Autism is a well-known developmental disorder, affecting about one in sixty-eight American children. Autism does not affect two people the same way, so many times parents with children who have just been diagnosed don’t know what to expect, but is there something children with autism can teach their parents? Of course there is!

People on the autism spectrum, especially children, see the world differently from those who are not, and they can help simplify things. For example, being a parent is a difficult stage of one’s life, no matter what, and sometimes children with autism can verbalize better than children who do not fall on the autism spectrum can.

One pitfall many parents have is their expectations for their children. They expect their children to be athletic or smart or outgoing and happy in the parent’s window of “happy.” However, children are not like that. One person’s picture of happiness rarely matches exactly with another’s, and children can be put under a lot of pressure to match their parent’s vision. One  child with autism, however put it very succinctly: “[It] just means your picture didn’t come true. It doesn’t mean I’m not happy. I have a different picture… [I am happy] most of the time, yes…Are you always happy in [your picture]?”

Autism can teach much about fatherhood, as illustrated by one man’s story about his child with autism. They were on a trip to the former home of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, and the man’s son was asking the guide a steady torrent of questions, and correcting him when he said something incorrect. The man, conscious of how his child was behaving, quietly asked him to let others speak, and his child, eager to please, quieted down. Later, a woman asked where the “nice young fellow with all the smart questions” had gone, and the man came to a revelation: his son wasn’t exasperating anyone; he only perceived it to be that way. He changed his perceptions, and he and his son were both happier for it.

What an appropriate sentiment. Change your perceptions, and you and your child will be happier for it.