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When Reactions to My Son's Autism Diagnosis Become Teachable Moments


“There is nothing wrong with him!” “He doesn’t seem autistic!”

It is OK if you thought this or said this to us. (People have — and then some!) I say that because it then becomes a teachable moment. It becomes a time when I can raise awareness of autism spectrum disorder, and brag about how awesome (AU-some!) my son Jr is. And maybe some tips on how to better communicate with him.

“What? He has no problems communicating!”

You are right! It isn’t a problem. His brain just works differently (perfectly) than those of us who are neurotypical. (Get used to that word — neurotypical and neurodiverse are huge parts of my vocabulary right now.) Little things can make a huge difference to Jr to help him focus on communicating, like not expecting eye contact, and not seeing the lack of it as disrespect. Or having patience when asking him a question, especially if he has to stop something he is already focused on. He isn’t ignoring you — he is walking his mind through the process of tuning out of one thing and switching focus to you.

 

“But he doesn’t flap like someone I know of with autism.”

No, he doesn’t.

Yes, he does.

It depends on the day/hour/minute.

One of my favorite phrases right now is “Once you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.” It is a spectrum. It is different for everyone. The intensity of his reactions depend on a lot of things we don’t even know about yet.

He is a “typical” almost 7-year-old. He is a wonderfully unique, kind, loving boy of two nerdy and proud parents. He has fantastic friends. He will go far and do so much. It is our job to learn how best teach him, then get out of his way as he soars.

William has autism.

There is nothing wrong with him.

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Thinkstock image by mubai