When My Son on the Autism Spectrum Told Me He Didn't Want to Be 'Special'


I’ll never forget the day my son came to me and said he didn’t want to be “special,” he just wanted to be “normal.” I was so blindsided by it I didn’t know how to respond at first. I asked him to elaborate on it, and he told me everyone’s response to him not being able to do something because of his autism spectrum disorder was to tell him he was special, and he hated it. He didn’t want to be “special” if it meant having a hard time doing things others could do more easily. He would much rather be “normal” and be able to do the things everybody else could do.

I took a moment to take this in and consider how to respond to it. I knew whatever I said could have a lasting impact on him, and I was terrified of saying the wrong thing. I began by telling him I understood his frustration. It was a fact that he faced certain challenges because of his autism, but he also excelled at certain things. I told him everyone was special in some way, because everyone was unique. No one person was like another person. We are all different. We are all good at some things and not so good at other things. I gave him examples of the things he was good at and I wasn’t good at, and the things I was good at and he wasn’t good at. This piqued his interest and got him so excited he decided to make a list of things others he knew were good at and weren’t good at, and I knew he was going to be OK.

The days that followed had him going around asking people what they were good at and what they weren’t good at. By the end of it, he had a notebook full of profiles of people we knew, and I had found out more about them in a couple of days than I had in years!

Image via Thinkstock.

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