I know that we will be visiting each other soon and I thought this would be a helpful note for you to have.
A lot of you know that I sometimes do things differently, and it can really make my sisters mad at times too, but there are reasons for this.
My parents tell me I am on the Autism Spectrum. Although I am not sure exactly what that means, it may make sense to you. I don’t learn the same way others do and I also am affected differently by all the things going on around me in ways that don’t necessarily impact you. All of my senses work in different ways and I can’t really express myself the same way many of you can.
The holiday season is probably one of the toughest times for me. Large crowds and lots of people can be very overwhelming; the noise makes me want to cover my ears! I do not really like all the activity at once. I sometimes do not know where to look or listen when there is so much going on.
You may think I am ignoring you, but I am not; I am just trying to make myself comfortable. I am not trying to be rude, or bratty. I need to find ways to cope with all of this and sometimes I focus on one thing to get through it. If I begin singing, it may just be my way to feel comfortable.
Try to be patient with me, I know it is unfamiliar — it is for me too. I wish it could be different. Sometimes I know what I want to say and I just can’t get it out.
Autism is a pretty confusing thing to have. There are so many variations — some kids can’t talk at all, others can have a conversation with you and answer your questions. My parents really want me to be able to do that someday too! Sometimes I say things that may not make sense to you. I do a lot of "TV talk," not sure why, but it is one of the quirky things I do.
It is very hard. For ALL of us!
Don’t mind me if my parents give me a computer to play with or my Nintendo DS. I need to have a way to escape, and this helps calm me down and gives me some comfort. Don’t think my parents have no control over me. They know exactly what to do.
I may try to sit with you for dinner. Don’t expect me to eat all the food you have. I may not even try any of it. I am not great at sitting still for long and the smells could be tough too. My parents know you really want to have us all together and they wish it could be different, but this is one of the things that I struggle with.
Don’t let it ruin your meal or lecture my parents; we are used to it. Go on and enjoy. I can sense when you are uncomfortable and I understand all you are saying. I am very sensitive and tuned in to all that's going on. I really want to be a part of this all, I just have to do it a little differently.
Please don’t tell others to ignore me or leave me alone. I am aware of all that is going on, I just have to figure out how to make myself fit. I am a lot of fun, I am kind, and I love to laugh!
I am a pretty neat kid and may even teach you something about the computer. Take a few minutes to try to do it my way. Maybe I will teach you something.
I am so lucky to have my parents. They love me so much and work so hard every day to help me with the skills I need to learn. Don’t judge them. If you’ve been lucky enough to have kids who follow the typical path, you do not know how tough this can be at times. My sisters have to put up with so much because I don’t understand things the way they do. They deserve an extra present!
I really hope this helps you understand a little bit more about what I am thinking and doing.
Note: Marky did not write this, although we sure hope one day he could express himself like this. It is written by his parents in hopes that it may help so many others that need to be understood during some of the toughest days of the year. The holidays bring so many emotions, let this serve as a guide to make it an easier day for all.
Carissa Garabedian is the founder of KNOWDifferent.net publisher of Richmond Macaroni Kid. She is a mom to three great kids, including her youngest who is on the spectrum and teaches her so much about life. She's married to her best friend and loves to cook, loves to run, and loves to make people smile!