My Sweet Boy, You’re Different

Sweet boy, you’re different.

Not to Mummy. Not to Daddy. Not to your little sister. You are our whole world and everything in it. Each eccentricity, each little quirk and trait — they are the rich and joyful substance of our lives. We know no “normal” but the world we inhabit with you. And, to us, it is perfect; we would want no other.

We are all different.

Not a single being on this earth is exactly the same as another. There will always be things that we struggle to understand about one another. That is a reality of what it means to be human.

But your differences begin to stand out more and more, every day; the cloak of youth is beginning to lift, and your peers are starting to be aware of behavior that is strange to them.

In the store, a slightly older boy and his brother are wind-milling and skipping around their mother. They wander over to you, and he speaks. “Hello! I am Sam, and that boy over there is my brother!”

You stim, squeeze your hands close up to your eyes and contort your face as if you are in agony. You are so excited he has spoken to you. You gesture towards yourself, your whole hand forming a point.

“This boy… this boy is H’s brother!” You have trouble getting your words out. I recognize all the quirks of your conversation. You have mimicked what he has said, the information he has provided, but you do not understand the purpose of the conversation. Your mind follows a slightly different script.

The boy frowns. He doesn’t understand why you have said what you said. He doesn’t understand why you pulled such a strange face. He turns away. “Bye!” he yells again as he runs off. You stim again, still so excited. You do not understand the rules that were broken, the judgments that were made.

You are still just delighted that he spoke to you. But one day you will know. And my heart could almost break, sweet boy.

My heart could break to see your desire to join in be thwarted by the quirks that make me love you all the more. The conventions of conversation come so easily to others; it is almost impossible for them to imagine a world where those unconscious rules are so alien.

The children at nursery are afraid of your stimming. They think you are angry with them, or aggressive — when the opposite is true. You are delighted by them, by everything they do, by every word they speak to you, by everything you observe and learn from them.

I wish I could show them. I wish I could explain that you are so sensitive, so kind, so desperate to be their friends, that if they could just accept you, accept what is “strange” to them, their lives would be so enriched by having you, being with you — but they are only 3 and 4. There is no way to force that understanding. Only time, and patience, and failing — perhaps failing many times — will eventually lead you to those who will see what I do.

This is just the beginning.

Truthfully, what hope do we have of sparing you from these judgments? There is not enough opportunity, enough time in the whole world to educate all of those who would question your exquisite oddities.

Will autism ever be wholly accepted? Will there ever be enough awareness?

I hope by writing, by fighting, by helping you carve out a well of understanding, as you grow, there might be less fear, less judgment. And, precious child — who will know what it is to be different more than most — I can help you learn to accept others in all their glorious uniqueness.

The world will be a better place for your presence in it.

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