This is blog I’ve dreaded writing… the one I’ve avoided for a while.

Maybe it’s because I’m scared of the reaction of other parents. Ever since I started blogging, I’ve opened myself up for the possibility of criticism. But I told myself from the beginning that this is our story, our journey. And that as hard as it can be to open yourself up to the possibility of ridicule (even within my own community) that I would be 100 percent raw, 100 percent open. About all of it. Maybe the truth is, I’ve been scared to write this particular blog because of the place it takes me to — the place I so desperately try to avoid thinking about. The darkest corner. My deepest fears. The thing that taunts me at night. 

My son is 7, going on 8 years old. He’s big for his age, about 90 pounds to be exact. He’s classified as nonverbal and uses an iPad for the majority of his communication. He’s also classified as severely autistic. He can go into intense meltdowns and at times, be impossible to calm down, and yes, he can also be aggressive. Let me be clear, I’m not scared of my son. Not in the least. What I am scared of is, what if the day comes when I am scared of him?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA), occupational therapy (OT), speech therapy, pills, etc. — we’ve almost tried it all. Friends message me with potions, lotions, news articles and any other latest and greatest thing believed to help “cure” autism. Truthfully, just between you and me, I don’t need anymore suggestions right now. Yes, I know, they mean well. But the truth is, I need a miracle. 

Quite some time ago, I accepted the fact that my son most likely will need lifelong care and that I would be his caregiver. I accepted the fact that as a single mom, there’s a possibility I may have to travel this road alone. What I haven’t been able to bring myself to think about is the possibility that me taking care of him won’t be an option. I can’t bear to think about the likelihood that one day he may need care I will not be able to provide. In the event we’re not able to get his meltdowns under control… what then?

There it is. The monster in the dark. The nightmare that torments me at night. I can’t bear the thought of a day where I don’t wake him up and he darts to my bedroom, climbs under my blankets and for that brief moment, lets me cuddle him. Or at night when I tuck him in and we go through our routine when I tell him goodnight and how much I love him. This is one of the few times I get to hear his sweet voice when he attempts to mimic what I’m saying. Yes, it’s echolalia, but I don’t care. I hear his voice, and for just a few minutes at night, we have a “conversation.” It’s my absolute favorite time of the day. I live for that moment. I can’t bear the thought of one day not having that.

mother looking at her son

I find myself praying more and more these days. I pray for a miracle. Not for him to be “cured” of autism. I pray for relief from the meltdowns, not just for me but for him too. I pray the day won’t come when I have to face my darkest fear. I pray for a lifetime of “good mornings” and “good nights” with my son. But I’ve also found myself learning to pray that, should I not be granted that “miracle,” I will find the strength to handle the alternative. 

For now, I enjoy and am thankful for every day I have with my son. We continue to work hard with therapy, and I continue to pray for our miracle. I read a quote recently: “I don’t just believe in miracles, I rely on them.” Sometimes, the words “me too” are the only thing someone really needs to hear to know they’re not alone. So while I’m not (at this moment) looking for any more suggestions or links or 1-800-get-out-your-credit-card “cures,” what I really could use right now is a simple “me too.”

Is there anybody else out there “relying” on a miracle? 

Because I know I am.

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I don’t like doctors’ waiting rooms.

They’re like silent torture chambers for an anxious mother of a 6-year-old, who can change from a little sweetheart to a little banshee at any second, screaming the roof off and attracting looks of confusion, pity and annoyance.

As we waited for the doctor, Sophia jumped out of her seat next to me and sat next to a woman on the opposite side of the room. The woman said, “Hello,” and I watched as her eyes filled with tears as Sophia smiled and snuggled into her arm. This was most out of character for my normally anti-social daughter, but Sophia obviously liked her.

Sophia happily sat there babbling away in her own language as she snuggled into the woman’s arm. I explained to her that Sophia is nonverbal. She was such a kind-natured woman that I felt comfortable telling her about Sophia’s autism.

I stumbled onto my words and said, “I can’t say any more or I might lose it.”

“Well, I would offer to give you a hug, but that might set you off as well,” she replied. And we laughed. It felt good to laugh.

As the minutes ticked by, I asked the woman if she had been waiting long to see the doctor. She explained she was waiting for her husband who was already with a doctor, having a cancerous growth removed from his leg. After 25 years of marriage and excellent health, her husband had recently been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which was spreading through his body and was now terminal.

