What do I want everyone to know about autism?  Well, a lot.  But there is one idea that I think if we could all understand and practice, we could change the world.

Autism is an incredible gift.

Yes, it’s hard.  It’s overwhelming and frustrating and scary and sad.  It’s expensive.  It’s difficult for family and friends to wrap their brains around.  There’s not a ton of support.  It can be isolating and heartbreaking.  There’s sickness and suffering and pain.

And there’s incredible beauty.

Jakob has made it undeniably clear that he is who is is and no matter how hard anyone pushes him, he’s not going to change.  He doesn’t react to force except to dig in his heels and refuse to comply.  He is the ultimate nonconformist.  He has come to this earth 100% nonconformable.

But he does react to love.  Shower him with it.  Love and accept everything he does without judgment.  Meet him where he is.  Go into his world and join him there.  Show him that his world is not just ok but a very cool place to be.  And then slowly, when he’s ready, show him what we having going on in our world.  Show him the places and things and activities that before were too much.  Do it with patience and love and care and a sense of adventure.  If he says no, respect his decision.  Try again on a later date in a different way.  And all along the way be present.  Be curious as to why he does things the way he does them.  Listen to him, really listen.  And celebrate.  Celebrate every big thing and every little thing.  Every look in the eye, every word spoken and request made.  Every time he reaches out for help or a hug or to hold his hand.  Celebrate him, just as he is.  Love him, fully, wholeheartedly, and unconditionally all day every day.

Ultimately, he is teaching me how to be in the world.  How to find the compassion in myself for others and for me. He teaches me every day that I can’t know why anyone does what they do unless I investigate and ask them.  Whenever I do take the time to ask, I learn that they have very good reasons for doing it.  At least in their mind they do.  If the things they do cause others pain and suffering, force won’t get them to change, but love will.  So I’m doing my best to love.

What if we could take the same unconditional love and patience and understanding that we have for our loved ones with autism and be that way with everyone?  What if we could all see each other through the eyes of acceptance and nonjudgment?  What would the world look like if everyone did that? It would take work.  We’d have to slow down, pay closer attention, be present, be aware of our own thoughts and feelings.  Be honest with ourselves and others.  Be vulnerable.

I know for myself, it’s been worth it.  It’s a minute-by-minute practice and the journey is constant.  It’s been the only path to peace that I’ve found.  It’s changed my life in so many ways and I know that it’s changed Jakob’s.  He too has found peace in all of this.  A peace that was not there in the beginning but is so apparent now in his smile, his laughter, the sparkle in his eyes, and just how he is in the world.

What a blessing it’s been for me to have him as my teacher.  There are so many like him out there and it’s as if they’re screaming at at us through their refusal to conform to see them, listen to them and learn.  We’ve been given these amazing teachers to show us the way back to love.  All we have to do is let go and let them.