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Please Don't Treat My 5-Year-Old Autistic Son Like a 'Baby'

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My autistic 5-year-old son may not be developmentally “up to par” with his peers, but that doesn’t make him a “baby.” And he shouldn’t be treated as such.

He may be nonverbal. He may drink from a sippy cup 75% of the time. He may enjoy his stroller when he is overwhelmed. But that does not make him a baby. When you treat him like he is a baby that sends a message to his peers. He doesn’t need another thing to make him stand out as “different” in their eyes.

He wants to belong and be an equal.

He is still just a kindergarten student who wants to make friends. He doesn’t need them to feel like they need to treat him differently than any other friends they make.

Treating him as a “baby” does not do him any favors. He needs to be challenged like any other child. I understand the urge to protect him from frustrating situations. Although, when he works through these frustrations eventually, he succeeds.

Eventually, he learns new skills. He needs these skills to survive and thrive. There is so much a child must learn to become a functional adult. He is no different. Someday he will be an adult as well. Sheltering him just hinders him from growth and progressing as an individual. He needs pushed to experience new things, pushed to overcome fears and obstacles, pushed to learn new materials.

Someday, his parents won’t be here to physically help him, or figure out what he wants when he is having a meltdown because he doesn’t have a form of communication, or to help him avoid stressors. Someday, he will need these skills to survive. Although we sometimes needs extra support, avoiding things that are hard for him can actually be a hinderance. Treating him like a fragile “baby” is not doing him a favor in his progress, nor is it fostering acceptance from his peers. I hope that when he gets older his peers see him as a friend and as a peer, not as “the baby” who couldn’t.

Let him try new things, let him learn, let him get frustrated. I promise he will work through that frustration and it will not kill him. He will thrive because of it.

Photo submitted by contributor.

Originally published: October 8, 2019
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