This year, I genuinely forgot to put my thoughts down prior to World Autism Awareness Day because, well, to be frank, every day is Autism Day in our house.
I think years ago, we were in survival mode, as parents and as parents of two boys with autism. Sometimes, I think back to certain days early in the journey, and I’m still not sure how I didn’t lose my mind. But, I didn’t, and now, I wouldn’t trade our life for anything.
The worst part about having children with special needs is the judgement and pity from other people. I’m always upfront about both boys being on the spectrum, not because I want your sympathy, but because I believe in living an authentic life, the good with the bad. All of us have struggles, ours just have happened to involve tantrums about cars, Thomas the Train, and obsessions that would bring the most patient person to the brink.
Our oldest now understands why he’s ‘different’. Many nights, he would cry and tell me he didn’t fit in at school, and he didn’t know why he couldn’t make friends. About the same time last year, we had a long discussion as to why he and his brother have trouble socializing, that their brains were wired differently than ours–that they were on the spectrum.
I’ve bought countless books on autism heroes, such as Einstein, Mozart, Darwin, Michelangelo, and Thomas Jefferson to show them that even though they were different, it pushed them to persevere and accomplish great, life changing things. I’ve spent the last year pushing to the boys that their differences are what make them powerful, that what makes them feel out of place now can help them change the world one day.
I asked our oldest yesterday what he thinks now about being autistic. Ever the serious child, he sat for a moment and said, “Hmmm…I used to not like that my brain worked differently than everyone else, but now I’m learning to embrace it and now I like it.” These wise words came out of a 10 year old’s mouth.
My words about it are that when I tell you the boys have autism, please don’t tell me that ‘you’re sorry’. I don’t want your pity, or sympathy, I want your understanding, your empathy, just like any other person that has challenges. Because, at the end of today, when the world stops remembering autism, and the blue lights go out, our autism life continues for the next 364 days until next April. And, I, like our oldest son, will continue to embrace it, and evolve, and hopefully help our sons leave the world in a little better place.