Because I live so far away from most of my family, I don’t get to spend much time with them. This includes my younger cousin that was recently diagnosed with High Functioning Autism, Yohan. He’s eight years old and is a reminder of what life used to be like when I was younger. Of course, he’s a boy and he has HFA while I’m a girl and have AS, but I can still see the similarities in the way he thinks and behaves and the way that I think and used to behave.
His family stopped by to stay with my family on their way to the funeral, so I finally got to spend a little time with him. It was quite interesting. For the first little bit, I wasn’t sure how to handle talking to him and I wasn’t sure what similarities that he and I might have, but I decided after thinking for a bit that I would be as considerate and understanding of his quirks as possible and that I was going to makes sure he was as comfortable as possible. I know that being taken out of your home, your safe environment can cause more strange behavior, more frustration, and more trouble. I know that being in a completely new place is hard when you barely know the family that you’re staying with and that it can be quite scary. I want to put the least amount of stress on him as possible.
Any eight year old boy likes machines, cars, building stuff, etc., but Yohan likes to build intricate hotels with his Lego’s. He even built one with an elevator and elevator shaft once. He’s completely taken with a bridge that I designed and built back when I was in sixth grade. He asked me a bunch of questions about it and asks me if he can play with it. He says that he wants to be an “art-detect” (architect). And even if he starts asking me questions while I’m talking to someone else, I’ll tell him to wait a second so that I can politely excuse myself from the conversation before I answer. And to be honest, I’m completely taken by him. He fascinates me. I like watching him to see what he’ll say or do. I like to hear stories about him from my aunt so that I can understand more about him.
What I like most about him being here with me, however, is that I can talk to his mom. I can try to explain things from my point of view that may help her to understand him better. I have a more extensive understanding of emotions and social situations that may end up helping them on their journey. She’s asked me for my opinion on a few things regarding his social learning, and I’m more happy than I can express that what I have to say is of value.
This is the first time that I’ve been able to spend real time with someone else being knowingly diagnosed, and I’m glad to have this opportunity to spend time with them. I look at it like this: Yohan and I are building a bridge of understanding and friendship towards one another. After all, relationships are like bridges; they can be built up, torn down, repaired, or completely destroyed.
Like I always say, it may not be easy, but we’ll make it.