There are so many ways to love. Many of them might not make sense to you, or may even be hard for you to see. I have heard many times how autistic kids don’t show emotions. While I have never found this to be true, I think I know why people might say this. My autistic child for many years didn’t talk or rarely talked. Words still aren’t his friends. He finds them really hard, and often he can’t even tell you when he needs help. Throughout his life, he has found other ways. If you didn’t know him, or were not looking you would have no idea he was communicating. I took me too long to figure out what he was doing and what it meant.
How he shows emotions is interesting. If he is angry he tries to make you laugh or smile. He will get you things he knows you like or tickle you. If he is frustrated, with you, he gives you a look, and now that he is learning to talk more, he says “Yeah, whatever”, hehe.
When he is sad he just hides. He still smiles and laughs but you can see it in his eyes if you look hard enough. You can tell because he doesn’t want to interact, or eat, or even be near people, often he will pull a blanket over his head, but this can mean he is overwhelmed too, or sick.
Then there are things like happiness, he bounces, and stims (though certain stims mean stress too so you learn the difference) he hums, or repeats or talks to videos. He always smiles so that doesn’t mean much. He normally likes to be near me, in fact since we figured out his bolting issues he rarely leaves my side. He does this with people he likes too, he will sit near them, not touching just now and then looking to make sure they are there.
There are more little ways, little things but the one that gets me most is how he loves. His love was the hardest to find. When he was tiny he would reach out for me, just barely touching me, then as he grew he put his forehead against mine, this was his way of saying I love you. As part of our bedtime ritual I have always said, “I love you, goodnight.” before turning out his light. After a while I got him saying it back, but it seemed more of a stim than saying it because he meant it. Then one night, after a particularly hard day he sat up just as I left the room and looked at me, made eye contact, and said, “I love you, goodnight.” In that moment I knew it was more than a stim, that he meant it. Many times he has shown me love, a few years ago when I went to the hospital for a few days due to problems celiac had caused, when I returned, he was more clingy, he would cover me, and get me drinks, he was the best nurse I could have asked for.
Every time I hear someone say that autistic kids don’t feel, or don’t show it, I think of him, I think of his meltdowns, those are the ultimate show of emotion, of being unable to control it. I think about how we learned his trigger and helped him find ways to cope with those, and to remove the ones we could remove. I think of him turning to me and saying “Mom it’s okay” like I have said to him so many times. I think about that night where he sat up and said, “I love you”. The “Yeah, whatever” when he just wants me to leave him alone. He shows emotions, 99% of them with a smile, even when inside he is falling apart. I would say he is good at them, way better than most of the world. You just have to pay attention.
Also, this weeks comic.