Autism is a Bird
Autism is a funny little bird. He hopped in through a window I hadn’t meant to open. When I turned around, he was looking at me with unsmiling eyes.
I was so afraid.
I tried to shoo him away, asked him to leave 400 times. I was stern. I was pretty rude. But he wouldn’t leave. He didn’t know how to fly. I prayed to the sky, looming gray above the roof of my house, for that little bird to leave. I made deals with voices I shouldn’t have heard, voices that spoke in tongues I didn’t understand.
But the little bird still stayed. He flapped around the rooms of my house, made sounds like a screeching owl, and fluttered around my head fast like hummingbird wings. He made his nest near my boy and settled in for a long stay.
The bird was horrible at first. He asked me to do things I did not think I could do, things I would not have ever wanted to do. He did not care if I was tired or hurting. You, the collective you, would laugh when I brought it with me to the supermarket. You weren’t being mean, but it was funny to see me chasing my bird around the store. Sometimes I admit, I laughed too. I sat right down on the dirty floor in the cereal aisle and I laughed. Like a mad woman laughs at the gnomes that dance on her back porch. I laughed because my bird was strange and devastatingly beautiful. I laughed because I was broken up on the inside and you were staring at me and the bird was chirping for cookies in his little autistic chirps. I laughed to suffocate the sobs that were climbing up my throat.
The bird stayed. He grew up in fits and spurts with my boy and I tried to teach him to fly (and ride a bicycle and eat with chopsticks) but he didn’t seem to really want to learn. He didn’t ask for much. I fed him cookies and he chirped happy chirps and I figured out how to make him smile. I decided not to suffocate the sobs when they came and when I did, I found they came less and less.
The bird stays. He stays and I still wish he would go. I wish I could see a boy without a bird nearby. I wish it like you, the collective you, wishes for a million dollars to fall from the sky. I wish it less and less though.
The bird stays. He stays because he can’t fly and even though he never may, I suppose it’s up to me to help him try.
Nicole V. Jankowski
The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the NLM Family Foundation.