Unable to sign by Zanele Dlamini

My seventeen year old son recently received his Identity (ID)card from Home Affairs.It was a big occasion at our house!We were all so excited for him. He kept on looking at his picture and smiling.
I asked him to hand it over so I can also have a look. He was a bit reluctant at first and I guess he was still savoring the feeling of holding something that he knows belongs to him. He took his time turning it over as if he was he was trying to decide if we also deserved a peek at his prized possession!

When I was finally given a chance to hold the ID, I was impressed that his picture came out looking so good. He hates taking photographs and would rather avoid it. I was a bit emotional as I turned it over and noticed that it was written ‘unable to sign.’I was grateful for that in a way, but also very emotional because it meant I could just show people and not have to go into lengthy explanations about why my son didn’t have a signature.

What’s wrong with him?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. http://www.autismspeaks.org

My son is on the autism spectrum and each case is unique.

He has grown up to be a relatively well adjusted teenager but cannot read or write despite attending a special school. He can however speak his mother tongue, English and a few words of Afrikaans.His only love is cars and car magazines. Money is a big challenge because strangers sometimes give him the wrong change when they discover that he doesn’t notice.

Most of the time I don’t mind explaining to a stranger who notices the odd sounds he makes or the way he walks when he is agitated but it gets tiresome when I have to relate the whole story with signs and symptoms to health care workers at the hospital when I take him for a check up. The ignorance is on another level but forgivable because the signs are not always visible.

The purity of his feelings and the things he says at times brings a smile to my face. It reminds me that life for him is just simple. Just that black and white and no gray areas. I worry constantly about him being taken advantage of by people in the streets. Each day when he comes home looking okay, I breathe a huge sigh of relief and look forward to another day.

I would encourage parents of autistic teenagers to stop being overprotective and let each day take care of itself!

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