My Autistic Son Is Not a Prodigy, and That's OK
If I had a penny for every time someone has suggested that since my son has autism, he must be a whiz kid, or a child prodigy, I would be a millionaire by now. I am not sure if I should laugh or get upset over their gross ignorance. The media — social, print, and TV — has done such a disservice to individuals like my son who are in a different place on the spectrum. They downplay the challenges of autism to mere social awkwardness, sound-canceling headphones, and a fidget and the rest is all about handling their genius.
My son’s autism is different. Starkly different from all that most people have been fed with. His autism is not the one that comes with a glorified addendum of extraordinary talent. He is not your autistic singing star or the one who made it to a basketball team in spite of his autism. He is not writing poems or authoring books about what it is to be inside an autistic mind. You will not see his face splashed on the cover page of a magazine as a shining example of courage and persistence in spite of his diagnosis.
Moms will not be sharing his stories on social media and TV channels will not be scouring to get a sound bite from him. He is very different from an autistic person who does standup comedy, paints beautiful art pieces, or struggles with finding a love interest or the perfect job. He is atypical but does not fit the “Atypical” that you see on TV. He is none of the characters you see on the TV.
The world eulogizes success. It’s hedonistic. It sells. My son’s autism does not sell.
His is the autism that most people don’t know of or prefer not to discuss because to them there is nothing remarkable about an autistic boy who is not an encyclopedia on dinosaurs and can’t do mathematical calculations way beyond his age. His challenges are unexciting and his achievements small. His is the autism that people prefer to forget. It’s the story of a diagnosis that neither makes you stand out or fit in, it just makes you invisible.
He might not be your motivational speaker, talking to an enthralled audience about how he overcame his challenges, but he motivates me every day to be my best and keep advocating for him. He inspires me. Everyday. To me, he is strong, unrelenting and successful. He might not be a prodigy but he is exceptional nonetheless.
I find him extraordinary. His resilience, despite how the world never gives him a level playing field, is amazing. He will continue to do remarkable things and push boundaries. We will continue to cheer him on all along. He does not fit your standard definition of anything spectacular, but every day he amazes me with his strength to rise against his challenges and try new things, not give up, not get frustrated and smile all along as if all of this is child’s play. All those things that keep me up at night, he makes them look trivial. He laughs at his struggles while I worry over them. He makes his autism look trivial. He makes ordinary life look extraordinary.
Over the years, my son’s autism has given me a better perspective, a stronger will, and a never-say-die attitude towards life. I have heard many people say that our lives are very challenging and they are right, it is. My son’s autism is not easy. He requires supervision and support every step of the way. It’s hard to know what he wants because he lacks communication. His anxieties rule our lives and his unpredictability keeps us on our toes.
However, he delights us with his unique take on life. He surprises us with all that he can do and learn, even in the face of his challenges. He makes us smile more often than we thought we would. He makes every day a little better by being himself. His autism is different, and his life is exceptional. Not because he is a prodigy but because he is a fighter and makes an otherwise unremarkable life incredible with his uniqueness.