Thinking too Hard
by Iris Hardin
This past summer was the first that my son Adam, who is autistic, didn’t go to camp. At 19, he let us know that he was ready to move on from this kind of experience. He had been working at the local public library a few hours a week during the school year, and he was happy to continue with his job and a program at the high school. So far so good.
The unintended consequence of this transition for Adam was that he has gained an unhealthy amount of weight. Swimming is one of his loves, and I didn’t realize how much exercise he got at camp. It became clear when we made the move from his summer to fall clothes, which no longer fit.
For the past month, I’ve been trying (with no success) to engage Adam in some regular physical activity. This is a huge challenge for us for a host of reasons: he is 19, and doesn’t like me telling him what to do (imagine that!); Adam prefers doing things alone to being with others (he doesn’t “play”); and he is not naturally inclined toward physical activities. In other words, he won’t do something physical unless I’m there to push him, but he doesn’t want me there to push him. This felt like an impossible situation to me.
Listening to music, like swimming, is another of Adam’s passions. Last night, he was listening and swaying to the groove, as is his way, and I said, “Dancing is good exercise, Adam.” Later, I heard (and felt) some amazing stomping coming from his room. It lasted an hour. This morning, first thing, we heard the stomping again before breakfast. When he came downstairs for breakfast, sweaty and clearly winded, Adam announced (with a big smile), “I did my stoutness exercises.” (He is a devotee of Winnie the Pooh.)
My son is 19 years old, and I need him to remind me over and over that solving his problems is not always (or even most often) about thinking of a solution. Most often, it is about paying attention so that I can help him lead me there.
Iris Hardin attends Andover Newton Theological School and is a candidate for the Unitarian Universalist ministry. She is married with three stepchildren in their late twenties and nineteen-year-old, twin sons. Her son Adam has autism.