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The Day My Son with Autism Broke My Heart

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Communication represents a big challenge for most people on the autism spectrum. For some, they seem quite capable of communicating, but it is extremely difficult for them. Others are considered non-verbal, and some folks fall somewhere in between. So when my son with autism opens up for a few minutes, I stop and pay attention.

Two or three weeks ago I thought I’d go sit next to my son while he played Minecraft. I don’t remember exactly now, but I think I asked him to tell me about what he was doing. He started talking and then he said the words that both broke my heart and made me excited.

“I might be better at video game life than real life.”

Oh, my heart. Now here’s the catch. I can jump all over that and get in his space and he’ll shut down (which I’ve learned from many mistakes). Or, I could go the casual route and see if I could get him to say anything else.

For once I was able to control myself and say something like, “Yeah? What makes you say that?”

And what made me excited was that he actually answered me! Lately he’s been afraid to answer questions because he doesn’t want to give a wrong answer, even when we tell him there’s no wrong answer. It can be a little taxing to say the least.

He told me how in real life he can’t communicate well and that he deals with bullies.

I was so proud of him for being able to get that out. I pointed out that sometimes what seems like bullying is an energetic child who can’t stay out of someone else’s space (something we deal with around here). That’s as far as I got. He wouldn’t tell me about other bullying other than it isn’t physical.

And that’s ok. I told my hubby because sometimes he can get stuff out that I can’t. We’ll keep an eye on things and patiently wait for the day when he can say more.

So in one sentence my son broke my heart and made me want to cheer. I understand video games are so much easier to deal with than people. I know it wears him out to try to explain himself. Even though my son has made tremendous progress and “doesn’t look autistic”, his challenges are very real.

I know I’m not the only parent in this situation, a parent who has a verbal child who can’t talk. Hang in there. You are not alone.

It’s really hard to coax and coach our verbal kids who have communication challenges. Do you have something that helps you? Tell me about it!

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Jenny Herman

Jenny Herman wants to live in a world where dark chocolate dispensers reside on every corner. As a homeschooling special needs mom, she’s been featured in Autism Parenting Magazine, Wit and Wisdom from the Parents of Special Needs Kids: Mostly True Stories of Life on the Spectrum, and various blogs. If she survives the onslaught of testosterone in her home, she may take a moment to blog, read a book, try a new recipe, or loom knit a gift. You can find Jenny’s book The Power of One: Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life on Amazon.

17 thoughts on “The Day My Son with Autism Broke My Heart

  1. As a mom, it really IS so hard to hold back, even though we know something we say usually shuts them down. Personally, I just keep thinking, if I keep telling him the truth, maybe it will register, maybe he’ll see and understand, maybe, maybe, maybe. And since my son is older, it’s even harder still because he’s actually harder on himself than I ever was on him. So I have both ends of the candle burning at the same time sometimes. Thanks for posting. We all need to know we’re not alone!

  2. I wish I had more insight into the matter…. However what I will say is that I can only imagine how it felt to hear him say that. My heart would stop… Thank you for sharing this I love talking to your babe it gives me insight thy I otherwise would not have. You are awesome

  3. You and your husband seem to cope well dealing with your son. And I was pleased to hear that your son too does communicate and understand some situations and games. My colleague has an autistic who doesn’t speak at all and he often talks about how he wishes his son would communicate in some way.

  4. As a Mom to a child with High Functioning Autism, I can so relate to this on so many levels. The heartache and pride, because that one moment we interpret what they say in one way while how their brain works on a different level than ours, they see a much different perspective. I always find it great when my son opens up, he is shy to open up because I think that fear of what our response will be. Taking the time to listen when he is ready to open up can mean the difference between an autistic child growing up confident in self-advocacy or not. This is such a great moment to share! <3

  5. Hi, I’m a young adult with autism. Your son might have opened up more and answered your question(s) “Yeah? What makes you say that?” because maybe he had a little bit of hurt or brokenness inside when he told you about “Video game life [being] easier than real life.” Once he had opened up a little bit about the hurt and brokenness, then he perhaps wanted to continue and let all the hurt and brokenness out. I know that’s what I would do or be like if I was in a similar situation to him. It is tough sometimes, this life with autism. But it’s worth it. I hope he discovers this or something equally good too.

    1. Julie, thank you very much for stopping by! I know everyone is different, so you may not have any ideas. I’m wondering what helps you feel comfortable enough to open up. Are there any things I can do to facilitate that with my son?

      1. I usually feel comfortable with opening up with somebody I trust and am comfortable with. Also, if it is somebody who I know has gone through a similar kind of painful or tough experience that I have gone through, it makes it easier and me more willing to open up and tell them all about it. What you’re already doing with asking him questions is probably good. If you said to him this stuff you said in the post: “I understand video games are so much easier to deal with than people. I know it wears him out to try to explain himself.” and just change the pronouns of “him” and “himself” to “you” and “yourself”, that would be good. That might be a way of showing empathy and understanding. If you find that video game life is easier than real life and if you had a time in your life where you got bullied, or you couldn’t communicate well, it would be helpful to tell him that. Even if he doesn’t take action on that right away, he can at least store it away in the back of his mind for later. Finding a kid about his age or older or somebody who has similar tough or painful experiences similar to any that he has had, that might be helpful so that maybe the two can talk about it together and he can open up more to let any pain out and hopefully feel better and even healed if he had something that needed healing. A good example of this is maybe another autistic boy. The struggles and other stuff he has shared are probably very similar to what a lot of other autistic, young boys have experienced. I hope this helps you guys along in your journey.

  6. It broke my heart to hear that also. I can only imagine it falling on your ears.I pray for you as well as Josh regularly. God our only hope.

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