Lessons in Joy from My Autistic Son

First Person

Lessons in Joy from My Autistic Son

Illustration: Akshita Monga / Arré

R

ecently, while shuffling around my son’s bedroom in the dark, I stubbed my toe hard against his bed. Crying out in pain, I hopped around the room like an injured rabbit. Then I heard a laugh. My 18-year-old son was sitting up in his bed, laughing at my misery.

Such callousness would have stirred anyone’s anger. But as I heard Shiv laugh, I was overcome by a debilitating gratitude. Joy washed over me as I realised my autistic son had broken a major barrier. Until this moment I had yet to see him react independently to something. All his expressions up until this point had to do with himself, not others. Shiv could do a happy dance after seeing his own birthday cake, but he could not recognise joy or pain in others. My beautiful autistic son did not know how to react. And yet, here he was now reacting to someone’s pain with laughter.

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