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When My Daughter With Autism Tells Me, ‘I Wanna Be All Right’

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When my daughter cries out to me, “I wanna be all right,” it stops my world. She wants to be all right? There’s an inner conflict going on inside her head. My child’s brain is paved with unique and atypical neuro-highways. She gets confused about her feelings. She understands her situation should be OK, but somehow it still upsets her. So she cries and wails and says she wants to be all right.

This situation usually happens when she doesn’t get her way. Or her little brother takes her toy. Or she isn’t allowed to eat a snack. Or her mom tries to put on her blue dress. Or those shoes! And what is this pasta thing sitting in front of her?

You may be thinking, “She’s spoiled.” “She’s throwing a tantrum.” “All kids her age throw a fit.” “But you’ve been indulging her,” you think again. “You let her have her way and don’t set boundaries.” Yes, I know this is what you may be concluding when she lies on the ground. In the middle of the store aisle. The cement sidewalk. Even the parking lot has been the setting for our drama. She goes down on her knees like the world is crashing in on her. And the thing is, her world is crashing down on her!

She may understand some social norms, but she does not like all of them. But somehow she’s “supposed” to be OK with them. She’s “supposed” to let it go or go with it. It’s like a war waged inside my child’s brain. And this war I barely understand hurts my mama heart.

“I wanna be all right.” I feel I can’t fix it. I can’t make it better. My heart breaks when she directs the comment toward me, adding “Mama” to her honest and sincere request.

I hope to soothe her. I tell her it’s OK. We can be mad a little bit. Do you want to take a break? Come back and join us. It will be all right. I hope this works. Or on a not so perfect and patient day, I sweep her away and hope to be home in a flash.

She wipes her nose and wipes aways the tears back and tells me, “I’m all right, mudher.”

And I think, a little storm has passed. The sun shines. She’s happy. She’s all right. I want to help her keep that “all right” feeling. But I also want to help her weather through it when it’s not so all right. I want to make sure the sun will still shine on at the end of it. 

I can’t begin to know inner workings of my daughter’s brain. I strive to learn more every day. I want people out there who have little to no idea about autism to be a bit more accepting about families living with autism. You can help make it “all right” by adding your compassion.

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Originally published: July 2, 2015
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