I don’t mind if you say “I’m sorry,” when you find out my 4-year-old daughter is on the autism spectrum. I actually I appreciate it
Many times I have heard and read about how parents of children on the autism spectrum absolutely hate it when someone who has just learned his/her child has autism says. “I’m sorry.” I don’t feel the same way. I’m actually grateful when someone has a polite or empathetic comment to make. Some people don’t know what to say, and instead of being quiet they say things like, “I saw ‘Rain Man,’” “She can talk, she’s not autistic,” “She looks so normal,” and other things I really don’t like to hear, but a sincere “I’m sorry” is not something that bothers me. I do, however, understand that the phrase “I’m sorry” may be viewed as a sign of pity, and our children’s lives are not to be pitied. They’re different, but wonderful lives.
But I don’t mind hearing “I’m sorry,” because I feel the same way… I’m sorry she will have to live in a society that is not prepared to deal with difference. I’m sorry she will have to live in a country where she will be seen as handicapped only because she sees the world in a different way. I’m sorry she has to spend several hours a week going to therapy. I’m sorry she has to miss classes to go to speech therapy twice a week. I’m sorry she can’t enjoy games with her friends because she does’t understand symbolic play the same way other children do. I’m sorry she can’t enjoy playing in the swings because she has proprioceptive issues. I’m sorry she has strong issues with food and textures that don´t allow her to experience the pleasure of eating; she is afraid to try new foods, she hates mushy food and may never experience my joy of eating a warm bowl of freshly mashed potatoes. I’m most sorry about this particular issue because she is not receiving all the nutrients and vitamins she needs from her extremely limited diet, and she has to take vitamin supplements, which she hates.
I’m sorry I had to take her out of her nursery school where she had friends and take her to a new place more suitable for her needs. I’m sorry she will have to go to a different school than the one we wanted her to attend because she needs a more personalized education. I’m sorry she and her sister might not be able to attend the same school just because her sister is neurotypical and she’s not.
There are so many things in her life I’m sorry about, but there are also so many things I’m not sorry about, things I’ve learned from her that make me happy and proud of who she is and who she’s made me become.
She’s made me realize I have more patience than I new. I learned to cook fruits and vegetables in fun ways she likes and are healthy for her so she doesn’t miss out on the pleasures of eating. I’ve discovered I have very little shame when it comes to making her laugh. I’ve done silly, funny, ridiculous things just to make her smile; before she came along I would’ve never done these things in public. She’s made me find physical strength I never new I had so I can carry her in my arms even when I think I can no longer resist the weight of her 45 pounds, just because she loves it. I’m not sorry for how much she loves birds and how she has made me look past my absolute hatred of them and be able to walk into an aviary and learn names and sounds different birds make.
I’m not sorry how she makes me laugh until I pee in my pants, for how much her sister loves her, for how happy she has made our lives, for how proud she makes us every day when she conquers her fears and tries something new, for how much she adores her father and call him “my prince.”
For this and so much more, I’m not sorry.
Image via Thinkstock.