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When I Stumble, My Autistic Son Picks Me Up

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Isn’t it funny how things seem to be going along just smoothly, life (and you) are moving forward eagerly looking ahead and then, out of nowhere, a little stumble. A small misstep. You falter for what must be a nanosecond, yet it feels like a lifetime as you tumble backwards to a place you know you don’t want to be, a place you know you can’t be. Maybe it’s a word, a sound, a smell, a memory that causes you to trip up. Whatever it is, you feel discouraged, remorseful and kinda pissed.

For me it was sitting in an intake interview at the high school with an OVR (Office of Vocational Rehabilitation) counselor. I’d like to tell you she said something ignorant, that she was rude, but no, it was none of that. She was delightful, kind and understanding. And no, she didn’t tell me something I didn’t already know. In fact she reiterated what I did know and what I have known for years, but for whatever reason, in that moment, hearing it again, I stumbled.

“He should have no trouble qualifying for services because he has autism, he will always have autism and those social deficits that impact him will always impact him.”

There it was, a little misstep, a quick falter that caused the tears to desperately fight to remain behind my eyelids. And just as I was falling backwards, the door opens and in comes my 18-year-old autistic son Ryan with a big smile on his face. Yes, he knew what OVR was, yes, he would be interested in job shadowing and some work experience, and yes, he will happily meet with the counselor to plan for his future. And just like that, I was up and moving forward again.

As a parent, it is my job to protect my son, to help him figure out what’s next and to pick him up when he falls, but thank God my son is strong, wise and willing to sometimes pick up his very imperfect mom who loves him so perfectly.

As I turned to leave, I thanked the counselor. Then right before I closed the door, I popped my head back in and said, “He’s going to be fabulous, you know.” I didn’t need to wait for her response.

(Photo is from my niece’s wedding last week. A beautiful reminder that regardless of how many times I stumble, these are the reasons I must always jump up and move forward.)

Originally published: September 18, 2019
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