Kat and ArthurParents of kids with autism love to talk about their kids. Just ask us! Each of us has our own story to tell and this is mine. Ask another parent and you’re sure to get a different perspective.

When I tell people my child has autism, I often wonder what they envision. Do they conjure up an image of a child “locked up in his own mind” looking blankly out at the world?

Or perhaps they imagine a “little professor” who has can list in a very business-like tone and in alphabetical order, the 400,000 species of beetles known to man. 

You should know that my child is not like Rain Man or Einstein.

Some children with autism may have savant abilities or have remarkable splinter skills but most do not have a special superpower. On the same note, not all children with autism have an intellectual disability. And having intellectual disability does not mean a child is not smart. 

My son has limited verbal ability.

We’ve never had a back and forth conversation consisting of more than 3-5 words. But if you ask Arthur what day of the week was August 10, 1996 he can tell you Saturday…in a matter of seconds.  He has cracked the calendar code. Leap year blew his mind!  

I love my kid. I don’t want to fix or cure him.

I do, however, want to help bring out the best in him so you may hear me talk a lot about early intervention, therapies, special education, state benefits, and my concerns about his life-long care needs. I worry. I fret. I am human.

“If you’ve met one kid with autism, you’ve met one kid with autism.” 

The spectrum is wide. On that very wide spectrum, you will find people with autism who go to college, get married, are gainfully employed – and you will also find people on that very same spectrum, who need to be kept in line-of-sight for safety concerns, can’t cross the street safely and will require life-long care for basic needs. And you will also find everything in between these two portraits of kids with autism.

Pride and ego left me long ago.

Go to a grocery store, doctor’s office or public event with my son when he’s having a tantrum and you would totally understand. It fails to faze parents after a few hundred trips – although the stares and unkind looks still sting.

A kind glance can make my day. 

Autism diagnoses are not handed out easily.

It takes months to get in to see a specialist, and usually several appointments to get the autism diagnosis so if someone you know is on a waitlist, this can be a very difficult time. It’s hard to wait, especially when you hear early intervention is important. 

As a parent of this amazing child, I have learned acceptance.

We parents live with fears of our children’s futures. We are immensely proud of every achievement our child masters. And we couldn’t care less if it’s developmentally appropriate. 

Racing to the top is not important to me.

Our kids can – and will – make progress. And we will be there to cheer them on. We can only hope the rest of the world will too. 

I realize autism is uncomfortable for people unfamiliar with it.

I notice when people don’t seem to understand or like the way my son is acting. It might seem annoying, weird, or unfriendly. As you begin to understand autism, the behaviors sometimes become clearer. It’s not done deliberately to be strange or rude. Perhaps if you see a person with autism at a playground, the mall, or out in the community you could simply say, “hello” or extend a smile toward the parent or caregiver.

Don’t take it personally.

Autism is a social-communication disorder and can be accompanied with behavioral challenges so it is not personal if my son doesn’t look at you, or acknowledge your presence, or if he kicks you in the shin. We learn to love and care despite what we “get back” from the relationship.

Redefine success.

Meet him where he is at and the rewards are endless. I appreciate my son because of (not in spite of) his differences. He has taught me more than I imagined I would know about grace, hope, patience and love.

Different is my normal.

For myself – and many fellow parents of a child with autism – this is A-OK. And our hope is that is for others as well.