Ripple in the Water
Autism has been a journey of discovery. Asking “why” consumed my wife and I. Why does our son Jaxon have autism? For any of us who’ve explored this question, it leads down an ambiguous hole of more questions than answers. “Why” doesn’t change that my son is autistic.
A focus on “what” my son experiences has become infinitely helpful in our journey. When we play, I imagine what the world might look like through a lens of sensory overload, social ticks and an inability to use spoken language. Instead of continuing to search scholarly articles about the latest autistic research, I got on my hands and knees to play with my son. Despite the challenges my son faces, play time is always filled with laughter and smiles.
One hot Florida summer afternoon, Jaxon and I played in a pool. From ear to ear he smiled as he splashed. The water rippled on impact. His eyes were fixed on the ripple it made. In that moment, I tried to imagine what each ripple meant to him. For me, each ripple represents the perfect imperfection of life.
A predominant human trait is the need to connect. By way of laughter and smiles, the relationship between my son and I changed. We were able to create an unspoken bond. In this space we built a mutual trust and respect. Once I learned to let my son take the lead, it allowed me to lead along side him.
Although Jaxon is nonverbal, I’ve learned the he can understand a lot more than he can say. Through our play time, I learned that he responds better to gently holding his hand and talking to him. Not baby talk, but speaking to him with dignity and respect. Our ability to connect has helped when he doesn’t want to do the daily tasks he doesn’t prefer — things like brush his teeth or put on his clothes. It’s led to a deeper understanding of what he needs or prefers without using words.
Jaxon is 8 years old. He’s taught our family more than we’ll ever be able to repay. Without his perspective, we would have never questioned our own. Life takes on a different meaning when we love unconditionally. When we empathize instead of sympathize. The power of play has taught me to slow down to appreciate the ripple in the water. To love the perfect imperfections of my son, myself and the world around us.