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This Is What Self-Advocacy Looks Like for My Son With Autism

My 17-year-old son, Ryan, is funny, bright, fabulous and autistic. For years, he has watched me advocate for him. Whether it was at school, in the community or through my blog, he has always known mom was his biggest champion. Since he started high school, I have been trying to get him to advocate for himself more, but his response was always, “Nah, you can handle it,” and no matter how many nagging lectures I gave about how I’m not always going to be here, he resisted.

Until now.

Day four of his junior year in high school and Ryan wasn’t pleased with his lunch period or his English class. He asked me to email his guidance counselor about both concerns, which I did, but she has hundreds of kids she’s responsible for so she didn’t respond quickly enough for him. “You know what, I’m just going to go see her during study hall and take care of it myself.”

And he did. And she was dumbfounded. And so was I.

Ryan told her having lunch at a different time this year than the past two years makes him feel unhappy and that routine and things not changing make him feel better. He told her the English teacher goes too fast and his brain can’t keep up. He told her he plans to start attending his IEP meetings, because it’s his life. He told her he wants to go to a small college with small class sizes because he learns better that way. And when she talked a little too long, he politely interrupted her and said, “I don’t mean to be pushy, but I need to get to stats class.”

Yeah, he took care of it himself. And I can’t stop smiling.

(Banner photo is from five years ago on Ryan’s first day of middle school when I was terrified he wouldn’t be ready. He is always ready… eventually. His time. His way.)