Once Upon a Fat Girl

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Thinking about Nick

I've been thinking about Nick lately (how unusual, huh?) He said something to me the other day that was thought provoking.

You probably know that Nick has recently been diagnosed with mild autism. You may not know that there is an autism diet out there--no gluten, no casin. Essentially, no wheat and no dairy.

I talked to Nick about the diet. He's 13--old enough to have some say in his life, in my opinion. I asked if he wanted to try it. He said no. I said something along the lines of "what if going on this diet takes away the autism." His response was immediate and surprising.

"I don't want to take away autism, Mom. It's part of me."

My first instinct was to think this was Nick, who has a history of being fairly manipulative, trying to get out of going on a diet that would make him give up the carbs that he loves. Bread. Cookies. Crackers. Spaghetti. Ice Cream. Yogurt. But the more I think about it, the more the truth of his statement hits me.

Nick has never had a problem with himself, or the way he is. He has never, ever expressed a desire to be 'normal.' When he gets sad or upset about how other kids treat him, he never puts the blame on himself. He has the clearest idea of how he thinks the world should work and why it doesn't than anyone I've ever met. Because he struggles with the nuances of speech and social interaction, he is very straight forward and honest in his opinions and in what he believes to be right or wrong.

Nick is okay with being Nick. He always has been. Nick doesn't easily fit into the compartments we normally put children in. Like school. Or social situations. He has almost no capacity to follow rules he either doesn't understand or doesn't agree with. Most kids understand that kids are kids and adults are adults, and that there is a double standard as far as rules go (adults get away with a lot, from a kids point of view) and while they don't like it, they go along because they don't have a choice. Nick, on the other hand is incredibly vocal and hard-headed about generational differences. It's called 'code switching', behaving one way with peers and another way with someone in authority. Nick doesn't do it. His switch is broken.

But he doesn't care. He isn't looking to fix the switch.

He likes himself the way he is. And I'm stuck trying to decide if I have the right to force him to change his diet (for the few years left that I have any hope of controlling what he eats) in order to make him more normal. Do I decide that he is too young to know if he likes himself the way he is. Do I decide that he can't make the decision because he doesn't know what 'normal' feels like? Do I decide that he has to be more 'normal' if I can arrange it, so that he'll fit in better in the Real World?

Or do I try to figure out how to let Nick be Nick, try to give him the tools to control the parts of him that he doesn't like. Like his temper (he's expressed some distress about how he will be able to be a doctor if he can't control his anger.) Help him learn how to read other people and understand that he has to respect how different a lot of people are from him.

There is no doubt that the world would run smoother if everyone was the same. That's why schools are designed to crank out kids who don't think for themselves. And that's why a square-peg kid doesn't fit in a round-peg school setting. But maybe (hopefully) I can find a way to celebrate Nick just as he is, and not kill one of the most amazing parts of him--his ability to completely accept himself for who he is.


Blogger Paige said...

What about not going completely gluten/casein free, but lessening it in his life. Like try out the gluten free bread?

I do agree that he is old enough to have some input, but I also am curious if he doesn't want to try change because he's scared it won't work or doesn't realize he can be better?? I don't know him personally, but I keep thinking about my OCD...it's makes me who I am but until I started making some changes in my life, I never really realized how "balanced" I could be, ya know?

Good luck either way!

7:45 AM  
Blogger Laura Bora from Bufadora said...

I am very moved by your post -- my unofficial stepson is not autistic but is a square peg in other ways. He has PTSD and in manifests in a mild form of OCD and very controlling behavior. He also doesn't have that "switch", and loudly questions why the "rules" don't apply to adults.

I have often wondered if I should enforce behavior modification or if I should just let him be HIM because HE has NO PROBLEM with himself.

Thank you for making me think a little deeper today. Your loving acceptance of Nick is awesome -- my mother never showed me ANY of those considerations and I'm (I'm rolling my eyes when I say this) "normal".

9:04 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home