Boy learning to swim in swimming pool, wearing goggles and holding a kickboard

When a Swimming Lesson for My Son on the Autism Spectrum Became a Lesson for Me

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I have one life, and I have one son. I can spend that life trying to mould my son Jack into a vision of what the mainstream world might think he should be, or I can take his lead, embrace it and support him to be the best version of himself. Just for your information, I’ve taken the second route, and yes, it is far more fun.

I remember when Jack was younger and he was taking swimming lessons. His father Peter and I brought him to the pool with the intention of making him practice between the lessons, but he just wouldn’t do what we wanted him to do. Peter was getting frustrated. Jack just would not swim in a straight line or try out the new strokes. There Jack was, doing spiraling dives to the bottom of the pool and spinning and somersaulting below water. There I was, between the two, conflicted. Should I push him? He’ll never learn if I don’t push him. And it was in that moment the lightbulb flashed so brightly, the memory of it sticks in my head today. I turned to Peter and I said, “Stop… look at him. Look at the joy on that face. We’re doing it wrong… We have to join him… not make him join us.”

And with that, I spun with my son. I somersaulted backwards and then forwards in the water for the first time in my life, and you know what? It was exhilarating. The swish and swash and stomach-churning swiveling dizziness was magic, and I had never experienced that before. My son had just taught me that water was for fun and not just straight-line exercise. I had forgotten fun. And there’s more. It was with that exact lightbulb moment I knew instinctively that everything was going to be all right, and that this boy, my son, was handing me the gift of alternative thinking. That day I let go. I let go of conforming. I let go of trying to “right” all the deficits the professional reports said my son had. I let go of having to explain my son’s behavior on a daily basis to his teacher who was treating him constantly like a bold child. I let go and I eased the pressure on myself and everything began to get better. When I was less anxious, Jack thrived.

I have trust that Jack’s way of navigating the world is the right pace for him. Yes, we get it wrong sometimes, but I don’t care. With patience and perseverance, my son and I are on this journey. And I can honestly say that it is my privilege to have Jack in my life. I believe being different can mean you make the difference.

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Thinkstock image by VikaRayu

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In Letter to Fan, Jeffrey Kaplan Confirms Overwatch's Symmetra Is on the Autism Spectrum

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In a letter to a fan, Overwatch game director Jeffrey Kaplan confirmed that Symmetra, a character in the popular first-person shooter video game, is on the autism spectrum.

“I’m glad you asked about Symmetra. It was very astute of you to notice that she mentioned the spectrum in our comic,” Kaplan wrote. “Symmetra is autistic. She is one of our most beloved heroes, and we think she does a great job of representing just how awesome someone with autism can be.”

Overwatch is known for its ethnic and gender diverse ensemble of characters, and Symmetra is no exception as a woman on the autism spectrum born in Hyderabad, India. Symmetra being on the spectrum was hinted at last year in a comic released about the character – Symmetra: A Better World.

In the comic book, Symmetra says:

Sanjay has always said I was… different. Everyone has, asking where I fit on the spectrum. It used to bother me because I knew it was true. It doesn’t bother me anymore. Because I can do things nobody else can do.

Overwatch is one of the first prominent video games to have a main character on the autism spectrum. Others video games highlighting autism include autistic characters as minor players or have been critiqued for their stereotypical portrayal of people on the spectrum.

Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment

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To My Parents, Who Supported Me When I First Suspected I Was Autistic

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Why These Negative Responses to My Child’s Autism No Longer Anger Me

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My eldest daughter has autism, she’s 4 years old and was diagnosed a year ago. She has pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), sensory issues, a speech delay, impulse control issues and other very small difficulties. On the outside she looks like a perfect blend between my husband and me, and her and her little sister look like clones.

Since her diagnosis, we’ve shared with several people about her autism. We’ve shared with friends, parents on her preschool class, parents of the neighbor kids whom she plays with in our building’s backyard, and even some strangers when we’ve felt it’s necessary.

This has led to various responses, many of which could be considered unfortunate, inappropriate or just plain rude. I’ve been told, “she does’t look autistic,” “I never would’ve guessed,” “she looks so normal,” “are you sure?” “I’m sorry,” and many other similar remarks. Many of those comments made me angry at first, but later, as I tried to understand what the person who said it might have been thinking — or what he/she might have really wanted to say — I stopped being angry.

I’ve read a lot about autism  — in books, blogs, Facebook groups, etc. Many parents seem offended by these comments, these and many others I haven’t heard yet. I understand why they get angry, upset, sad and the many other feelings that parents of children on the autism spectrum have to deal with when someone says something unkind about their child. But, I’ve managed to find a way not to get angry.

I’ve come to realize most people are not trying to be mean, they might just be ignorant about autism. I don’t say this in a pejorative sense, I believe they don’t know what they’re talking about. Many people don’t know what autism means; they might think it’s a disease, or believe you can get autism, or they simply know nothing about it.

This means parents of children on the autism spectrum (or families) have to realize how important autism awareness is. Our society needs us to advocate for our children so others can understand what autism really looks like, our everyday experiences, what is true and what is a myth. It means we have a lot of work to do, and it also means we need to be patient, and understand that ignorance can be our worst enemy.

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 Thinkstock image by m-gucci
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JT Firestarters is Made and Run By a Man With Autism

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Daniel Toops, a man with autism, created JT Firestarters as a way to earn money and gain independence.

Read the full transcript:

This Man With Autism’s Creation Sparks a Hot Business.

Daniel Toops, 21, is nonverbal and on the autism spectrum.

Toops started JT Firestarters in 2015 as a way to earn money and gain independence.

JT Firestarters are an easy and inexpensive way to start a fire.

Toops runs all aspects of JT Firestarters with the help of his team.

Toops makes the firestarters by hand using recycled materials.

Materials include cardboard egg cartons, shredded paper, drying lint and candle wax.

Toops’ local community in Bellevue, Iowa helps out by donating supplies.

Firestarters are sold in 70 stores across IA, IL, KY, MN and WI.

The company hopes to hire more people with disabilities as they grow.

To learn more, visit justtoops.com.

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I Feel Like a Puzzle Piece That Doesn't Fit Where I 'Should'

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