My son, Oakley was diagnosed autistic just a couple of months shy of his third birthday.
I didn’t know much about autism then, but it seemed as though all of the stigma around it was negative. Like it was something to grieve about and grieving is what I should’ve been doing. I did for a short time.
Why me? I asked myself. Why my child? I questioned.
Today I realize, I was thinking about it all wrong.
I should have been thinking, It’s going to be okay.
That one sentence would have made receiving a diagnosis so much easier had I just been more optimistic and determined versus scared and worried.
Do I still worry today? Absolutely. I worry about my son getting bullied, I worry about him being taken advantage of, and if the world will be kind to him. Do I worry about him being autistic? No, no I do not. He is going to be okay.
You see, autism is apart of my son and his neurology. It makes him who he is. It is apart of his personality and what makes him him.
Autism is not a disease. It is not a death sentence. Oakley is not ill.
He is healthy, he is happy, he is accepted, and he is loved beyond measure.
I’m often told I am too positive about autism. That my child isn’t severe like others. That he can talk.
I’m told autism isn’t sunshine and rainbows and in some situations, I can agree. Somde aspects of autism are very hard, especially when you can’t find a way to help your child. There’s co-morbid disorders like OCD and Epilepsy. My heart is with every family who has to take these conditions on- most of them with grace, optimism, patience, and love. Some of these families I admire very much.
No, my child isn’t severe, but lets not focus on labels. Just because my child is what a medical professional would consider a Level 1 on the DSM-5, doesn’t mean he doesn’t carry traits from Levels 2 and 3. My child’s struggles should not be overlooked because of his great strengths. I don’t speak of my child’s hardships often because I don’t see how it would benefit anyone. It certainly wouldn’t benefit him for me to share them. The obstacles he faces daily are intimate, private, and he is entitled to have his dignity. I will always respect and uphold that for him.
Back to the positivity.
What good would it do me to be negative about who my son is? What good what it do him?
I don’t want Oakley to see me sad about him being autistic. I don’t want him to think that autism is something bad. It’s not. It’s something that makes him different but that different isn’t wrong. In my eyes, his different is awe-filled, wondrous, exquisite, beautiful…
Today I write like our life is sunshine and rainbows, because quite frankly, it is. Amidst even the hard days and moments, Oakley brings all of the light and color into I and his daddy’s life and we couldn’t be more grateful. We certainly would not be the people we are today without all of the unique ways he has taught us to live life.
Oakley is adventurous, determined, brave, and has a love for life that you don’t see every day. He is our hero.
What I want for others to see when they hear me talk or write about autism, is what I wanted to see when my son was first diagnosed. I want them to see happy, hope, and that a life of having, raising, and loving an autistic person is going to be okay. In fact it will be more than okay.
It’s going to be everything wonderful you never could have imagined and more.