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To My Son With Autism on His Graduation Day

This is it, the day you have been waiting for, the day you worked so hard to get to, the day I’ve looked forward to with equal parts excitement and equal parts fear: high school graduation. It doesn’t look like we expected, it’s not the day we planned, yet somehow it’s all OK. As you have learned, life doesn’t always go as planned and I know unexpected change is difficult for you, but, as you have with every step in life, you will rise above it, you will adapt and you will soar.

I know this journey wasn’t always easy for you. I’m sorry there have been so many occasions you were made to feel uncomfortable in order for others to feel comfortable. I’m sorry that you were forced to conform to situations, moments and learning experiences that felt so incredibly unnatural to you. I’m sorry for the times people were unkind and unaccepting. I’m sorry for the ignorance and cruelty of people who only take the time to see people who are just like them. I’m sorry the world has taken so long to understand and realize the importance and the gift of those who see and interact with the world differently. And I’m sorry that it feels like helping the world to see that, to see you, is one more burden you must bear.

However, as you wrote in your Senior Philosophy of Life regarding the cornerstones of your life, through all these difficult moments, you have endured, you have persevered, you have braved through and I have no doubt you will continue to do so on this next part of your journey. And just like always, I will be by your side cheering the loudest and feeling more pride than I ever knew possible.

I want to take time on what was to be a day filled with pomp, circumstance and parties to thank you. Thank you for letting me cheer loudly even when my voice was horribly annoying. Thank you for letting me love you even when my love was too much. Thank you for letting me in when you wanted everyone out. Thank you for trusting me when you were unsure what trust looked and felt like. And finally, thank you for giving me a view of the world not often seen by others. It is truly remarkable.

You are a gift my son, not just to me, but, to thousands of others who have seen through you: endurance, perseverance, bravery and the one thing not mentioned in your Philosophy of Life, hope. You have taught all of us how accepting and extraordinary the world can be when we look past ourselves and open our minds, our hearts and our eyes to “different.” I know this next step on your journey, college, will be filled with change, trepidation and a great deal of independence, but remember, you are never alone. I’ve got you now, tomorrow and always.

Go be you, Ryan, and show the world what you have to offer because you, my son, are exceptional!