Many people on the autistic spectrum have difficulty expressing themselves, and especially their emotions. Events like Valentine’s Day often magnify that difficulty.
When Peter was very young it felt like Valentine’s Day was happening around him, but he was not absorbing the concept. At times I would catch a glimmer in his eyes that hinted he was participating in the only way he could, but hoped for more interaction next year.
Last year on Valentine’s Day I found Peter on my MacBook. He looked very pleased with himself because he had found a new widget to put on my computer, which would let me see the basketball scores with the touch of one button. He knows he is great on the computer, and he knows that I love basketball. He found a way to put it altogether.
He looked up at me flashing that dimple of his and said, “Happy Valentine’s Day. Look what I made for you. I know you love basketball.” He shyly added, “And I love you.”
He had said, “I love you” a few times before, each time making me lose my breath, since it took years before he was capable of it.
This though, was a way of him taking what he was best at and giving me a true gift. It was not prompted. It was a genuine expression of care. He had thought about what I like and how he could make me happy.
In the past, most have thought of autism as the inability to feel. I have come to learn by watching Peter grow that it is not the inability to feel, but the difficulty in expressing those feelings.
We still have some barriers to break through. Peter is still very literal. On Feb. 16 as we were driving in the car I told him I had a secret and that it was that I loved him. Without missing a beat, Peter said, “Mom, Valentine’s Day is over, you know.”
I took a moment to let him know you love people all year and Valentine’s Day is just a special day to show it. He was already not wanting to get into a deep conversation, so I thought of the basketball scores waiting for me on my computer when we arrived home and smiled. It certainly is the little things.