Along with informational content, I am going to be featuring some additional stories and voices from neurodiverse individuals, in single and recurring posts. Here is a great piece from Trapper Shafer, an autistic adult and father to both neurotypical and autistic children. He is a great writer, and you’ll be hearing more from him in the coming months. Enjoy!

Two generations of autistics in under one roof.

As an adult with autism, I have faced my share of hurdles. Particularly, my early years before we discover my autism. One hurdle I didn’t expect was the hurdle of raising autistic children. I have four children, a seven-year-old daughter, and a five-year-old daughter. They are both neurotypical, their little brothers on the other hand are autistic. The boys are identical twins and were just diagnosed with autism in mid-2021. Growing up undiagnosed, I really struggled. I had spent a number of years being frustrated that I never got support earlier. The twins were now a chance for my struggles to mean something. I would know exactly how to help them, exactly where I wish I would have had support. But autism, as we’ve heard it said before, is a spectrum, and although there are similarities, every case is unique. I’d like to share some of my experiential lessons with some fun anecdotes.

I Did It, Literally
As many people are aware, we autistics can often interpret things too literally. This is why a former coworker of mine wrote sarcasm on the back of her name badge. When someone said something sarcastic and she could tell I didn’t get it, she would flip her badge over. That was my cue that it’s not serious. It’s a joke, and I’d somewhat force a laugh until I figured it out about two to three minutes after the fact. However, my son Eli gave me a whole new lesson on literal interpretation. My first indication that Eli was going to be overly literal was getting ready for a bath one night. I had helped him get undressed and without thinking said “Go jump in the bath, Bubba.” Eli then walked over, climbed up, and stood on the edge of the bath. And like a cliff diver, jumped into the tub. My stomach jumped up as I saw this happening and attempted to reach super-human speeds to try and catch him. Thankfully he landed vertically and did not slip.

The Student Actually is the Master
This was the first of many times that Eli used to teach me to drop colloquialisms. One of my masking skills was the use of colloquialisms. The lesson I learned here was that I needed to be careful of what verbiage I use when spending time with him. For other parents of autistics, I would describe it as being a student of your child. Just like as students we learned about subjects from a teacher who was proficient in the material. Our autistic children are experts on the subject of their autism and by becoming their students we will learn exactly how to support them. My latest lesson from Eli was driving home from daycare last week. We have a specific song that he and his twin brother like to listen to while driving home. This day Eli was singing along, or rather, making vocalizations to the beat of the song. I asked him if he was a singer and I could not help but chuckle at his response. He became very upset and said, “I’m not a singer, I’m an Eli.” We still have a ways to go with developing the abstract concept of a person being multiple things. So, for all the parents of autistic children, take a deep breath, and become a student to your child. They’ll teach you exactly how to support them.

Trapper Shafer is an adult with autism and the father to five wonderful children, of whom 2 are autistic as well. He is also the founder of UNPUZLD a clothing brand promoting autism acceptance and supporting autism by donating 50% of all profits back to various autism foundations. If you are interested in learning more about Trapper and his work, you can visit his website here: https://unpuzld.wordpress.com

Dr. Jessica Myszak has had over 11 years of experience performing psychological evaluations with children and adults. She offers both in-person and telehealth evaluations. In addition to seeing clients on the Chicago North Shore, she is able to work with families who reside in Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina, Washington DC, Wisconsin, and soon, Alabama and Kentucky! If you are interested in learning more about potentially working with her, you can visit her website here or email her here to get the process started.