I hope I can relate in writing just how big an "AHA" moment this was for me. A glimpse at the world through my son's eyes.
YoungSon, 16, is dx'd with PDD-NOS, serious dyslexia, SPD, anxiety, and several other related things. In the last few years, many of his symptoms have dissappeared, or hugely lessened. He can read, eats a full diet, most symptoms have disappeared, and, perhaps most amazing (considering how he was when he was little) has friends. I had sort of thought he just outgrew his condition, neurological maturation, I don't know. Certainly not any therapy - we tried everything, but nothing had any effect.
The other day, he was telling me about an awkward social interaction he had at school. No big deal. He said, "I blinked my eyes several times, slumped my shoulders, and sighed loudly, but the other kid didn't realize I was bored. I wonder if he has mild autism." It occurred to me that my boy has consciously taught himself the whole vocabulary of non-verbal communication. Like you or I choose our words, he consciously chooses his facial expressions and other non-verbal cues to communicate. He is sometimes a little "off" - it might be exaggerated or slightly stilted. But he generally comes off as nearly neurotypical. But can you imagine how much effort it would take to choreograph every gesture and expression in a conversation? No wonder he was stressed in social situations!
He can't really talk about things like this. But I wonder how many of his other symptoms have been changing due to intentional effort on his part, rather than the passive 'maturation I have imagined.
I wonder how many of the famous, successful folks we hear of with ASD have needed to make this kind of conscious effort to "pass" in the world?
Rhu - mother,grandmother,daughter,sister,friend-foster,adoptive,and biological;not necessarily in that order. Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic, but I had a good life all the way (Jimmy Buffet)
I find this fascinating!
My twin sons have non-verbal learning disabilities (i.e., mild-moderate ASD). The longer I have parented them, the more convinced I am their dad is also on the Autism spectrum. It's just that back when we were kids, of course people were only diagnosed with Autism if they were, say, a 10 on the spectrum.
My ex is exceptionally intelligent and a very successful business owner. Yet, he didn't speak until he was 4 and learned to read late. He cannot learn a spoken foreign language, to save his life. He was fine with Latin, because no one speaks that and you can string its words together in a written sentence more-or-less however you want. You don't have to worry about idiomatic usage. Even in English, he says odd things incorrectly, like honestly not understanding the difference between saying "I'd like you to come" to a party and saying "Come, if you want". I think, as a child, he paid attention and consciously taught himself English, the way people learn 2nd languages, instead of absorbing it, the way you're supposed to do with your 1st (and the way fluent people do, with additional languages).
Socially, there are many situations he deals with poorly and has learned to sidestep...although not in nearly as charming and practical a way as your son! For example:
- The other night he dropped off our sons at a movie, knowing it got out so late he didn't want to have to pick them up and drive them home to my house, because he had work early the next morning.
- Yet, he didn't want to communicate with me about picking them up, because he knew I don't let our sons hang out with the kid attending the movie with them.
- It makes him very anxious to think about telling our sons "no", or to have me tell him he should (when he knows I'm right).
- So he waited until shortly before the movie let out, called me, and made it sound like he was just double-checking that I was picking up the boys. Of course, I had no idea what he was talking about. He said he thought they had called me and gotten my OK about seeing the movie and having me pick them up. (Well, our sons usually tell it like it is, because they have few diplomacy skills. It turned out he never discussed with our sons asking me in advance, to pick them up. When he dropped them off at the theater, he said, "I'll pick you up, but if I don't, call your mom and have her come get you.")
- I told him sorry, I couldn't help. My little one was asleep and my husband was out, so I couldn't leave to get our sons. He'd have to get them himself.
- He bristled up and sounded self-righteously angry, going on about how unfair this was to him, because he had to work the next morning. When we were in our early 20's, I probably would have caved in and done what he wanted, so as not to fight and because his unexpected anger would have made me wonder if I were looking at the situation wrong (...Was I at fault?)
His tactics to avoid social / conversational discomfort don't work well on me anymore, because I'm much more clear when I'm not at fault, and I don't care if he's unreasonably angry. I don't have to live with him. But I sense that these things work very well with his wife. She puts up with a lot of grossly inconsiderate behavior (mostly not communicating with her about schedules) that I would not tolerate.
I'm pleased to hear that your son has consciously translated an aspect of human communication that doesn't come naturally to him, and learned to use it in an effective way. What a relief it must be, for you to know he can do that! Yes, it's sad to see our kids have exhausting challenges. But we all have some - visible or not. What a triumph, when you figure out how to make accommodations for them, and thrive!
I would imagine most of what you consider to be maturation is his growing ability to adapt to NT behavioral standards. Being on the spectrum is like being one of a few rare sighted people in a world where being blind is the standard. NTs just stumble through life on instinct, completely unaware of most of the intricacies of life. Even their own behaviors or muscle movements! It's very unusual for them to even realize they are missing something, so they treat us like we're nuts if we don't just act blind too. Some drugs can dull our senses and thought processes to the point that we think and feel a lot like NTs, but it's not like there are eyelids we can close to ever really stop seeing the world. We just have to try to ignore like 50% - 80% of what we notice. And we are the ones that have to make the adjustment, because NTs generally aren't capable of doing so, even when they try. NTs get overwhelmed and confused just trying to manage the standard, constant level of input we are used to. The thing is, noticing everything isn't what overwhelms us. It's trying to figure out what parts of reality each different person needs us to ignore that is overwhelming. Picking just the right social cues for the NT at hand to accept what we want to say, for example. Add to that all the emotional baggage that most diagnosed ASD have to deal with because they've been taught to believe there's something wrong with them because they're not blind enough. Most of the people around them can't even imagine thinking on the level that most ASD do. It's so awesome for your son to have a mom that cares enough to try to understand what the world is like for him. I think dh is the first NT in my life that has ever done that for me, and what an emotional anchor that can be when I'm dealing with a predominantly NT world!