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Why I'm Proud My Autistic Son Said 'No' Today

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I’m so very proud of my son today.

He had an outing planned with a local Scouts group; it was to be the first time he would go on a trip with them, and he was excited but also anxious.

What would the other kids talk about? 

Would he have fun? 

Would they hold his hand on the roads on the way there? 

Would he be bored? 

Last night he had a bad attack of nerves but soldiered through, and woke up this morning indecisive as to whether he wanted to go or not.

We had breakfast and got dressed while he continued changing his mind back and forth. I said whatever he chose was fine and that I was proud of him for trying something new.

It became time to put his coat and hat on, and then he became distressed and announced firmly that no, he was not going.

And I am proud of him! 

We spoke about why it’s important to have been able to say he is not comfortable going, how it would have been worse to go and internalize the ensuing meltdown that occurred.

For a child to have that option, to choose whether to do something or not can mean so much. It can promote independence and freedom of thought, preference and strength of character. It’s not about upsetting others; it’s about being strong enough to care for themselves.

Was I disappointed he didn’t go? 


Would it matter if I was? 


It’s not about me; it’s about how he feels.

My son asked me just now after I read out what I had written, am I still proud of him? 

I replied, “Of course, it takes a strong person to admit something is not right for them, to not go with the flow because it’s ‘easier’ not to say anything.”

Proud doesn’t even cover it.

Too many times I’ve read despairing posts on Facebook:

1. Why won’t my child go to school? 

2. Why won’t they wear this outfit? 

3. Why are they so picky with food? 

My answers would be:

1. Something may not be going well at school and they don’t know how to tell you. Yes, your child’s school maybe “fully inclusive” with a million plans in place, but something is still not working for them. It may be too loud, too crowded or just may not be the right place.

2. This may be sensory issues. The texture of the fabric may overheat them and make them uncomfortable; it may even prove painful. Let your child pick clothes with you, feel the textures, and compare wool, cotton and corduroy. See what they like. If that means they go out dressed in a fancy dress occasionally because it feels best, is that such a bad thing? They are children once only; applaud and encourage their individuality.

3. The feel of the food in their mouth may feel repulsive, provoking the gag reflex. Would you want to eat something that tasted and indeed felt disgusting? I don’t think so. Ask your child’s doctor about vitamin options. Maybe blend fruit smoothies together to encourage a good diet.

For us, it’s not about having a compliant child; it’s about having a happy child who feels confident enough to change his mind occasionally. So what if you had planned a coffee with a friend while your child was out? Invite the friend over, get out some sensory play and relax!

Originally published: March 5, 2016
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