This guest post is by Robin Ziemann, a mother of a child on the autism spectrum. She is also a blogger at Two boys, a dog, and Autism.
My son has autism. There, I said it. I've said it many times, but really, it's just as difficult to say this time as it was the first time. Why, you ask? Because when people think autism they think Rainman, they think non-verbal and stimming, and then they say, "I'm so sorry". Sorry? For what? Just because Topher has autism doesn't mean autism has him.
Autism is about celebrating the little things in life. When Topher was 5, the specialists said he would probably never talk. "Start thinking about augmentative communication devices," they told us. This summer, Topher got the lead in 'Jack and the Beanstalk'. Using his own voice! He was GREAT!
We were told, by more specialists, that Topher will lack social skills. That, even with many years of help and support, he will never be like his 'typical peers'. This summer we went to our local renaissance festival. Topher dressed up as a court jester. He had been planning this for weeks. He even taught himself a joke, unbeknownst to us. We weren't there more than five minute before he was telling strangers his joke. His joke went like this. "Where does a king keep his armies? In his sleevies!" Both him and his audience would laugh and chuckle. He told his joke numerous times that day, to anyone who would listen.
We are entering a new phase now in Topher's life. The 'typical' classroom. Up until now he has been in a 'self contained special ed classroom'. He was with his typical peers for lunch and specials. Perhaps 45 minutes out of his whole school day. Now, he will be with these 'typical' kids all day. It's frightening to me, but not for him. He doesn't see himself as 'different' from the other kids. He sees himself as a kid, a kid going into 5th grade. This I celebrate. I know he is strong enough, and has the self confidence, to be himself, in the face of all he still has yet to conquer.
Autism is about overcoming. Overcoming the social stigmas that have begun to be associated with autism. Overcoming the loss of friends who just don't 'get it'. Overcoming the belief that a child has to be neurotypical to succeed in life. Because, life's success are about the little things. It's the little things that add up and in the end it's the little things that matter most.