When Norrin was diagnosed with autism in 2008, he was 2 years and 3 months old. He had the cognitive level of a 14-month-old and the language level of a 7-month-old. I remember asking the developmental pediatrician if Norrin would be able to speak; the doctor recommended the necessary Early Intervention services but offered very little hope.
As a mom, I needed the hope just as badly as Norrin needed the services.
It’s been almost seven years since Norrin’s diagnosis and he’s come a long way. He is a 9-year-old boy who plays video games and talks up a storm. Norrin continues to surpass expectations and he has given me the hope that I needed.
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Before Norrin’s diagnosis, I knew very little about children with autism. And I knew even less about the parents who raised them. There wasn’t a single parent I could turn to for advice or support. But in these last seven years, I’ve met so many inspiring moms and dads with kids on the spectrum. I’ve learned just as much from them as I have from Norrin. And no matter what we believed, some things remained the same.
6 characteristics of an autism parent
It’s all about the “little” things. It takes countless hours of therapy to teach our kids to point a finger, jump and communicate. We wait. We watch. We hope. And when we see our kids achieve something for the first time, we celebrate, we cry, we make a big deal over the seemingly smallest feat. Because we know the time and work it took to meet that goal. They are usually the milestones most parents take for granted but for us – every “little” thing is a big deal.
Our atypical is typical. Autism parents are like any other parent (with a twist). And we’re just doing the best we can for our kids. We want what any other parent wants – we want our kids to be happy and confident. We hope that as they get older, people will appreciate them just as they are. We hope people will want to understand them. All we want for our kids is to have the same opportunities as any one else.
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We do what we have to do. When it comes to autism parents, too often I hear people say, “I don’t know how you do it.” I mean, it’s not easy but we do it because, well – we’re parents and we’re doing what we’re supposed to do for our kids. Wouldn’t you?
We are a community. We cry on shoulders of strangers. We comfort each other with hugs and kind words. We don’t always agree. There are multiple opinions on cause, cure and therapies that work. And as parents we are passionate in our beliefs. But I like to think we stand united when it matters most.
We are experts. We’re not all special education attorneys, teachers or therapists. And before autism impacted our lives, chances are we knew very little about it. Every parent is the expert when it comes to their kids, but an autism parent has to also become an expert in special education law, in teaching methodologies, in medications, in researching services and in advocating for our kids to ensure they have the services and school placement that will meet their unique needs.
We have the power to change the world. It is only in the last decade or so that autism has gotten the attention, services and supports that it needs. The thing I admire most about the autism community is that where it sees a need – it fills the void. Because it’s parents of children with autism that create specialized schools and support, social and play groups. Like my amazing friend Lizette who started the Bronxchester Challenger League or Kpana, co-founder of the Bronx Parents Autism Support Circle.
Autism parents work to make this world a better and safer place for our kids. We work to help them be understood and be seen. We believe that our kids have a purpose and deserve a place in this world. And when we see the world doesn’t know how to create that place – our life’s mission is to make one.
This article was originally published on Parents.com on August 8, 2012. It has been slightly revised for Atypical Familia.