Why Autism Isn't Always Bad


child with lined up itemsWhen my firstborn was a couple months old, I noticed that he didn't make eye contact with me. In fact, every single time I tried to hold him, he screamed. I'd HEARD that babies liked to be cuddled and fed, but I didn't have a frame of reference for this, being the last-born in my own family. So I assumed my kid was kinda stand-offish and let it go. I laid NEXT to him rather than with him.

My heart broke plenty, as he found greater comfort in his mobile than his mother. But that was just how he was ... right?

Sort of.

By his second birthday, his obsession with the solar system surpassed anything I could have expected a child to understand. He knew the moons of Jupiter -- all 37 of them -- and happily rattled them off to his pediatrician. Who, instead of being amazed and awe-struck, looked horrified and sent me to Early Intervention for screening and therapy. Turned out, my tiny son was autistic.

Because this was so long ago, however, "autism" wasn't on the lips of everyone. No one walked -- or ran -- for a cure. In fact, the only thing people knew about autism was some oblique reference to Rain Man.

As no one knew about it, I didn't spend a lot of time worrying about that diagnosis. I focused instead upon my tiny tot with a beautiful, big brain. Sure, he wasn't quite like other kids, but he was mine, and he was perfect. So what if he had a diagnosis? Hell, I did, too!

The prevalence of autism is on the rise. According to the CDC, an average of 1 in 110 children in the US has an autistic spectrum disorder. So now you say, "My kid is autistic," and everyone knows what you're talking about. It's both good and bad.

Autism gets a bad rap. Certainly there are extreme cases of autism (just like any other disease), but for my kid, it just means that social interactions baffle him and that he's not a cuddly kid. There's a myriad of other things, too, but he's only lightly affected by the disorder.

I know how lucky we are.

I also know that the delicious quirks -- memorizing the moons of Jupiter and refusing to eat things that are colors other than white -- are simply to be enjoyed. They're quirky and adorable.

He's taught me to accept people as they are, not as you want them to be. That's a valuable lesson. He's also reminded me that people are bound to be different than your expectations and that, well, that is okay. We should all be able to see the world in the mystical ways he does. He reminds me to stop and look at patterns on garbage cans rather than the garbage can itself. It really IS the little things.

And he reminds me, time and again, that being normal is overrated.

That, in itself, is a priceless lesson.

What are priceless lessons your child has taught you?

autism, toddler development


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tiny_... tiny_mama

My 3 autistic kids have taught me LOADS of patience.. Not to mention they've taught me to appreciate the small stuff.. the little victorys...

However a diet that consists of ONLY white food isn't healthy.. Just sayin. lol. *but I went through that.. only the color du jour was Tan, so I know the struggle, lol*

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

I have a theory that one person can only have so much going for them. Your son gets to be super smart but he can't be sociable too. I'm in a similar situation, very high IQ and SPD. It's a fair trade I think. So what if I need to wear long sleeves while clothes shopping to avoid brushing against polyester and I need to wear sunglasses in all but the dimmest sun light? Every course I ever took in school, college, or grad school was a breeze and I can read faster than anyone else I know. I'd rather have the ability to read the entire Harry Potter series in under a day than the ability to wear cheap shirts personally. Your son might never be a socialite but he might be an astrophysicist and that is way cooler.

Bekki... BekkieBoodle

I just want to say that I loved reading your article.  The best to you and your son <3  I used to work in child care for a number of years just out of HS.  I truely enjoyed it.  In fact, some of the children that I were closest to either had Downs Syndrome or were Autistic.  I loved each of them for their differences.  I have not been teaching for about 5 years now, but I still think about John and Steven :)

Jasmine Laurèn Hughey

I love this article!  I don't have an autistic child but, my mom is a 3rd grade teacher and every year they give her 1 autistic child to have in her classroom.  I spend a lot of time in her class and I must say, every year the child I always look forward to seeing happens to always be the one who's autistic.  These kids are full of wonders!  And even at 8 years old they always teach me so much.  Much love and many hugs to you and your son - and to all those out these who've been blessed with autistic babies :-)

steph... steph2884

My son has taught me that love can be spoken without words. Just because he can't say the words doesn't mean he cannot express himself, or that he doesn't understand English. I can't tell you how many times people ask me if my son just doesn't understand words or if he is deaf. He understands and hears perfectly well and understands every word coming out of your mouth. He is 4 and I can't wait until he shows the world what he can do!

Hayde... HaydensMom178

My son taught me that even if he can't verbally express his love, he can physically show us.  He's amazingly affectionate-always giving me and his daddy hugs and kisses, and he laughs like crazy when we kiss him or hug him!  He's incredibly intelligent-he can spell two different words at the same time on two electronic toys!  He hasn't let anything stop him-neither OCD, Autism, nor his cleft lip and palate.  He's truly our little angel and he is always something for me to be thankful for!  He's obviously taught me loads of patience, and he has taught me how to love even more than I ever thought was possible! 

SahmTam SahmTam

My oldest (11 yo son) is dx'd with PDD-NOS. He has taught me about sweetness, gentleness, and the ability to move at your own pace without looking around and bothering to be jealous of others. Do what YOU can do. Use YOUR own gifts. That's what he has taught me. :-)

Laurette Olsen

I am raising my Grandson who has Aspergers. I never knew how wonderful a person could be until he came into our lives.  He is 11 now, and he doesn't have a malice thought in his head, he thinks everyone is good and kind. He wants to be friends with everyone he meets.  If the would has more people like him, it would be a wonderful place to live. Maybe that is the plan since there seems to be a higher number of kids on the autism spectrum now days.

Spect... Spectrummom311

My 7 year old has ASD. He was diagnosed with PDD-NOS in May 2010. His obsession is Thomas the Train. I swear he can tell you anything about any character. We knew something was off with him since an early age but I spent many years believing it was a phase and wishing it would end. My son has taught me to be less judgemental, to be more compassionate, to have more patience and to never give up :) Autism is not bad it's just different!!!

nonmember avatar Tim Mc.

My son has Cerebral Palsy. We too are fortunate that he is fairly mildly affected, but it does meaningfully affect his speech and his fine motor skills. I like the comment that people are only allowed so much ability. My son is incredibly handsome, to the point of being a "chick magnet" at 13, and he is one of the smartest kids in his class. He also works harder than any of them, because just legibly filling in a math worksheet by hand takes him three times as long. Where he really shines, however, is working around the problems his condition presents. We've called him "the Work Around Kid" since he was very little, and refused to do things the way his OT and PT tried to show him, because his work-arounds worked better for him!

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