We Put the 'Special' in 'Special Needs'

It's almost a blessing that my eldest was diagnosed on the autistic spectrum well before the words "autistic spectrum disorder" were on the lips of every single parent on the planet. Very few people worried if their children showed a particular interest in an odd subject matter or lined their toys up in long meandering chains. And a diagnosis of something like Asperger Syndrome wasn't synonymous with "death sentence."

Because Asperger Syndrome is so far from a death sentence, it's absurd. It's just life, through a different lens.


No, I didn't mourn when my son was diagnosed and I don't mourn now. I understand that his own quirks are partially the Asperger's and parts of them are just, well, who he is. With a mother like me, it's almost expected my children would be quirky.

Certainly we do have our challenges. Autistic children are slightly like Siamese cats in that they choose Their People. Everyone else can piss off. My son has long-since chosen His People, and much to my dismay, while I'm a close second, I'll never be number one. I won't lie and tell you it's not hurtful, but it's something I've come to grips with.

Rather than understand how someone else is feeling as a normal child does, based upon facial cues, body language, and subtle nuances, my son has required teaching. It's not that he's not empathetic and more that he simply doesn't understand anything beyond what is explicitly stated. If I say, "I'm happy" and I'm weeping openly, he'll accept that I am happy because this is what I said.

Despite being a highly Type-B personality myself, routines are rather inflexible in my house. After nearly 10 years, I've learned it's not worth it to interrupt a routine unless absolutely necessary. Sure, it means we miss out on some stuff we may have otherwise participated in, but to avoid a meltdown, I'll do just about anything.

Eating is a routine we've kept simple. I'm certain the grocery store checkout clerks who watch us purchase the same items week in and week out must think we're the most boring souls on the planet. But, for Ben, I can't just say, "If you don't like what I'm serving, you don't have to eat." Because, well, the kid DOES need to eat sometime.

Now that autism is the new big buzzword, I rarely mention that my son has a form of it. I'm tired of the, "So, is he good at counting cards?" or "What's his 'special' skill?" Like an autism diagnosis means he's suddenly got the ability to see through walls.

(That would be kick-ass.)

He's just a kid who has some quirks. Like his siblings, he'll struggle with some things and not others. There will be times he has to learn to adapt and things he'll remain rigid and inflexible about. He'll grow and thrive and continue to make my heart soar with pride. And, like everyone else out there, there will be people who don't understand him.

And it's those people who we should truly feel sorry for -- not my son. Because he knows that he's perfect, just as he is.


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