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It's Time for My Autistic Son's Voice to Do the Talking

For a long, long time, I was my son Ryan’s voice. He has always been “verbal,” but he often struggled to communicate his needs. I did my best to interpret his needs and communicate them to others. Sometimes I got it right, sometimes I didn’t. Like any parent, all you want is for your child to feel safe, loved, and happy, but if your child has a hard time letting you know what he needs to feel all those things, it is heartbreaking and frustrating. I’m the mom, I’m supposed to be able to kiss away the boo-boos, chase away the scary monsters and take on the schoolyard bullies (well I did do that, a few times), but if I didn’t know what hurt him, scared him or threatened him, I didn’t know how to help him.

Over the years, as Ryan’s language and communication skills grew, so did my interpretation and understanding. Here’s where it got sticky. As his communication grew louder, my voice needed to get quieter. And I have a big loud mouth, so it was hard to shut me up, especially when I worried his voice wasn’t being heard.

Ryan is 19 years old, a young man whose self-advocacy has grown in leaps and bounds this past year. Although there have been bumps along the way, I have tried my best to sit back and be quiet. It’s a fine line between advocating for him and letting him advocate for himself — a line I am still (and might always) walk like a tightrope over boiling hot lava. I would much rather get burned than him, but I know one day the rope will be gone and he will have to cross the lava without it.

Quieting my voice so his can be heard is my greatest challenge, but when he tells me, “I’m handling it,” I really have to listen.

Image Credits: Kathy Hooven