I Want My Autistic Son to Celebrate Being Different
We recently found out that our son is autistic, but we had it figured out for a while. Having a diagnosis has helped our family because now we know what we need to focus our efforts on. He is doing well with occupational and speech therapy.
My wife and I are in the research phase of this situation. At first, we played the blame and pity game. We found ways to blame ourselves and kept saying things like, “poor Joey.” But, we are past that. We don’t want to place blame and we don’t want to be sad because he will never be normal.
I have a real problem with the idea of “normal.” I have always been, shall we say, abnormal, and it took me a lot of years to come to terms with the fact that I will never be like everyone else. I am coming to terms with my mental illness and ADD, and am even starting to consider having myself tested for autism. It would explain a lot about me.
I have always been hypersensitive, and I had a real problem conforming to others’ ideas of how a person should act. I didn’t do well being in organized religion because I could never conform to the ideal of the perfect Christian. I couldn’t just accept the things that people were teaching me, and I couldn’t just have faith that what I was reading in the Bible was the real truth.
On top of all that, I can’t handle noise, light, heat, and people touching me. It has always been just too much for me.
Now my son has to be the focus of my life. All of my kids need me and it’s time I stopped spending so much time trying to come to terms with myself. I’ve had 53 years to figure out how to live with whatever it is that drives me to be the person I am, and it’s time I tried to teach my son and the rest of my kids how I managed to live with being different all these years.
I’ve accepted myself, and I want that for my son. My son will always be different, and I want him to embrace that and look at it as a superpower, not something to be ashamed of. I want him to relish his differences and look at them as something that makes him that much more of an interesting person.
A few of my Medium friends have suggested I watch out for people who want to push us to put my son into ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) Therapy and I have been doing my research. I know enough about it to know that it is not the right fit for my son. Why? Like SpectrumNews.Org says, people have issues with it because “they contend that ABA is based on a cruel premise — of trying to make people with autism ‘normal,’ a goal articulated in the 1960s by psychologist Ole Ivar Lovaas, who developed ABA for autism. What they advocate for, instead, is acceptance of neurodiversity — the idea that people with autism or, say, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or Tourette syndrome, should be respected as naturally different rather than abnormal and needing to be fixed.”
I don’t think that Joey needs to be fixed, because this is how he is and he needs to learn to live with his differences and thrive. He needs to learn to have a fulfilling life despite being neurodiverse.
There are ways to live that don’t fit in the same box that everyone else subscribes to. Many of us have lived our lives being different and have turned into responsible and intelligent thinkers and doers. We didn’t live our lives by the rules and by everyone else’s ideas of right and wrong.
Sure, people treat us badly sometimes, but we cannot let that ruin our lives in the least. We all need to live within the rules that our situations create for us and ignore the haters and the people who get offended by people who are different.
We actually need to learn to live without the confines of rules and labels. We don’t fit in anyone’s boxes and that is perfectly fine, we will make our own boxes.
I want my son to know that he doesn’t have to act or live a certain way for me to love him. So much of my life, I have spent trying to be what others wanted me to be and being shunned for it when I wasn’t. I don’t want my son to think that our love is only given if they conform to certain rules, like religion.
Sadly, for too much of our lives we have been told that we are only valuable and loved if we conform to others’ idea of a worthwhile life, that if we are not what they want us to be, we are nothing.
I don’t want my kids to think they have to act or believe a certain way for them to receive the love they deserve.
My son is neurodiverse — autistic — and he is different. I plan to celebrate those differences and make sure he knows he is valuable and loved just how he is.
That is the only way to live.