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The Movie Scene That Unexpectedly Helped Me Understand My Son's Autism

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I wish I had a dime for every time someone told me my son doesn’t look autistic. No, really, I would have a pretty hefty bank account. I’ve heard it from strangers, friends and family. I’ve actually heard more than once that I’m lucky he doesn’t act as autistic as some children with autism. To some, this may seem like a compliment, but for me, I know too many amazing little people on the spectrum to think negatively when I hear the word “autistic.” I see countless videos of my friends’ children on the spectrum who are laughing and smiling and enjoying life. Granted, not every moment is easy or happy, but all families have challenging days and moments with or without autism.

Before delving into the world of autism, my husband and I were guilty of believing these stereotypes as well. We told ourselves many times that our son couldn’t have autism because he smiled and made eye contact. This is a common misconception.

Once we got the diagnosis, things started to make sense. And yet the more I learned about autism, the more I saw that it presents itself differently in everyone who has it. All of my preconceived notions regarding autism flew out the window. I used to hear people talking about a family with a child with ASD and I automatically assumed that family was sentenced to a lifelong hardship. I thought, “That poor mother. I’m so glad all of my children are healthy.”

But now that the mother is me and that is my son and this is our family, this is what I want you to know: My child is not any less because he has autism; he is more. Our days and nights might be hard sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I’m miserable or always tired. We don’t shy away from our son’s stimulations or obsessions; we embrace them, and he amazes us every day. We’re not in denial and aren’t ashamed to talk about autism. It’s a part of him and, despite its challenges, a pretty amazing part of him.

Anyone who’s been around Evan for a small amount of time wouldn’t even know he has autism if we’re having a good day. But make no mistake — years of intervention, therapy and hard work enable him to function as well as he does. After about an hour, it’s obvious that Evan is different. Whether he notices a fly on the outside of the window from three rooms away and runs to talk to it or if he’s rocking and chanting in the doctor’s office to calm himself down, the differences are there. I used to shy away from these differences, but lately I see how much it helps him regulate to rock or jump in public. I would assume onlookers would rather he do that than lay on the floor screaming because he’s overwhelmed by the fluorescent lights or the air conditioner humming. So he rocks and I smile and we go about our day.

While we were going through the process of getting a diagnosis, we happened to watch the movie “Man of Steel.” After watching the following scene, my husband and I looked at each other and we were thinking the exact same thing. Maybe this isn’t a disorder we are dealing with. Maybe our son struggles so much because he has a gift and doesn’t yet know how to reign it in. Maybe for Evan, the world is just too big.

Imagine feeling too much, hearing too much, seeing too much and smelling too much every time you walk into a room. That is life on the spectrum. And as well as he does to cope with it every day, there are days when all of it is just too much. And those are the days we power through.

But most days are full of deep pressure snuggles, tickles and a belly laugh and pure joy when surrounded by the things he loves. He’s far from Rain Man. He has autism, and he is Superman.

This post originally appeared on From the Bowels of Motherhood.

Originally published: January 9, 2015
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