This post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro, a motivational speaker and author on the autism spectrum. This post originally appeared here.
Dear Mom and Dad,
I know this came out of nowhere. We’ve had so many kids in our family who have gone through similar situations as part of the “terrible twos” growing up, but nothing quite like this. My sensory overload is going to be something we will need to constantly work on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. My five senses are heightened because I’m still getting used to my surroundings. Trying to transition to this world is something that will take practice. A lot of practice for me and a lot of patience from both of you.
I will hide under the couch when I hear lighting during a thunderstorm. My hands will be constantly up shielding my ears to make the noises less loud. Whenever someone new tries to touch or hug me, I may run to the corner and put my hands over my eyes until that person goes away. Other times I may run to the top of the stairs and scream “go away!” so I can be by myself for a little while. When we go out, I may need to wear special sunglasses to keep the sun from hurting my eyes. When I go to the amusement park, you may feel I’m out of place because I’m so scared of the rides and I ask to eat vegetables instead of fried Oreos. It must be hardest on you both when I have tantrums and sink to the floor crying out of control, no matter what you try and do to soothe me. No matter what sense it is, I may feel my heart racing a little bit faster than usual, and because of this, everything is heightened to a whole other level.
For those around us….some will say that these are just tantrums. Others will say that I’m just a spoiled kid who doesn’t know any better. What the world doesn’t understand though, is that you both love me more than anyone else out there in the world and that you two are the ones who understand me the most. You are my greatest advocates and have the inside track to help me when these meltdowns happen. I know these first years will be tough, but we will make it through because we are strong.
Whatever does happen though, just know that you are my biggest advocates and I couldn’t do what I’m doing today in my life without you. We’ve certainly come a long way since I was diagnosed with autism at age four. Now I love all types of foods, can take the train to work every day, go to an Imagine Dragons concert and stand right next to the speakers and everything is okay. But for now, when the next meltdown comes, don’t be discouraged if you don’t know how to help me. Sometimes it will just take time for the meltdown to pass and as I heard you say a million times “find my center” and calm down. You will keep me safe until that time comes. You are always trying to figure out the miracle way to help, but just know that at the end of the day you’re already giving me that…
And that’s love...
And if other parents going through this with their child ever read this letter to you, let them know that someday their child may also tell them how grateful they are to have them in their lives.