Friday, March 10, 2006

The Autism Equation

Dealing with Autism is like trudging through one of those long, unsolvable word problems on a standardized test. No matter how many different ways you try to solve it, you never really know if you're getting it right. Even if you do - by sheer dumb luck - happen to make the proper calculations, the confidence that normally accompanies a correct conclusion is completely absent. Without said confidence you feel like an overrated sports team who wins the game but can't truly celebrate the victory because of the underwhelming manner in which it was attained.

I sat on the couch tonight with my Autistic son, Pierce, and we navigated through my itunes library together. I say we did it together, but the fact of the matter is that I'm not sure if Pierce ever truly does anything "together." We were in close proximity, and we observed the same computer screen, but there were times, I'm sure, when Pierce hardly knew I was in the same house. He sat entranced by the computer and only seemed to notice me when I was obstructing his view. But who knows, maybe I've miscalculated again and this was a real bonding experience between father and son.

I honestly enjoyed my time with Pierce tonight. The computer screen caused his face to shine like a calm blue lake under a full white moon. His bright eyes and full lips looked especially innocent in the ambient glow. He is such a beautiful child that there are moments where his quirky disorder seems like an implausable scenario. I hate to say it, but it's nice every now and then to imagine, if just for a moment, that he's normal.

When it all comes down, the reason that this Autism is so difficult is because it's supposed to be. One of the areas of balance that I'm trying to give myself permisson to explore is the fact that not only is this an opportunity to love my child and fight for his future, but it is also a crisis worthy of grief and struggle. I love Pierce as deeply as I've ever loved anything in my life, but he breaks me to pieces with a pain that is unmatched in my experience.

One thing I can say about Pierce is that he is the best of both worlds. He's the most precious child I've ever been around, and I've never seen a kid with so many fans. He's also very strange. So much so that he is good at being wierd. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Pierce seems to be at home with who he is, even if the rest of us couldn't feel less secure if we were Danish cartoonists in a Mosque.

I don't know what all of this means, and I'm not even going to try to figure it out. That would be way too easy. Pierce is like a sloppily wrapped Christmas gift with untucked edges and ripped wrapping paper. He's definitely special, but he's also too messy to ignore. All we can do is try our best to open him up and enjoy him, even though there are times when we may want to take him to customer service and get an exchange.

On second thought, why would we ever want to do that? I'm sure the one who gave him to us knew what he was doing. We'll see if we can't make him fit.

For more information on Pierce and his struggle with Autism, go to the Project Pierce website.

Pierce is also featured in a video companion to Erwin McManus's new book, "Chasing Daylight." Check it out!

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