I’m happy to explore if you hold my hand

Who am I?

Mom: A very endearing little boy that needs a lot of routine and reassurance. Who needs a lot of love, like any small boy, endearing or not. And who is not broken or doesn’t need to be “fixed”. If we stopped seeing people with autism as broken, ill, not like us, we could create a better place for them – and for us – in society. Because they have a right to exist fully in society, not in special schools, special placements, special activities, so that their appearance, their tics, their anxieties and their crises do not offend the regard of “normal” people.

Dad: My partner in hiking. A funny, affectionate boy who is curious and likes to explore as long as he feels safe and has enough structure and points of reference in place. The one that pushed me to question myself and to change more than anyone or anything else.

M. lives with his mom and dad in Brussels. Both his parents have been born in another country and have come to Belgium about a decade ago. He is an only child.

M. likes to build elaborate stories for his paper cutout friends. he brings these friends with him in the trips he takes with his dad. He organizes for them school days at home, in which he acts as teacher or school principal.

He can get into a laughing fit out of nothing. All emotions are felt and expressed intensely. He often writes invisible texts with his finger in the air.

M. expects things to happen in a certain way. Predictability is reassuring for him. He may have a hard time accepting a sudden change in the schedule.

He’s good with spatial and temporal orientation, maths, and planning.

M. is sociable but social codes are still a mystery for him. Sometimes, when he meets people for the first time, he asks about their name, age, and address. He knows the birthdays of everybody by heart.

Being in nature

M. takes a lot of trips with his dad. Most of these are short, 2-3 day trips not far from home. Still, preparing such a trip is not easy. For him, as for many kids with autism, it’s important to know in advance what the place looks like and what the program will be. It’s also essential that they leave home exactly when planned, not one minute later.

The location of these trips is heavily negotiated. M. is quite accommodating with any program as long as his wishes are taken into account: a visit to the McDo and to the local supermarket. He never complains about having to walk too long but he will ask for snacks every half hour.

The moments spent in silence hiking along a river or following a narrow footpath into the woods are the best. There’s silence and space enough for M. and his dad to be alone with their thoughts yet together. There is no need to describe or explain. Communication is reduced to the bare bones: thirst, hunger, rest, reassurance, care.

There’s a lot that can be communicated in silence. There’s an energy that moves around and needs sufficient silence and awareness in order to be felt. Words can come up here and there but they do not add anything important to this energy flow.

Short break along the river

Mind maps

M. likes to know where he is and where he’s going. He is always well-oriented in space and time. When driving to their next destination, his father would sometimes ask M. where they are. Without having a mobile, map or anything else, he almost always answers correctly.

He likes to draw maps of the city’s public transportation system. He uses different colors for the different types and lines of transport. M. is able to tell exactly which buses and trams pass by a certain stop. His mind seems to run a simulation of the entire transport system.

Working on one of the elaborate maps of public transport in Brussels.

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