Happy Autism Awareness Day! You are aware…(anyone remember George Costanza being made aware?)…that people have different views on autism. Even people who want to help. The only person diagnosed with autism on the Autism Speaks board…recently quit that board, because the rest of them kept calling it a disease, and he didn’t see it that way. The point is that some people consider autism something like left-handedness, just different and special and one of the colors of the rainbow.

Wifey and I aren’t there. Not with this one. We don’t see anything positive about this autism experience…yet.

HOWEVER, let’s face it, I spend a lot of time on Waaambulance Wednesday complaining. (Note the name.) On this lovely Autism Awareness Day, I thought I’d try something different: celebrating The Top Ten Things I love about Dar. Less Debbie Downering. Life with him is not all doom and gloom, even if it may read that way. I could end all of these with a big old but…but in the spirit of positivity, I’ll save those buts for another day. So, as I believe Eric Idle might have said, always look at the bright side of life…

1 Dar in the bathtub or swimming – He loves that, and it’s great to see him happy.

2 Dar’s smile – I see a lot of it. It’s beautiful. His curly hair, his little freckles, his lithe body – hey I’m allowed to be a little superficial. That’s my son.

3 Dar’s tooth-brushing. He’s really good at it! And he even likes it. After I put the paste on the brush, Dar sucks on that brush for ten minutes or so. For us, this is lovely.

4 I don’t have to deal with a lot of “Why?” or “Why not?” or “What’s that?” questions. Rumor has it that parents find these annoying after a while. I wouldn’t know, but I’m taking your word for it.

5 Dar’s general amiability and loving heart and low-maintenance-ness. If he was a talking kid, and otherwise took up about the same amount of space/time (I mean this in almost a cosmic sense) that he does now, I think he’d be close to perfect. I realize that’s a contradiction and doesn’t really make sense, but right now, Dar is often pretty good at keeping himself amused. He doesn’t need us to constantly entertain him…well, not usually. When I hear him say “tee-tee-tee,” which is often, that tends to mean he’s happy with how things are going…thank Jeebus.

6 Dar outside. When he is melting down, standing in our grassy backyard tends to calm him down. I think he likes just watching the trees move and feeling the wind on his body. Since we are fortunate enough to live in the Bay Area, we have nice weather a lot more often than not. This is quite the blessing.

7 In my newfound positive spirit, and to throw a bone to the “it’s like left-handedness” crowd, I even want to give autism some kind of place on this list. Maybe someday I will be one of these spiritual people who say “His autism saved my life.” I doubt it. For now, I’ll praise the handicapped permit. Yes, we have one. No, we’re not making up the severity of his condition. Pediatrician signed us up for the thingy. Wifey wasn’t thrilled with us applying for one at first…I believe she thought we may have been jinxing Dar’s treatment. Be that as it may, I will admit that that little blue plate that hangs from the rearview mirror is a nice thing that I have used even when Dar wasn’t in the car. Therapists have warned me against feeling guilty about this. I think one said something like, “When you have to deal with as many things as you do, you take the silver linings where you can.” Who am I to argue with that wise woman?

8 The way Dar smiles at other kids when forced into rooms/playgrounds with them. At least he doesn’t ignore them. Nor does he interact with them…eeeep, I said this post won’t be full of buts. Dar watches kids, at least at first. It’s nice to watch him watch them with his big blue eyes and his wide smile for as long as that lasts. I guess I tell myself he’s learning something, somehow.

9 All of Dar’s physical stuff. When your kid is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, as Dar was, you have official worries about “physical stuff.” But days pass without me thinking about CP. He’s not 100% (again, not going there), but wow, what he can do! He runs, he jumps, he slides, he spins, he climbs all our furniture, he’s all over the place.

10 When Dar proactively wants to see me. I mean, it’s not much, you know. He will grab my hand and pull me away from my office chair (I’ll admit this isn’t always welcome), and he never starts by saying “Daddy” despite me prompting him the 100 previous times, and he usually just wants to go to the fridge…in this case I’m thinking of the times he just wants to be by my side, smiling, saying his random “tee-tee-tee”s. When I can just say things to him and he can smile and apparently be happy with that. That’s special to me.