|Tate, aged 13|
My son Tate has autism. He is thirteen years old. I will never appreciate the challenges that autism causes my son and our family but I do appreciate the people I have come to love that are part of the autism community. As Tate grows older and I meet more and more people affected by autism I find so much we often have in common. I came up with this list. Not all of it will apply to you but a lot of it might.
You may be an autism parent if…
1. you toss around words like perseverate, echolalia, and reciprocity in casual conversation.
2. you do not even have to stop and decipher acronyms like IEP, IDEA, ESY and BCBA anymore because they are part of your everyday vocabulary.
3. you know what a visual schedule is and have relied on one to help your child to get through the day.
4. you have alarms on the doors of your home and your heart breaks just a little more every time you read about another child from the autism community who has gone missing.
6. you have no need to keep track of a grocery list because your child only eats five things. (Broccoli is not one of them.)
7. you know the names of almost every character from almost every animated movie ever made and you can quote much of the dialogue.
8. you have learned the name of every Thomas the tank engine character, read train books until you are hoarse, and put together countless train track pieces with your child.
9. there is someone in your life who could use a breath mint, ought to get a haircut, or needs to lose a few pounds, your kid will break the news to them. No problem. It is just a service he offers.
10. you hear clichés every day. “Everything happens for a reason” and “God only gives special children to special people” are phrases you have heard from complete strangers.
11. you have tee shirts and jewelry with puzzle pieces on them and your car sports an autism awareness bumper sticker.
12. you never leave home without a tablet and a charger. And if the battery on your kid’s tablet goes dead you and your kid both may cry.
13. you know where every restroom and every exit is for all the places you frequent with your child.
14. the people at the few restaurants your child will eat at, know you and your child very well. They even know your kid’s order before you give it.
15. you use a transition warning before most changes, large or small.
16. you have ever laid awake at night either wondering how you were going to afford all the things your child needed or worrying about his future.
17. you silently scream inside when your child is taught about something like germs at school knowing it will probably begin another obsession.
18. you have ever had someone ask, “Your child has autism? So, what is his ‘special gift?’”
19. you wish there was some way you could convey your thanks to all your child’s therapists and teachers and paraprofessionals to show them just how much they mean to you. But you know there is no gift big enough and no words strong enough to tell them how thankful you are for all the things they do for your child.
20. you hate it when those in the autism community debate vaccinations, the use of the word “autistic,” or whether or not a “cure” for autism would be a good thing or a bad thing. And you wonder why we cannot all just respect each other’s opinions and get along.