alex has been in the process of trying to complete his Early Childhood Education program at the local college. He was going full steam ahead, acing the academic portion of his classes, was loved by both his fellow students and the faculty. He’s a great guy. But then the practical placements came. At first they were okay, but as they went along, the placements became more difficult as they gave him more responsibility. The Achilles Heel of autism, it seems.

Alex is a hard worker. He is diligent. He loves the kids he was working with. He loved being part of a team, the comradery that came with working with others in the common pursuit of providing a safe and nurturing environment for the little ones. But as is the case for most with autism, he is wired differently. The social game that is society can be brutal for one who does not understand the nuances of social decorum and subtle expressions. He is super polite, old fashioned, and believes strongly in good behavior. However, when it comes to actually showing others how to be so, he lacks the tools to impart these important lessons to others.

I know all this now. It has been made abundantly clear to me by the program director, who was nearly in tears telling us this in the best way she could. Nobody wanted to tell him because they love him like a son. But it needed to be said. Alex needs to choose another career path. And for quite a while now we have been digesting this. Today was the day he finally heard this verdict. And I am so proud of how he handled it.

Nobody likes to sit and hear criticism about themselves. As a father, it was killing me to hear all this. His program director laid out all the positives (which were plentiful), and then came the things he needed to work on. And when I heard them, I realized that many of the points she made were things that will never change for Alex. He simply is not wired for it, and he has an inability to lie. This is an asset in some cases, and a detriment to others. Lying is an important social skill when used properly. It can be used to motivate and to enervate, but he just can’t do it.

So here’s the thing: in life, we can either choose to learn but situations such as these, or let it destroy us. At the end of all this, Alex stood up, shook the lady’s hand, and thanked her not only for the opportunity, but for the lessons he had learned. He thanked her for being kind to him, for taking time with him, and told her he hoped that in the future she and the college would learn more about autism and thus find a way to accommodate those on the spectrum so that they can succeed where he didn’t.

I am pretty sure that, in that little office, the two people present who were non-autistic learnt a hell of a lot more that the man with autism. We learnt that living with kindness in your heart and accepting people for who and what they are is not only paramount for society in general, it is probably the only way we can save our kids on the spectrum. We learnt that they have much more to offer than meets the eye. We learnt they are human beings first. And we learnt that my son is so absolutely awesome.

He is going places. We just don’t know where yet.

  1. Ashlee says:

    Dear Bill,

    My name is Ashlee. I’m co-founder of the Youshare Project, with the mission to connect people around the world through true, personal stories. I recently stumbled across your blog and read the above post entitled “The Serendipity of Reality.” It’s well written with a compelling message. I think it would make a wonderful youshare, because there is still a lot of stigma attached to Autism and I believe that personalizing Autism and sharing personal stories like this will help to educate people and eventually shatter this stigma.

    If this sounds interesting to you, I would love to email you directly with more information and formally invite you to adapt your story to youshare and share it with the project. You have my email address and website. I hope to hear from you soon.


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