To My Children on the Autism Spectrum, From Their Autistic Mom
I watch you struggle with things other young people find easy. I know how hard it is for you just to get out of bed each morning, to go to school, to go out into a world that is so unkind. I feel the hurt you carry in your heart, I carry it in mine, too. I see the pain in your beautiful eyes; I feel tears burning in my own. I know you yearn to be accepted, I long for that, too; to be treated as an equal, to feel welcome, to feel we belong. My heart breaks for you every time you feel excluded, when you retreat back into your shell and those defensive walls go back up, I feel excluded, too. I know what it is like to be isolated in your own world, where you feel safe and secure.
If I had one wish, it would be for all those who have ever hurt you to see the agony their actions have inflicted upon you, to see how hard you tried and continue to try, to walk a day in your shoes experiencing the invisible disability of autism and demand avoidance. Maybe then they (and the world) would begin to understand. Maybe then you would believe life was worth living. You have to fight these challenges, but you don’t have to fight alone. I am here.
I tell you every day you are amazing, that you are good enough and that no matter how hard things get you don’t run away — you stand tall, head held high. I try endlessly to help you understand you can change your perspective. I want you to believe in “I can” instead of “I can’t.” Tell the voice in your head “I am choosing to do….”
You can appear so confident sometimes it leaves some confused, how can the young person who can stand in front of hundreds of people not manage 10 minutes in a class of 30? How can it be so hard to follow a simple instruction? How is it so hard to take a shower when asked?
I pray — yes there is a small part of me that still has faith in God — that you learn how to cope much sooner than I did. I missed so much living because I was to afraid to try, to join in, to go places. I let my autism rule me. I don’t want that for you. I want you to take control, because I know you can do it. You are my children, you have my determination deep inside you, but you have to believe you can do it with all your being, you have to get back up time and time again, and that is hard. I know. You will have days when you question everything, when you throw your hands in the air and give up. It is OK to take a pause, but you have to learn to take a huge massive breath and take responsibility when things go wrong, because they will, that is the way life is. The world doesn’t and won’t end though. It took me so many years to work that one out. It was always easier to blame someone or something else.
You have a head start, you know the name of your invisible disability, over 20 years in advance of me.
Someone once close to me said “you can be a victim or a survivor” that same saying can apply here, too. Choose to survive.
Look how far I have come, for years I didn’t engage in anything very constructive , but today I completed my second year at university. Me, who left school with next to nothing. Don’t make this same mistake, turn it around and make it the beginning. You know you are smart, you know you can learn, you know you can be amazing.
I once stood where you stand now. Go out into the world and show them, show them autism can be your strongest super power. Show them the amazing individual in there. Learn to fly, learn to believe, learn to be happy. You can do this.
A version of this story originally appeared on A Different Neurotribe.
Getty image by Ruslanshug