Written by photographer Rebekah McClelland, a mom on the autism spectrum with two sons.
My boys and I think differently. We speak differently. We do things differently. I am a divorced single momma. I am also Aspie (have Aspergers). My oldest, who is 10, has been diagnosed as high functioning on the autism spectrum. My youngest, who is 5, has not been diagnosed but his pediatrician has been suggesting that I take him to be tested. It’s on the “to do” list. Not at the top, not even in the top 10, but we will do it.
What’s on the top of the “To do” list, you ask? I have been avidly searching for the place where we belong. You see, I am aware that we do things differently. I make my boys very aware of the same and have instilled a strong sense of PRIDE about it. We love the beauty that it brings and we try our hardest to embrace even the struggles.
Ah, the struggles.
We are very sensitive. That’s how I describe it most of the time when meeting someone new. We are extremely sensitive to world in many, many ways. Our sensory issues can make every day life hard sometimes: What a typical person perceives as an annoyance can feel like an assault to us. Noises, lights, sounds, smells…
All can be tough. We’ve learned to adapt. Learned to watch for things that could pose a problem when entering a new situation. Learned to speak up when we need something and take time out to regroup when necessary. Learned to get good food, proper sleep, and plenty of fresh air and exercise to keep our senses more balanced.
We are sensitive to the people around us. We are not cold hearted like people sometimes perceive us to be. We are quite the opposite. We are SO aware and feel so much that at times we find it necessary to shut down for survival. We soak up emotions and vibes until we feel like we may burst. We’ve learned to adapt. We only keep people that we trust (and love us quirks and all) around. We socialize but not anywhere near as much as typical people do. After socializing? We nurse a “social hangover” and need quiet time in our comfort zone to mentally regenerate.
We are also sensitive to thoughts and possibilities. When presented with a new idea or situation our minds branch off in what feels like a million directions on the “what ifs”. This is a blessing when it comes to making things happen but can be a curse when it causes anxiety. We’ve learned to adapt. We keep a self awareness that overanalyzing is something we do and often times we remind each other to stop and “zoom out” from the tiny detail we are hyper focused on.
Our adapting has all been working well enough. I am running a successful business, we have a lovely home, the boys are thriving and happy. But somewhere underneath lies a feeling of not quite belonging. Recent events in our life have amplified the “not belonging” feeling and mixed in a “bit lost” feeling. Left me wondering WHERE we belong. I am now looking now for a new place for us: a new city, new home, new school. It’s overwhelming for all of us both because the change has come suddenly and because, while we like change, we prefer it to be on our terms.
Something has happened though while on this search.
I have discovered where we belong.
It’s here where we are.
It’s also that new place where we will be.
We belong where WE want to be. Within reason of course.
It will always require some adapting from us. It will always require some change in the surroundings. Some physical. Some mental.
It IS where we belong.