autism · Casey · memes

Butterflies and Autism

 A couple of weeks ago we went over to the Museum of Natural History. We forgot to warn Casey in advance that we would not be visiting the butterfly exhibit.  Big oops.

He freaked out. And not just a little. Lance and I took turns holding him on the floor of the Smithsonian as he screamed and kicked. He took his shoes and socks off and threw them at scared onlookers. That showed them. It’s amazing how little I care about what those people are thinking.  6 years ago as we were getting Casey diagnosed, that would have been horrific for me. I would have gone home and cried.

Not anymore. Maybe because it’s just something normal for us. Maybe it’s because I think I have some grasp on his autism and understand that HE doesn’t mean to do it, and he doesn’t want to feel that way.  But it is aggravating a little. To have to haul a screaming and kicking 8 year old boy out of a crowded museum isn’t fun. And, frankly, his obsessions wear me out. Want to know ANYTHING about the Titanic or the Monarch Butterfly?

But the thing I don’t get is what he ACTUALLY is feeling when that happens. He can’t articulate it. I can’t feel it for him. I can tell he’s pissed, that’s easy, but I wonder about his insides.  I don’t understand HOW he feels when he’s with the butterflies.  I always thought it was the obsession that drove him, not the feeling. Because I give The Autism too much credit. But I got a glimpse of how he must REALLY feel the other day and it turned my world over.

It’s hard to put into words. My dad wrote a poem once that said, “What good are words when feelings are stronger?”  I got to feel what he felt, if for just a second. I took him back to the museum last week and let him spend all the time he wanted with his beloved butterflies. 

(This next part I wasn’t going to share because it’s a little hokey and  SO not like me…but I guess it’s good because I needed an experience like this) 

While we were in there he wanted nothing more than for a butterfly to land on him. I wanted nothing more. I did something that I haven’t done for years and years. I asked my dad for some help. My dad died when I was young but I still feel him A LOT.  Especially lately. I miss him a lot. I know he’s around, but there are times I want more PROOF. So I asked him to do Casey a solid and help a butterfly to land on him. No sooner was I done thinking those things that this happened:

A butterfly not only landed on him, which I could have easily written off as coincidence because I’m an unfaithful and cynical whore, but landed SQUARE on his forehead.  And then it refused to move.  The feeling I had when that happened was overwhelming. My heart started to beat faster, I got goosebumps all over. My dad had really made it happen!

As soon as we got the butterfly off, Casey spotted his absolute favorite butterfly:  the Monarch.  He was excited. I lifted him up to get a closer look, and as I did, my hand went right over his heart…and it was beating SO FAST.  I looked at his arms, they had goosebumps.

That’s when I really got it. To see something so physiological happen in reaction to the butterflies, something he couldn’t control, really showed me how much he cares. It was the same overwhelming feeling I had gotten just a few minutes earlier when the butterfly landed on Casey’s forehead in response to my plea to my father.   I finally got it!

It’s not JUST an obsession. It’s not just a danger to him (he’ll chase butterflies into the road). It’s bigger than that.  For my son it’s proof that the autism is not winning the war for my son’s emotions. A few weeks ago he wasn’t angry because there was an upset in his supposed routine like I thought, again, giving The Autism too much credit, it was because he wanted so badly to be with the butterflies and FEEL those things.

So this weekend we’re planting a butterfly garden in the back. Hopefully if we build it, they will come. We’re also sending out for another set of butterfly eggs that we can go through the whole process of metamorphosis like the ones we had around Christmas. These ones won’t be released to their deaths in cold winter air though…

And because it’s Friday, I’m linking up with Sunday the Shiznit Stilwell over Adventures In Extreme Parenthood for Friday Special Needs Ryan Gosling Meme Day:

25 thoughts on “Butterflies and Autism

  1. Awww! Seriously the amount of joy on Casey's face is just too freaking adorable! I am so happy that you both got that moment. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that you get like a thousand butterflies in your garden!

  2. Wow, that's awesome, Lexi! And that photo is priceless – you can see so much emotion and joy in that boy. Gave me chills to read. My parents have butterfly bushes in their yard, and true to the name, they sure do attract butterflies!

  3. hahahaha. . . you made metamorphosis seem dirty! You got skillz.Also. . . the non SNRG part. . . very nice post.We have butterfly bushes. . . and their proverbial milkshakes bring all the butterflies to our yard. They ARE called that. Also. . . the little cabbage butterflies LOVE Loosestrife. So. . . Loosestrife, butterfly bushes, bang. done.

  4. Haven't been to the Smithsonian one but in the summer the nature center near Wheaton Regional Park (the name escapes me right now) has one and it is fabulous. If you haven't been there it might be worth a trip and then go by Wheaton Regional Park which has a small train.

  5. Damn you woman…you made me cry!! I'm like a stone. I'm not a crier unless I hurt myself really badly or something like that. But this?! THIS made me cry and I want to thank you for sharing it with us (even if you thought it was hokey)Also, you better snap some Polaroids of Ryan during his metamorphosis, k?!

  6. I'm with Sunday. You TOTALLY made me cry! But you know what else you did? You gave me some much needed perspective on my own son and his obsessions. This is one of the best posts on autism I have read in ages. So, so filled with understanding, or at least as much understanding as a NT person can have, I suppose. Thank you for helping me see this side of things.I love your blog so much! The fact that you are also LDS and a tad bit irreverent makes me wish so, so, so much that you lived in my branch!

  7. You had me crying. Thank you so much for sharing this, even though you thought it was hokey. We are fairly new diagnosed (4 months) and I often get The Autism too much credit, he's in there and it hasn't won; I just have to keep reminding myself of that. (And I'm crying again. ::sigh:: )

  8. You made my day. I read my husband your comment and he laughed at the LDS and irreverent. Thank you for encouraging my SINNING! ahahahaha.

  9. Wow. Four months. I was a mess for the first, um, four years maybe? Just kidding. It comes in bouts. Getting that diagnosis is TOUGH. I'm sorry you're going through it. Just know that it will be SO GOOD, too. So good. If you ever want to chat, my email is

  10. We didn't find out Kamdyn was a girl until she was born, so I didn't decorate her room until after she was here. I immediately felt drawn to butterflies, so that's what her room is decorated in. My mom felt the same way, and became very interested in butterflies too. She actually planted a huge butterfly garden in her yard. She had a lot of butterflies last year. I'm sure you will too. If you want any suggestions for plants, I can ask her. What a great experience for both of you to have.

  11. Oh, I loved this so much more than I can ever say! This was so beautiful Lexi. What an amazing little guy you have :)…BEST picture EVER too!

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