Thursday, February 12, 2015

Autism Answer: Our Culture of Difference

My husband's reaction to our son's insightful essay was adorable.

Our youngest son brought home an essay he wrote at school, and knowing how much I love reading his (and his brothers') essays, he dropped it dramatically on my desk. "Here you go mom. You're welcome!" He spun away with a flourish and hid away in his room, as is his fourteen year old habit.

I read the essay, titled "My Culture, My Life" by Declyn Shelton, and loved it. As my hubby walked in the door, oil stained red rag and wrench in hand, I welcomed him home by reading the first paragraphs out loud. 

I read:

"My culture is influenced by so many people, my personality, and where I'm from. Each is an aspect of my life that define who I am.

The way my family is diversified helps me understand how much an individual can impact a life. My mom and my dad are two separate races, but love each other just the same. This shows me that race doesn't matter. It's the feelings you have for one another that does. Not all of my brothers have the same dad. My brothers Jory and Tyran have the same dad, but my other brother Shay has a different dad. This shows me that brothers are formed with bonding time not blood. My uncles are brothers, but have different families and ethnicity and different disabilities. This shows me that family is the closest bond ever.

My family shows me the path, but what I do and how I act shows me the direction. I'm kind and caring. I'll help those who need it because I don't mind going out of my way to help others. I show sentimentality to others by listening, helping, and treating others with respect."

I looked at my husband at this point and enjoyed purely his look of amazement. You see, he knows our children are brilliant and insightful, but he's not a reader. He's never read their ideas, so he's rarely experienced the boiled down poetic clarity of their brilliance.

"Did he get a one hundred grade on that?" he asked, feeling certain that the answer would be yes.

"A ninety-eight!" I answered with pride.

"What? That's a one hundred for sure. The teacher made a mistake. How could that not be a one hundred grade?"

I giggled and said, "Well, there are a few spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. And a ninety-eight is practically a one hundred."

But my hubby wasn't laughing. "Do you think it's a mistake? The idea is a one hundred, grammar and spelling isn't as important as the idea."

I was loving this. "I agree, actually that's exactly what my book is about. But grammar and spelling are what he's being taught. Presenting his ideas in the clearest way, so they are understood and accepted by the largest numbers, that sort of thing."

"I sure hope it's not a prejudice thing," I heard him grumble. "That's a one hundred grade essay for sure."

I considered going on with my explanation. I considered explaining my honest belief that the teacher gave him the right grade and for the right reasons.

But I didn't. Because my hubby was also right. And it was beautiful to hear him say the things he was saying. Our son was hiding in his room but I heard him turn down the music, and I knew he was listening. I knew he was beaming.

We all were right.

And I believe that is why Declyn's essay is so insightful, and why Declyn is so kind and caring. Because he is surrounded by support and people who value each other and seek ways to highlight each others strengths.

Even if that means grumbling about mistakes and possible prejudice now and then when someone doesn't get one hundred percent.

Anyway, I remember when Jory was a baby and I had almost the exact same thoughts after he didn't win a cutest baby contest. I knew it was because someone else had connections, or they didn't want a brown baby winning, or a young single mom rubbed the judges the wrong way. I wasn't angry, just certain.

Sometimes it's okay to be silly and certain.

So I kept my mouth shut and enjoyed my husband's disagreement about the grade, and his swelled pride at our son's brilliance.

Because, even though the teacher's grade was fair, my husband was also right.

In our son's words, "Culture is influenced by so many people. Each is an aspect of life..."

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)