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It's April. Autism Awareness Month, and the month is almost over. As the mother of a seven (almost 8 year old son) on the spectrum, I felt like I should say something. In fact it's been weighing on me greatly, just what I should say.
The truth is I have written and re-written this post what feels like a million times and was never happy with it. I wanted to say something, but I'm no expert of any kind. I'm just a mom, not even one of those Autism Warrior Moms you hear tell about. I'm just an ordinary mom of two regular type kids, one of whom happens to have autism.
So then I started over from scratch. I thought, if there was one thing I wish someone could have told me about autism before my son was diagnosed, what would it be?
So here goes...
There is a saying you may or may not have heard, "If you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism." It's seems sort of obvious doesn't it? Not all typical people are exactly the same, why would those with autism be. But it's a truth that I think many people don't fully grasp. Before my son was diagnosed, I didn't get it. Not at all.
I thought I knew a fair amount about autism. I'd read a couple of books. I'd met a handful of people who'd been diagnosed with it. I knew about Temple Grandin from when I was taking animal husbandry courses in jr. high and high school.
But the truth is the image I had in my mind was a very stereotyped one, and it was an image that did not match up with my son. Even when family members suggested I look into it, I just couldn't see it. I did mention it to the pediatrician who didn't see it either. She saw some delays, as did I, but not autism. If I'd known, I mean really known? I don't think I would have left it at that.
I'd wish I'd known that kids with autism can be goofy, and silly and giggly and cuddly. I wish I'd known just how smart and talented and loving and amazing children with autism can be.
I wish I'd known all that, I mean really known that, when Max was little and first showing the signs. Would an earlier diagnosis have made much of a difference for him? It's hard to say, but at least I would have known I had done my best for him from the start.
I would have understood why he struggled with things that other children seemed to sail through. I like to think I would have been more patient with him. A lot more patient.
And maybe... just maybe... I wouldn't have felt so alone.
Because there are so many of us. Not just parents of children with autism, but all of us parents of children with special needs, children who struggle to fit in a world not made for them. We are not alone.
We don't have to be.