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Someone I Love Is on the Autism Spectrum

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The day my grandson received his diagnosis for autism spectrum disorder was an overwhelming day. On one hand, we were relieved that finally someone besides ourselves realized there was a significant developmental delay for him and we weren’t imagining it. On the other hand, we were such newbies to the diagnosis, we weren’t sure what happened next. That was over a year ago. He was/is considered nonverbal, and he has made great strides in the past year.

By all appearances, he may seem like many other 3-year-olds. He is rambunctious, adventurous and active. I get so frustrated when people say things like, “He doesn’t look autistic.” What exactly does someone look like if they are autistic? His engagement with others has improved in the last year as well. He can look at someone and interact with them.

We have learned when you meet one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. Everyone on the spectrum is different in how they act and how they interact.

When he wants something, he uses a combination of signs, words or visual supports to let us know what he wants or needs. It can be a challenge when he does ask for something correctly and we can’t give it to him. Maybe because it’s too close to dinner or too late in the evening for him to have ice cream or a sweet treat or simply because the answer is no. He might not fully comprehend the no answer, so he will use the signs “please” and “want,” and I have to say “no,” and he becomes confused. When he doesn’t have a word or sign to use, he grabs his book of pictures, and flips through until he finds what he wants and hands me the picture, along with the signs “please” and “want.” I am glad we have the pictures. They are a huge help for all of us. The problem is when he wants something and there is no picture, but he has figured out how to overcome that problem.

One day, he brought me his small picture book, flipping through the pages but still not finding the right picture. He left the room and returned with the larger book and once again went through over 200 pictures and still had difficulty. I told him I would go to the kitchen with him and he could show me what he wanted, but he was too fast for me. He came into the living room carrying a plastic bowl with spaghetti in it from the refrigerator! The most amazing thing to me is that he is undeterred. If pictures couldn’t tell me, he finds a way! There was a picture of pasta in his book, but it didn’t have sauce on it, so he might not have realized that was the same. There is now a photo of spaghetti in the book for when he wants something like that again.

Every day, he amazes me. I love when he stims. It is exhilarating to him and he does it when he feels overloaded. He loves to spin around and around to the point where I can’t watch because I get too dizzy, but he just plops down on the floor, giggles and does it again. He also does a lot of jumping on his tot-sized trampoline. He is full of energy from the time he awakens until he finally fizzles out. One minute he can be running through the house and the next minute, he is fast asleep on the floor.


If someone in your family received an autism diagnosis, learn all you can to provide help and support. All of us have struggles we face daily, and some of us need extra help in some areas. We all dance to our own beat, regardless if we are on the spectrum or are neurotypical. Live life to the fullest every day. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Our grandson has autism, but for us it doesn’t define him. He just looks at the world a little differently than we do.

Boy wearing a striped shirt, sitting in a chair indoors

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Originally published: June 28, 2017
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