She went on to explain how they were forced to sell their beachside home that they had painstakingly renovated over the years, since her husband didn’t like the idea of her being in a big house on her own after he was gone. They had now moved to a retirement village that overlooked a lake, which she said was nice but not the same.

Suddenly, Sophia’s autism didn’t seem like that big of a deal after all.

I offered to give her a hug, but she said it would “set her off” so we just sat there sharing stories while Sophia continued to nestle into her arm like a protective guard dog. My sweet, little, intuitive girl.

Eventually, the doctor was ready to see us. I didn’t know what to say to a woman with such palpable pain and grief. Regrettably, all I managed was, “See you, all the best.”

Ugh!

After our doctor’s appointment, I went back to the waiting room to find her, but she had gone. I had missed my chance to say something a little more thoughtful.

By chance, as we were waiting for Sophia’s prescription, the woman (I never did ask her name) reappeared. And with that, she reached out for a hug, and I hugged her back.

“Take care.”

“You too.”

And then she was gone. It was a brief but meaningful exchange, and I’ll remember it for the rest of my days. We were just two woman who shared a hug, our stories and space in time together in the doctors’ waiting room, brought together by fate and a little girl with autism who sensed a stranger in need of a hug.

Rebekah Corlett

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one unexpected source of comfort when it comes to your (or a loved one’s) disability and/or disease? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.


If you’re a parent of a child with autism, you might have had this said to you in many contexts and on many occasions: “Normal kids do that.” You may feel yourself tensing up and may have to work to keep calm. People say this for many reasons, and often think it’s a comfort. But the truth is, it’s not, and for a number of reasons.

Here are seven reasons why this statement isn’t helpful:

1. What is normal, anyway? 

First of all, I don’t like the word “normal” because it implies that people can be described as “normal.” I feel each person is unique and “normal” doesn’t exist. I’m uncomfortable with defining a person’s worth by his or her ability to keep within a narrow definition of what’s expected.

My son, Alex, always finds it strange as an adult with autism when people use the word “normal” as a compliment. They may say things like, “I didn’t know you were autistic, I thought you were ‘normal.’” However, what does normal really mean, who is defining it and is there really such a thing as normal when applied to a human being?

2. It’s not the truth.

Yes, maybe some “normal children” are fussy eaters. But that’s not the same as a child who can’t cope with the sensory input of different textures, or even the smallest change.

3. It minimizes our journey. 

This statement makes you feel like the person making the comment thinks you and your child are frauds. If the person thinks your child’s behavior and development are like “normal” children’s, it minimizes what may be one of the toughest times in your life.

4. It’s not a compliment.

Although individuals with autism process the world in a different way, it doesn’t mean they do everything differently. They must get tired of being told they “seem normal,” as though this is the greatest compliment in the world.

5. It can be used to deny help.

This is often used to deny children the support they need in school. Sadly, it may also come with the suggestion that the child with autism is just naughty.

6. It undermines the distinctions.

As I said, I don’t like the term “normal,” but sometimes the differences in behaviors that would lead to a diagnosis are a matter of degrees. For example, there’s a difference between tapping your foot and rocking back and forward for hours. They’re both examples of stimming, but one is more pronounced than the other.

For example, statements like, “Normal kids can be shy. He/she will grow out of it.” Yes, if it’s just shyness, a child might grow out of it. But if what’s seen as shy behavior is caused by autism, that’s different. This child lacks social skills and may struggle to read body language or give eye contact. It’s not the same as shyness, even though it may look like shyness to someone who doesn’t understand.

7. It’s sometimes based on misinformation.

“Lots of normal kids don’t speak a lot until they’re 5.” Yes, someone actually told me this when Alex was younger and my inner response was, “Since when?”

I wrote this because I want people to think about the way they speak to parents who have children with special needs. Small, thoughtless comments can make someone feel isolated, misunderstood and maybe even judged.

Alex was diagnosed with classic autism at the age of 4. At the time of Alex’s diagnosis, I felt as though my world had fallen apart. I was going through a grieving process. I knew Alex wasn’t like other children, and thoughtless comments left me feeling the loss even more.

Now, he speaks publicly about autism and has even written a book about his life. So although Alex may not be “like other kids,” he is a truly special person who has touched many lives.

family posing for pictures with bride and groom

A version of this post originally appeared on Alex Lowery’s website.

