October has always been one of my favorite months. I love the fall and sweater weather, Halloween and pumpkin spice everywhere and the segue into the upcoming holidays. As I sit here writing this, I realize somewhere along the way October ghosted me. Or maybe I tricked myself into believing there would be more time, opportunities or possibilities to alter outcomes before the month was over. Today I was reminded that regardless of the month, everyday can be Halloween.
Halloween is filled with fun and fright, mystery and madness, magic and make believe. It dawned on me how similar that description is to autism as I was working with some of my students. Upon further reflection I realized it encompasses all of us. So why are we so haunted by some ghosts yet bewitched by others?
I’ll begin by saying this month for me professionally has been met with some abrupt changes. My ride on the broomstick went off in some dizzying directions. With all the twists and turns, it has been autism’s presence that has provided the fun, magic and sanity I would have never imagined. In the midst of chaos, autism has provided calm. Autistics are often criticized by non-autistics for being rigid, inflexible, challenging to understand. Yet this month I have seen a side to autism that has proven to be the catalyst of uniformity amongst the madness of change and upheaval. Some ghosts aren’t really ghosts at all.
It’s uncanny how autism senses the shifts and knows how to respond. This month, one of my autistic students has done just that, casting a spell without us even realizing it. His inquiries have been spot on, his sense of time and space keeping us on track and his no nonsense approach, all treats, no tricks. Still another one has accepted that not all change is something to be feared (a great reminder to the adults as well). Voicing his objections will be met with respect and discussion yet he reminds us we need to rethink our word choices at times. Yes, he’s my literary guy— say what you mean and mean what you say— mystery solved!
October was a month of change and challenge. Both lessons remind me of the spooktacular aspects of adversity from some unexpected spirits and how not everything is a mystery, especially with regard to autism. Make believe is best when it’s grounded in belief of who you are, not the costume you wear, and magic is often found without sleight of hand but a helping hand. Lastly, the real trick to autism is treating everyone with the same respect.
I look at my autistic friends and wonder, will others ever see the magic you possess? Or will you feel the need to spend much of your life dressed in a costume to suit those who don’t understand you? Will you be haunted by societal norms or will you break the spell and stereotypes others have pinned on you? Autism doesn’t frighten me, nor should it anyone. What I find ghoulish is a future where you are not accepted for the unique individual you are and all that you possess. Until that day arrives, keep showing the world autism is not a ghost but a presence like all others.
Happy Halloween to one and all, especially those spirits who challenge me to see magic and embrace the mystique every day of the year.