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My Son on the Autism Spectrum Doesn't Fit the Mold -- and That's OK

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There is no mold, no one-size-fits-all when it comes to our children. Isn’t that the beauty of it all? They are uniquely themselves, they all bloom when it’s their turn, they all have different needs, communication styles and interests. My three kids all born around the same time of year, brought home to the same crib, same parents, same routine, are all different. It’s not shocking, but what did shock me is the comparisons and judgment I faced when my child was almost 2 and not talking or responding like his peers. I remember sitting at an outdoor concert, with my newborn, almost-2-year-old, husband and friends and this was how the conversation went:

A friend’s family member asked, “Does he talk?”

Me: “Not really.”

Them: “Well, my granddaughter can say her ABCs and spell her name, she is so smart.”

Me: “That’s great, good for her.” Inside, I was praying it would stop there. I knew where this was going. My husband got up to follow our son who was wandering off.

“Does he not listen when you ask him to come back?”

Me: “Well, he is an explorer and has a hard time in open spaces.”

“What you need to do is take him into the middle of a road and bring a bug or snail and step on it in front of him and tell him that will be him if he runs away.

In my head, I was begging them to stop, but I just said, “That’s one way to do it. No, we are fine, he will get it.”

And guess what, he got it. Did it take longer? Yes, did it take months and years of hard work, ear surgery and speech therapy, but he did it.

I still think about that day. They probably have no idea how much what they said affected me, but I continue to think about how I felt that day: embarrassed, guilty, sad, frustrated, angry, and on top of that very postpartum. Unfortunately, it was only one of many things told to me about how easily I could “fix” his “delays” over the years. What I needed was support. “Do you need anything?” or “You are doing a great job” or nothing. If it’s not supportive, please keep it to yourself.

Conversations like the one I experienced are the reason I will continue to advocate and speak up when people make statements that don’t serve me, my kids, or our community. There is no cookie-cutter child, and I am so thankful for that, let’s remember to celebrate differences and lend a hand. We all offer different perspectives and experiences. Isn’t that what life is all about?

When you become an adult, you need to be different. Jobs are often looking for someone to compliment the team, not all be the same. However, we are teaching kids they should all fit in a box while growing up. My son and his siblings will grow up and know patience, true emotion, struggles and perseverance. My son has worked hard to accomplish what many take for granted. He may do things a little “differently,” but that’s what everyone loves about him. I can’t wait to be there by his side watching him change the mold.

To all the parents that have been told how to “fix” your kids: throw out the cookie-cutter, break the mold, and know that you are helping shape a kinder, greater generation.

Originally published: May 24, 2021
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