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I collapsed onto the couch at the end of another long day. Both kids were finally in bed, but Junior was still making a vocal protest about having to sleep, as he does every night.

“Why did God give us such a challenging kid?” I asked my husband. I thought back on that day of another meltdown in therapy, a screaming fit in the car, and an emotionally draining afternoon trying to reason with an overtired 3-year-old that consistently refuses to nap.

“What do you mean?” he responded, though still engrossed in ESPN.

“My friends all have easy kids. They sleep, they understand the word “no,” and for heavens sakes, they go to the grocery store and actually hold onto the cart!”

He must have sensed my question held an underlying insecurity, because he turned to face me as he considered a response.

“Why do you assume easy means good?” he asked thoughtfully.

Of course easy means good, I thought. Easy means sleeping more than four hours at a time. It means going on an airplane without stressing for weeks he’s going to have a meltdown 10,000 feet in the air. It means going to the park and playing with friends instead of going to therapy again. It means never having to explain why your child is different.

But then, suddenly, something in my brain clicked. Easy might be good, but that doesn’t mean challenging is bad. No, challenging is good in it’s own special way…just like Junior.

When he wakes up in the morning and says “ears!” because he wants his cochlear implants on, that’s good. He has had to work hard for every sound he hears — hundreds of hours of appointments and therapies in the last two years. But the pride I see when he completes a listening task is better than good. It’s a miracle.

When he sits in a chair and plays with Play-Doh instead of throws it, that’s good. Yes, it took 3 months of OT to get him to sit still for five minutes, but it was worth it.

When he goes up to his sister and hugs her instead of hits her, that’s good. It only took 327 times of saying “we don’t hit” before he finally got it (this time, anyway). But it’s still progress.

If I’ve learned anything in the last 3 years, it’s that the harder you work for something, the more obstacles you face, and the more sacrifices you make, the more you appreciate it.

My life with Junior isn’t ever going to be easy. But my perspective about his special needs has shifted. I appreciate the little milestones more than any typical parent is capable of. I don’t take those baby steps of growth for granted. I know how much hard work, sacrifice, tears, and sleepless nights have gone into every ounce of progress, and it means everything. And, at the end of the day, I don’t want an “easy” kid, I just want Junior.

young boy in red shirt

A version of this post originally appeared on Save Money, Live Joyfully

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one commonly held opinion within the community surrounding your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) that doesn’t resonate with you? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.

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When Zoey was diagnosed with autism in August 2014, we were told she was nonverbal and not to give up hope.

I hang onto hope. I cling to hope. I wear hope. I sleep and dream hope. I breathe it in every day and never release it. It’s a part of me.

My child is a part of me, too. She is a piece of my heart. She makes me want to be healthy and fight for anything and everything she needs. She’s made me into someone I never thought, or even dreamt, I could be.

I knew nothing about autism! I didn’t know the different severities. I didn’t know that my child may never talk. I didn’t know that she wouldn’t be able to communicate at all. I didn’t know!

But I did know to never lose hope, to not take the small things for granted and to love this child unconditionally with all of my heart. That I know!

Of course, I wanted to hear her say “Mama,” and hug me. Yes, I was sad. But I put the sadness away and focused on what she could do, and she’s made lots of progress this past year with early intervention. She has opened up to me, and we now have a bond we didn’t have before. I get hugs, she sits with me and lets me rub her face. She shows me love without words.

The funny thing about hope is sometimes you don’t really know what you’re hoping for. I had hope that she would speak so she could say “Mama,” “I love you,” or at least tell me what she wanted or needed. But my hopes changed. I hoped for her to be happy, feel less frustrated and feel and know love, and those hopes have come true!

Hope just floats around like a bubble — airy and beautiful! And then, without you asking, praying or dreaming for it, it just happens! I just make sure to capture that bubble before it pops, and wait for the next one.

Here’s a video of my daughter saying, “Mama,” for the first time on Mother’s Day.

Follow this journey on Melissa’s Facebook page.


Selfies. They’re for the young at heart. In other words, not for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve grabbed my phone to snap a pic, and the camera — thanks to my darling, wrinkle-free faced, selfie-taking children — is reversed to selfie mode so when I look at the phone, boom, there it is, my 46-year-old reflection six inches from my face. I swear I have screamed and dropped my phone (twice). Who is that? What happened to that young-at-heart, firm-skinned girl I use to know? I think she can be found in old Polaroid Instamatic photos from the 1970s. Sigh.

