This April Accept My Family and My Son on the Autism Spectrum
April is autism awareness month. I hope I spread awareness daily through my stories of home life. I don’t want you to wear a specific color or donate to a cause. What I do want you to do is accept my family norm and learn from our stories.
Autism became most apparent to us when it entered our lives in October of 2010. Gabriel was 18 months at the time and began to regress in many ways: speech, motor activity and eating. In hindsight, signs had been there before, but he is our first child so how could we know? We called Early Intervention and soon found out about his diagnosis. I adore my son. He has autism and he is like no other being in the world. I’ve never seen a more loving, sweet, kind, well-behaved child. His mannerisms are gentle and he seems generally happy to me.
Do I want a “cure” for his autism? No. But I do want his life to be easier. I want him to be accepted, to be welcomed, to not be discriminated against. Watching my son’s delight as he witnesses other kids having fun is pure joy. I believe he simply wants to be.
I’m tired of being told, “Nah, it’s not because he has autism.” Or being told his therapy appointments or specialized activities are “excuses to turn down other things.” I won’t go into detail about the amount of therapy and understanding a child on the autism spectrum might need. These are needs, not excuses.
When I tell you my son has autism, please don’t say, “I’m sorry.” Why should you be sorry? I am not sorry. I adore my son and I am proud of him. Don’t say words like “normal” or the “R” word. Don’t say, “My child can’t do that either,” assuming challenges are easy to overcome. And don’t tell me, “He’ll grow out of it.” It? A lifelong developmental disability?
Look at my son’s abilities. He is authentic and genuine and shows no guile. He is gentle and caring — he shows empathy and love. He understands everything. He is smart, reads at 4 years old, can make his point using different forms of communication. He even ice skates and plays like other children. My hope is once you meet and know Gabriel, your view of autism will be forever changed.
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