Most parents would see this as a mess; a bunch of toys, dishes, and garbage that needs to be picked up.
Pre-Autism, I was that parent. Clutter puts me on edge. I still struggle with it most days, but it’s become clear to me what this particular “mess” means to David. Each item is special and has an extremely specific purpose and placement in David’s world.
The snack bowls – because David eats – ALL. DAY. LONG.
Three jars of honey, and a 6 pack of soda – because he was carrying them around, fascinated at how these things all match – and are already conveniently bound together for him.
Peppa Pig book – because it matches his piggy bank laying on the floor, which also looks like the piggy bank “mousketool” from his favorite TV show, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Which brings us to the specifically propped Mickey Mouse toys.
His tablet sits on the back of the couch, as to always be in sight. This is his reward/reinforcer during therapy, but it’s also is his escape – it’s the one environment where he can control everything – and tune every other aspect from the outside world out. It is his happy place.
When David looks at this picture, he smiles and says, “Happy Toys”.
These are his treasures.
These items bring him joy.
Each item has its purpose, and most of that purpose is comfort. Making sense of an intense and overwhelming world.
Life with a son who has Autism is not always a walk in the park. Some days it’s outright beautiful, and you gasp with excitement at a huge leap forward. Some days you sneak an ugly cry in the bathroom because you feel like you’ve failed to support him correctly.
He sometimes struggles to learn things that come naturally to others; he’s labeled “developmentally delayed”, and things like cutting paper with a scissors require diligent practice through therapy. At the same time, he can map routes through environments as small as department stores, and as wide as cross-country road trips.
He works hard, and we fight right alongside him.
He has also taught me so much more than he knows.
The biggest thing that he has imparted on me is the ability to sit back, to take my time; and to appreciate everything. Things like his array of “happy toys”.
Appreciate the little things – because to some, the little things are everything.