“He doesn’t seem autistic to me.”
“He acts normal; he can’t be autistic.”
“What? He’s autistic?”
“Is the therapy helping?”
“How long does he need therapy for?”
“Is he going to get better?”
These are a few of the questions and comments that I have been getting the past few months. Internally I cringe. Sigh. Throw up my hands in frustration. I want to yell, scream, kick doors, tell you to mind your own business.
Then I want to hug you, laugh with you, thank you for asking, applaud you for being brave~for actually talking, asking, questioning.
For every comment and question, I know there are a million unasked, unsaid comments.
I don’t want my kid to be different. I don’t want my kid to not fit in. I want him to be NORMAL.
I want my kid to be different; to not fit in with the crowd. I don’t want him to do what everyone else is doing. I want him to rise above the masses, be a star, succeed, make his mark in the world.
It’s all a paradox.
As good postmodern Americans we don’t like labels. We don’t like stereotypes. As parents, we definitely don’t like labels. We don’t want anyone telling us how to raise our kids. We want the freedom to parent the way we think is right.
And then there’s the LABEL: He’s a special needs kid with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Fear. Fear of failure as a parent. Fear of judgement. Fear of loss of dreams for his future. FEAR.
There’s nothing WRONG with a label. There’s nothing WRONG with him. All the label really tells me is: I need help; my kid needs help. It’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK that I don’t know everything. It’s OK to make mistakes. It’s OK to embrace the label.
It’s OK that I don’t completely understand my son’s diagnosis. It’s OK that people ask me questions I don’t know how to answer. It’s OK that my son has ASD. It’s OK.
That’s really just what I want to hear.
He’s the same kid he’s always been. It’s just that now we can admit we need help raising him. We can ask for help. We can rely on others. We can be different. We can be normal. We can embrace the label. We can help other understand. We can help others who learn their kid has a label. We can make the journey together. We can face our fears and realize that we are human. We aren’t perfect. We ALL have a label and we ALL need each other.
Photos by: Erin Dupree Photography