Sometimes life is just easier when your friends are toy dinosaurs and cartoon characters who go on grand imaginary adventures with you. You are in full control, everything is predictable, colorful and stimulating (but not over-stimulating) as you replay the same adventure over and over in your mind. It's safe. It's your happy place!
The real world is a cruel and scary place. Maybe autism is a self-preserving defense mechanism. Don't we all wish we could live inside our heads in the most wonderful imaginary world most of the time instead of dealing with the real world??? We all wish it sometimes. We just don't say it. And that's the beauty of autism: most of the time you just don't care what other people think because you do what makes you happy. No one should be forced into NOT wanting to be happy!
So let's meet our loved ones where they're at: get down on the floor with them and try to ease into this wonderful place they've created. Find ways to bridge their world and ours. Help them find joy and happiness in the real world. Sometimes I worry that the rabbit hole is just so much nicer, why come out? But if we don't draw them out, what then??? It's a scary path I don't like to venture into inside my own mind. If only we could get a glimpse of what our loved ones see...maybe we wouldn't want to come back to the real world, either. In the HBO series and best selling books Game of Thrones, there's a character named Bran. He learns that he has a gift of being able to "leave" his body and enter different worlds, times and places (or the same world through another's perspective) but it comes with the cost of losing the ones he loves...the longer he stays "outside" of his body, the greater the chance that he won't be able to come back to reality. I do believe so much of autism is a gift, but often at the cost of the ones we love, or at least the connections to the ones we love. The longer they stay in their imaginary world, the less they want to be in the real world and the more isolated they become. So it's up to us to help this world be a fun and adventurous place to live.
Autism is enigmatic, mysterious. How can they love a toy dinosaur more than members of their own family? What I wouldn't give to be the toy dinosaur for a day, a moment, a second, and feel that deep love. To feel that ecstatic joy that brings on bouts of uncontrollable belly laughter until you drool...what I wouldn't give to feel that connection, share that joy and understand. THAT would be my happy place: connected by the common love and pure essence of joy in that moment, and to hold on to that memory forever. The memory of sharing that secret happy place!
This is a hard road. No joke! Remember to look out for each other: other parents on this journey who may be struggling, too. We are all joined together by autism. Let's stick together for peace's sake!