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Never Say Never to My Autistic Son

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Editor's Note

This story has been published with permission from the author’s son.

The tears started as soon as he entered stage right. My reaction was so strong it surprised even me. The tears barely began to fall before they were full on sobs. I was sitting alone but I’m sure parents in the rows behind me saw my shoulders heaving, heard my stifled cries and saw my hands covering my face. I was overcome.

I tried so hard not to search my memories of the past and focus on this moment, the present, because I wanted to soak it all in, memorize every moment: his movements, his voice, his confidence. But there is no way I couldn’t occasionally remember back “when.” When sensory stimulation was too much, when a new shirt, sunscreen or a hand dryer brought screams. When changes in routine caused panic. When isolation and loneliness caused heartache. When it was all too much.

And here he is, now.

I was walking the halls of the high school looking for him following the dress rehearsal. I turned around and there he was. I swear I almost dropped to my knees. He did his “trying not to smile” smile. I just stopped. Trying to take it all in, yet again, not wanting to miss any detail. Wanting this moment with my son to be permanently imprinted in my mind forever. The white makeup sprayed all over his face. The dark zombie looking streaks painted around his eyes. The silver hair color sprayed on his hair. The costume, the hat, but with all of it, what I couldn’t miss was the pride and the twinkle in his eye. The composure I thought I had regained, was lost again. The sobs I thought had subsided returned as he looked at my tear streaked face and puffy eyes and said, “Aww, come here crazy lady” and pulled me into his arms.

I told him he did an amazing job, that he was amazing and reminded him again, that there is nothing he can’t do. He looked at me, making direct eye contact, smiling proudly and said, “I feel incredible.” He has never uttered those words.

As he walked away to get director’s notes from the dress rehearsal, I watched him go, mesmerized and wondering where he will go next. Ryan has come so far. He has gone farther than I could have ever dreamed of when I first heard “autism.”

I know every child is different, not all kids will take the stage donning full makeup and costume and sing and dance, but I want to scream from the rooftops to parents just hearing the word “autism” that they must never, ever get so hung up on that word that they fail to see all the promise their child holds. They are counting on you to believe in them so one day they can believe in themselves.

(Photo is from the dress rehearsal for Ryan’s high school performance of “The Addams Family Musical”.)

Originally published: April 25, 2019
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