When My Son Asked If His Friends Left Because of His Autism
Two years ago, my eldest was diagnosed with autism. When that happened, a dear friend of mine said to me, “You mourn the child you thought you were going to have, Joanna, so you can embrace the child you were given.” I would like to say I have done that. When buggy (my eldest) was diagnosed, I was a flood of tears. I was terrified. When K (my baby) was diagnosed a year and a half later, well, I was a rock. Unshaken. Undeterred. Unafraid.
My family has grown to embrace autism. We see all the beauty it entails. We see and feel the struggles like other autism families; we just choose to focus on the joy.
We value the way they play (now that they actually play), and we celebrate every milestone. We hold them to high standards we would have held them to had they been neurotypical. Manners are a battle, but we are working hard on them. We are working on responsibility, so they have chores. We are working on sharing. We are working on co-play versus parallel play.
We have never given our children the idea that there is any reason they should be favored, danced around or not held to the same standards as everyone else.
My children are fantastic. They are loving, silly, fun, flamboyant and ostentatious, and they are autistic.
But today is hard. Today is hard because I am terrified for their future. Will they mainstream? Will they know love? Will they know friendship? Will the world ignore its impossible standards and accept my children? It scares me to death. I love my children. But today I’m terrified, because my eldest (who knows he is autistic and will tell me he has awesome) asked me if his friends (who went on a vacation) left because of his awesome. “A and E bye bye ’cause no like my awesome?” he asked. And no. Of course they didn’t. His friends love him. He is blessed with some of the best friends. I am blessed to be friends with their mothers. But something was there to make him think that. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t my husband or my friends. Like I said, we have never given my children the idea that they cannot do anything they want to do. So what told my sweet 5-year-old little boy that his “awesome” made him not good enough? What told him he was not worthy of friendship? Please, someone tell me what told my kid that and how I can completely remove that from his life.
Oh wait… it was the world. The world he and his brother are going to have to grow up in. Today I am terrified for their future, for the future of all kids with autism. With disabilities. Today I am terrified for my children, and for my students (I am a paraprofessional in an autism-specific classroom). I wonder if this world will grow to accept my buggy, my K and every one of my students. You see, I know, and you know if you have ever had a chance to love someone with autism, they are not a burden — they are a blessing. So someone please speak out. So no one else’s child has to assume they are not worth friendship. I believe every single person was put on this earth with a purpose. Despite what disability they may have, or maybe because of their disability. They have something to give, they have an inherit value. Shine for individuality, and embrace and accept those with a disability. Be someone’s friend. Make your mark on the world by making a mark on a life. Let them change you. Let them in. It will be worth it.
Today, I, a mom of two sweet boys who are only 5 and 3, am terrified, but together we can change that tomorrow. We can love openly and unconditionally. We can send the message that it’s OK to be different. That different is breathtakingly beautiful.
Follow this journey on A Special Kinda Life.
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