Normal…does it really even exist or is it just some arbitrary standard by which we judge ourselves?
I used to think normal was two parents, married with children who perform well academically and socially, grow up, go to college, get good jobs, get married and have children of their own. Everyone grew to a ripe old age, enjoying each passing year.
And then I grew up, went to college, got a job, got married and had children. That’s where my notion of normal ended. My parents didn’t live happily ever after, they got divorced. They each found new mates who fit perfectly into our family and by the grace of God, the four of them have an amazing relationship which allows us to operate as one big family rather than parts of a whole. My brother didn’t live to a ripe old age, he died as the result of an accident. We suddenly had a new normal.
Ben was only five months old when Bud died. As he grew and we began to see differences from what we were used to from the older kids, normal, even our new normal, quickly faded away. We began searching for answers, some of which we’re still looking for, but what has changed the most is that we’re no longer searching for normal. “Normal is just a setting on a washing machine.” I don’t remember where I read it first, but I distinctly remember feeling someone had finally hit the nail on the head.
Each person and each family is so different one from another, even in the neurotypical world, how can we possibly compare one to another and feel there is a “normal”? And if you are so blessed as to look into the spectrum scene (Yes, I said “blessed”.) you will quickly learn that knowing one person with autism simply means you know ONE person with autism.
Symptoms and the manifestation of those symptoms are so different for each individual person, there just isn’t a way to say, “Oh, this is normal for folks on the spectrum.” Sure, there are some common factors to look for, but not everyone on the spectrum displays each common characteristic, and we can’t assume that if someone does have a few of those common characteristics that they are automatically on the spectrum. There are so many things about our Ben that remind me of our older two sons. The more I learn, the more I begin to think perhaps we all have some tendencies to autism, it’s just some are affected more than others. I’m not saying we’re all on the spectrum, just that we all have our own quirks. And perhaps that’s the most “normal” thing about any of us.