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Autism Is Not a Tragedy

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This month I’ve been flooded with autism awareness posts. From my personal bank advertising their autism-friendly atmosphere to a local oil change center offering discounts for autism families, it’s been very encouraging to see the community not only recognize autism, but support those on the spectrum in whatever ways possible. It’s one thing to be “aware” that autism exists; it’s a completely different thing to support those who interact or live with itThat being said, I’ve noticed a trend among parents, especially us moms. While we ask the world around us to accept our child with ASD, we login to social media to express our anger, disdain and resentment toward what autism has “taken from us.”

I recently ran across an Instagram account where a mom (who has thousands of followers) wrote an “autism awareness post.” She wrote how autism has stolen so much from her family, and resulted in ignored siblings, drained finances, lack of normalcy, and finally the loss of her own hopes and dreams for her son. I kept waiting for her to switch her outlook, the proverbial but, where she explains that autism isn’t actually the hell she was lamenting. The but never came. Instead the post ended with her determination to see her child accomplish her dreams for him, which was a disappointing ending, to say the least.

This is not the first and it probably won’t be the last post I read of a parent anguishing over their child on the spectrum. I understand that loss and mourning often go hand-in-hand with a new diagnosis, but I also deeply believe in the power of acceptance. When the sonographer first said, “it’s a boy!” I had many pictures flash before my own eyes. Only a few of those have played out in reality.

My son may never have his entire class over for an Avengers-themed birthday party, complete with surprise appearances from the Avengers themselves and children’s laughter echoing throughout the halls of our home. But my son doesn’t want 15 kids running through our house, making a mess of his toys and making a lot of noise. For his 6th birthday, he wants his grandpa and grandma to visit, and to eat blueberries instead of cake. Those things make him happy, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what every parent wants?

Autism isn’t always easy, and parents must face many difficulties. It’s OK to mourn. But don’t stay there. Whether kids have ASD or not, they don’t fulfill all of their parents’ hopes and dreams for their lives. My parents thought I was going to be a school principal, but I taught for two years and haven’t gone back since. They also thought I’d raise my family down the road from the home I was raised in, but we live 9 hours away now. There are going to be many, many hopes that get dashed as our kids grow up. We have to learn to let those go and embrace our kids for who they are.

Our kids may not be what we imagined as we drew those stick figure drawings in elementary school of our future family, but if can you look up from that decades-old paper, you’ll see they are even more perfect than you ever imagined.

Originally published: April 10, 2019
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