By: Alfonso J. Camacho
A lot is said about love and autism, always by the experts. I have no degree and no Ph.D., my only credential is being a person with autism. I am a person who experiences life from a different point of view. I see a world with a multitude of autistic experiences; love can be experienced in many ways. My friends and I would like to share our experiences with you.
Juan Pablo is a dear friend who found a way to communicate with my mom’s help. We take classes together and always find a way to trick my mom into doing fun stuff.
AJC: In autism we seldom speak about love.
JPC: I am surprised to hear those two words together, people don’t often put them in the same sentence.
AJC: To think of autism is still a synonym with low affection, but that is so wrong.
JPC: We are capable of love in all ways.
AJC: Not just love to our parents and ourselves but love to friends, neighbors, romantic love and love for our world.
JPC: I am familiar with love in all its forms. I experiment love in many ways.
AJC: A very valuable form of love is friendship. The very feeling that bonds us beings with something in common.
JPC: A friendship can look very different but still be important.
AJC: For us, a friendship needs little words and a lot of help sometimes. We want to do stuff together but our parents need to help us out all the way.
JPC: I have such a blast hanging out with friends, I enjoy every second of it.
AJC: I get a chance to be a kid, to mess around and to be silly even if I can’t show it on the outside.
JPC: We get a chance to experience human connection and understanding similarly to all humans.
AJC: My friendships allow me to grow through learning my friends’ life experience and form bonds for a lifetime.
JPC: Alfonso, I am glad to have you as a friend.
AJC: Same here man, same here.
Everyone should have the opportunity to develop meaningful friendships; I am lucky to have several. I am happy to spend time with friends. Oliver and I have gone on a lot of adventures. We are always on the hunt for new ones.
O: Friendship to me evolves over time. Alfonso became my best friend like that very fast. Meaningful relationships lead toward satisfying lives and lasting happiness.
AJC: Finding Oliver was a breath of fresh air. To have a male friend my age with whom to share adventures is awesome. We get each other in ways most people don't. I have enjoyed your friendship so much. When I think of love and autism our bond comes to mind as a valuable part of my life and I am grateful for it. How do you find our neurodiversity contributes to our friendship?
O: Not able to think of really significant differences between us. We both use the letter boards to express our thoughts and emotions. Take valuable lesson from the self-advocates who moved past the hurdles in their path.
AJC: I agree with you, our similarities outweigh any differences we have with each other or the world. What would you say to people who believe friendship is not possible for us?
O: Believe with your heart instead of your mind.
AJC: Thanks Oliver and see you on our next adventure.
Some friends are classmates at BEE we share a bond over learning. Iven is one of those friends. We see each other as we go from session to session. I would like to grow my friendship with him. To say I am a bit younger is an understatement. However I think we may have a lot in common.
AJC: Iven, when I think of love and autism I think of friendships. What do you think of?
I: For me love and autism reminds me of romance like Graciela’s* or Romeo and Juliet, same feeling.
AJC: I also think of romantic love, you are not alone. I think of someone in particular that makes my heart skip a beat. Her smile is like sunshine.
I: I can’t imagine how happiness as a human could be greater, each heart filled with joy.
AJC: My heart is filled with longing as she does not know I like her. In autism many people don’t believe we can experiment this kind of love. I say we feel love just like everyone else.
I: I am so joyful, easily run over by emotion. No one can appreciate how in love someone is until you give other people back their ability to communicate.
AJC: I absolutely agree. Without my words no one would imagine what I feel and think. Any last words?
I: Hi mom! I love you. Alfonso, I loved talking to you.
AJC: I loved the greeting to your mom, nice touch. Thanks for talking to me Iven, I have wanted to do this for a while.
Autism does not inhibit our ability to participate in loving meaningful relationships. All my friends have nonspeaking autism and use alternative means to communicate, mainly letter boards. Thank you to Juan Pablo Camarena, Iven and Oliver for agreeing to collaborate with me on this piece.
You can read more from Alfonso J. Camacho at http://autismandotherendeavorsoftheheart.beellc.com