Yes, the older you get, the less you recognize that reflection in your iPhone, iPad or mirror. Is that because how we see ourselves in our mind isn’t really what reflects on that high-grade iPhone glass, or are we just our worst self critics? Perhaps it’s just our old friend, denial, playing tricks on us by replacing that high grade iPhone glass with some distorted, age-advancing glass? I’m going with denial as I so often do.

I’ve always been a bit envious of my husband, Dan, and his reflection. Not only is he eight years older than me, but also he happens to look eight years younger than me, which makes me hate him … a little. You know the old, haggard-looking woman versus the distinguished-looking man phenomenon? Yeah, that. So unfair. Let these guys push out an 8-pound baby two or three times and see how “distinguished” they look then.

Although I think Dan is remarkably handsome (and I love/hate him for it), it’s not so much his “distinguished” looks that I envy most about my husband’s reflection, it’s his ability to see a fragment of our 13-year-old son in himself when he looks in the mirror (Dan doesn’t do selfies or iPhones so he only sees his reflection in mirrors.) A son who I would give anything to resemble me in the slightest. A son who I have spent 13 years trying to understand and trying to “get.” A son who someday when the iPhone 15 comes out and is able to capture what a person looks like on the inside, will look remarkably like my husband and nothing at all like me.

Ever since our son, Ryan, was little and I obsessed and Googled over whether he does or doesn’t have the “A-word,” Dan would shrug off my obsessive behavior and tell me, “He’s fine.” How could Ryan be “fine”? He spent so much time alone, his sensory system was constantly on overdrive and even though he was completely verbal, he had very little to say. “Fine” was not what I saw, but my husband did.

My husband saw “fine” because he saw Ryan each and every time he glanced in the mirror at his own reflection. Dan understands that an overloaded sensory system can make you edgy and crabby. He understands that a quiet night by his fire pit with only the joyful singing of crickets buzzing in his ears is better than an overcrowded, loud party with multiple conversations buzzing in his ears. Dan also understands that just because you can speak, doesn’t mean you have something to say. Mostly though, my husband understands Ryan in a way I never will. When I realized this, when I understood that Dan would always have a connection with Ryan that I wouldn’t, it kind of made me want to slap him in his distinguished-looking 54-year-old face.

Dan doesn’t have an autism diagnosis, but his reflection resembles Ryan’s more than mine ever will. They are cut from the same cloth, and both of them would tell me that they didn’t come from cloth. Ryan wouldn’t understand the idiom. Dan would understand it, but he would just think it’s a ridiculous thing to say. Father and son, similar reflections. And this is why, coming from that same cloth through every new challenge, through every new stage, through every new heartbreak Ryan has endured, Dan would assure me, “He’s fine, Mama.”

Just last week, when Ryan had a painful experience with a friend, I found myself crying in Dan’s arms and hearing those words again, “He’s fine, Mama.” Dan assured me that Ryan is “finding his way,” and although it has always taken him a bit longer than other kids his age, Ryan finds his way and he always seems to be “fine.” Just like I hate how Dan doesn’t look his age when I see his reflection in our shared bathroom mirror, I typically hate when he is right (because inevitably that means I am wrong), but there is no hate, there is no cursing him under my breath, there is only a little bit of envy and a great deal of love and gratitude when it comes to seeing him in our son.

Selfies may be for the young at heart, but sometimes it’s still fun to jump on the younger generation’s trend. And just like Ryan (who also despises selfies), Dan could care less about what’s trending, what’s in or what everyone is doing, but for someone like me, someone whose reflection is so different than both of theirs, I like the occasional selfie … with a nice blurred, dimmed filter.

It’s fun to drag my husband into one of my selfies every now and then while he grumbles and complains about it. For him, it may be ridiculous, narcissistic and trendy, but for me, having his 8-year-younger-looking face next to mine (still hate him a little) is a reminder of how much harder this autism journey would be on my own without his reflection in my iPhone.

A version of this post originally appeared on The AWEnesty of Autism.

The Mighty wants to hear more about relationships and special needs parenting. Can you share a moment on your special needs journey that strengthened your relationship? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.

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