To the People Who Think I 'Sugarcoat' Our Experiences With Autism


mom and little girl with autism at the pool Listen up, and please listen carefully. I have something important to say.

Or, don’t listen. Don’t read any further, if you don’t want to. Maybe you don’t care what I have to say, and that’s OK, too.

I’m speaking to all of you, though.

I’m speaking to all parents to children with autism who have chosen to share your journeys. I’m reaching out to all of you, who, after the day has long since taken every drop of energy in your reserve, dig even deeper to live the day all over again just to let someone else know they’re not alone. What a profound, selfless gesture it is to do so. Your unabashed honesty brings clarity to so many, yet you face scrutiny from other parents for not being “real” enough. I know this because I’ve been there, repeatedly.

“Too cute and sugarcoated” was one bit of feedback I received on a recent piece. “… don’t downplay its seriousness with hearts and rainbows” was another. I accept what I write will not resonate with everyone, but this was just disheartening. With that in mind, I’m going to offer an explanation in regards to the manner in which I choose to convey the messages I share. In doing so, I’m speaking directly to those of you who have chosen to pass judgment.

Just as my child on the spectrum does not fit into a particular mold, neither do I! There is no “one size fits all” manual for maneuvering through a life that includes autism. Therefore, there should be no expectation among parents in the same community in regards to what is deemed a “realistic” or “reasonable” outlook for a child’s future.

My daughter and I have a lot of less-than-stellar days. On these days, I have moments where I cry alone because I feel completely inadequate. However, hidden between those tumultuous moments have been some real moments of pride, inner strength, and pure joy. I write about these days, these experiences, as a whole. I don’t omit reality and write fairy tales as many have claimed. I do deliberately choose to focus on how these experiences have made me stronger and more capable. If that’s not your cup of tea, I accept that. What I do not accept is the notion that I’m misguided because the tone of my writing is too positive.

I have three children. Someday, they will undoubtedly plug their names, or mine, into a search engine. I want the results of that search to show them how much this experience has taught me as their mother.

The writing I choose to share is not “too” anything. It is my own. Writing is therapeutic. Just as it can cleanse the soul to vent, it can build confidence to write a positive message. I share my journey because I believe the lessons I learn may motivate others to push through. There’s nothing sugarcoated about it. My daughter inspires me, and I’m excited to watch her grow.

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