September 14, 2015


Posted in AMT's Faves, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , at 1:58 pm by autismmommytherapist

Summer 15 001

He nearly stumbled over the stroller, the elderly man with the kind eyes who apologized, then bent down to speak to my son Justin. “Hi there buddy!” he said exuberantly, then put up his hand for a high-five.

Justin simply stared at the proffered hand, then glanced away.

The man looked up at me quizzically, and I responded with “he doesn’t talk- he has severe autism,” and as I watched, his face crumpled in dismay.

“I’m so sorry” he said. “That’s a tragedy. God bless you.” He straightened up and walked away.

And as I watched him stroll to the canned goods section the words flowed into my mind, if not my mouth- “My son is not a tragedy.”

My son is not a tragedy.

Are there aspects of my child’s disability that I find tragic? Yes, there are. I will always lament the fact that he will be on this earth for half his life without his parents to care for him, nurture him, love him. Even though I am aware that he may have competent caregivers for those decades I still find it heartbreaking to think he might miss us, might wonder why we no longer visit him. I worry his caretakers might miss medical issues, might not feed him well.

I worry they won’t love him.

I am confident these concerns will follow me to my grave.

But that’s where the tragic element of my son’s autism ends for me.

I no longer regret the more traditional trappings of the life I’d envisioned for my son. When I carried him in my womb I took for granted his life would include college, career, friends, and a partner who would cherish him. There are days when I still ache for those things for my son. But over the past few years I’ve begun to see that needing those traditional milestones to achieve happiness is my disability, not his.

For after many many years of struggling my son is mostly joyful, ebullient. My child, who generally wants to be home and playing with his DVD player doesn’t need his mother’s dreams to be content, fulfilled. He is smart. He reads. He rides horses passionately. He loves his little brother. He adores popcorn and movies and everyone at his school. He shares his joy of the world in ever-abundant kisses and hugs. He embodies kindness.

He’s made his own life, contoured it to his own wishes.

And if I could go back to that grocery store and conquer the lump in my throat, I’d tell that well-meaning but mislead man just this.

My son, my beautiful boy, is not a tragedy.

He is a triumph.

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  1. Amen. Justin is a joy.

  2. K. ettles said,

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts. It means a lot to me.

  3. Older generations seem to really think this way!
    My hope is that through autistic person’s own voices and yours and others who advocate and spread awareness and acceptance such stereotypes and misconceptions will become less and less common!

  4. Kimberly,
    There is a story about occupants of a deserted island where the children were happy and played joyfully. One day explorers happened upon the island and found a great wall that surrounded the inhabitants. The explorers told the people that they would take the walls down to make them free. And so they did.
    A few months later the explorers returned to see how the inhabitants were enjoying their new freedom. Instead they found the once happy playful children huddled in a corner in fear; for the walls that once stood had protected them from the cliff that bordered their village which dropped off hundreds of feet below to the ocean.

    As with the gentleman at the store. Those who are well meaning often don’t see the whole picture.

    A horse in a corral can be just as free and happy as one than runs on a range.

    Your son has his boundaries, but is content none-the-less.

    As with the horse in the corral, love finds its way in. And that is the most freeing thing.

    You have a difficult yet wonderful cross to bear. Don’t worry about the future. For no one knows what truly awaits around the next turn. Take care of the now-that is enough.

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