I spend a lot of my time wondering how Nigel’s autism affects my younger son, Aidan, who is twelve. He was about six years old when he first asked, “Why is my brother like that?” as he witnessed Nigel screaming because of a transition. Since then, Aidan has said to me on numerous occasions, “It’s like I’m the older one.” And through the plaintive quality of his voice, I can hear what he doesn’t say: Why does it have to be that way?
I know that sometimes he feels embarrassed by his brother, even though he is reluctant to talk with me about it. I know that he is frustrated by him, how he “never listens.” I try to talk to him, try to cultivate some compassion for his brother by being compassionate towards Aidan. I know it’s hard for him. And I’ve always hoped that with all the difficult aspects of having an autistic brother, he’ll someday be able to see the value in him.
Apparently, that day has arrived. Aidan, my sensitive SPD kid, has a theory. He gets pretty philosophical on me sometimes, and we’ve had some great discussions about existentialism. He thinks that, in spite of the technological advances we’ve made with computers and such, humanity on the whole is not as intelligent as we were generations ago. His reasoning? Not the typical, too-much-TV, too-little-reading response. He believes that humanity is not evolving because autists have less of a chance of procreating. “What do you mean?” I asked him, intrigued.
“Well,” he said, “People like Nigel are really smart. But because they’re different, there’s less of a chance that they’ll get in a relationship and have kids. And some of the other really smart autistic people who can’t talk, there’s even less of a chance for them because they wouldn’t be able to take care of kids if they did have them. But they’re still really smart, inside. And so humanity’s gene pool is less smart because not so many autistic people are able to contribute to it.”
I told him, “If more people were as smart as you are in realizing that, I’m sure it would make a difference.”