The word partner has many meanings including: “one of two persons who dance together,” “one of two persons who play together in a game against an opposing side,” and/or “a person with whom one shares an intimate relationship.” In the context of caring for a child with autism, all of the above apply. Autism can be a dance, one that has unspoken rules that move you up, down, and around, while following a rhythmic pattern that is unpredictable, yet constant. When dancing with a partner (spouse, significant other, grandparent, teacher, etc.), you both are hearing the same music and reacting in harmony with one another. My husband is my partner. The music of Autism plays constantly in our home and we dance every day. When one of our sons was fixated on balloons, we danced by having a house full of balloons for no reason other than it was Tuesday. Autism can be a game played against an opposing side. We battle with Autism daily when we consciously pull our boys into the world of talking and relating to others. On “field trips” to Target, the goal is to identify a staff, ask where to find something on the shopping list, find the item, buy the item, exchange money, look at the cashier, answer questions, and remember to take your money and items. Doesn’t sound like a battle does it? Well, let’s just say that it does not always go so smoothly. Sometimes, someone will ask a question of the sales clerk, while looking in the opposite direction. We battle with not answering for him so that the clerk will talk directly to our son and not to us. The biggest battle of all has been with the education system. I say the system and not the people because we have encountered good people along the way. Problems occurred when they were limited to respond appropriately due to the system of rules in place. Sometimes, even good people forget that they are good and start to fall in line with a system that does not work. That’s when the battle begins and having a partner on the battle field is essential. We cry together. We triumph together. Through the dance and the battle comes intimacy. That’s when partner takes on the meaning of sharing an intimate relationship. Dancing and battling with Autism is so very intimate. You experience each other’s strengths and weaknesses – hopes and fears. You see that person at their highest and their lowest – unfiltered.
Identify who your “partner” is. It can be whoever will dance, battle, and recover with you. Yes, you are strong. Yes, you can do this. Yes, you are resilient. But remember, having a partner makes the dance that much more sweeter. It makes winning the battle that much more triumphant. It makes your time of recharge and recovery that much more soothing. Find your partner and celebrate them for who they are in your life of Autism: supporter, cheerleader, helpmate, dancer, warrior, and/or sacred friend.