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Why my son was born to stand out

This blog post was written by Kathy Hooven, who has a son with autism. In honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday, she wrote this blog, which also appears on The Awenesty of Autism. Follow her blog on Facebook.

I love Dr. Seuss! I mean, who doesn't? Who else, but, Dr. Seuss, gets kids to Read Across America for a day in March and gets kids to eat green eggs and ham? I can't get my kids to eat food that is suppose to be green like broccoli and lettuce, let alone food dyed green that looks like something pulled from the dark recesses of the refrigerator.

This guy wasn't a Dr., he was a wizard. Not only could Dr. Seuss rhyme better than Jay Z, he taught amazing life lessons to kids through funny, fabulous, memorable stories. No wonder he gets a National Read Across America Day for his birthday and Jay Z doesn't. Sorry, Jay Z, I'm sure you can cuddle up with your millions to make you feel better.

One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Suess was prominently displayed on our pediatrician's wall when the kids were little and I LOVED it! "Why fit in when you were born to stand out!". So true, right? Don't we all want to stand out? Be someone unique, original, different? No. Not if you are a middle school teen. The LAST thing you want is to "stand out". You want to blend in, be part of the crowd, look like all the other bewildered middle schoolers....until one day, you don't. 

Ryan just told me last week after a day of homework hell, that he doesn't like to ask for help because he feels like "everyone is looking at me because I am different". It broke my heart. We talked about how being different is cool. We talked about how everyone is different, autism or no autism, and how boring the world would be if everyone were the same, but, I knew it was falling on deaf ears. Deaf, middle school ears. 

So, as amazing as Dr. Seuss was, as amazing as his rhyming like rap still is, and as much as I still love this quote, it is not so true for the early teen years, especially if being "born to stand out" comes as a result of an autism diagnosis. So, if Dr. Seuss were still alive today, I would either text, tweet or IM him my rhyme for middle school aged kids with autism, and maybe we could sit down and enjoy some green eggs and ham while we discussed it (yeah, not a chance, not even for a signed first edition of The Cat in the Hat).  

My bust a rhyme rap would go something like this...

Sorry old doc, but this quote is a bust
when you are in middle school fitting in is a must.

With big body changes and feelings galore
it's no fun to stand out when you feel so unsure.

One day being different will make him feel proud,
but, right now as a teen he wants in with the crowd.

He knows he is "different" that much is true,
but, some days being different makes him feel blue.

Being "same" may be boring and not how he was born
and being proud of his differences makes him feel torn.

The right pants, shirts and shoes are what makes these kids cool,
but, some days his body wants comfort in school.

When kids walk the halls laughing and fitting in
he can't help but wonder, "How did they begin?".

He knows that his autism does not make him "less",
but, sometimes feeling "more" would be sure fun to test.

In chorus when he sings notes from his heart
he knows that his differences stand him apart.

But in the halls and the lunch room where kids tend to gather
he feels like an outsider where his heart doesn't matter.

When he comes home to a place where he knows that he fits
the big parts of the day slip away to just bits.

One day I know he will be proud to stand out
and I will be by his side when he stands up and shouts:

"I may not know what it is to be cool,
but, one day when I am long gone from this school
I will find a place where I belong
and prove to all others that labels are wrong."

"Different, not less" is how the quote goes
and no one knows that better than those
who wear the label "autistic" to school and beyond
but one day the labels for all will be gone.

The "cool", the "hip", the "out", the "in"
the labels all change from where we begin.
Being different will no longer cause him to pout
one day I know he will proudly stand out.

The label "autism" is only part of who you see
the only label he wants is the word "me".

"I am me, me I am
and for the times I don't understand 
I look to those who only see ME 
and not some label from a degree."

"See me not the label!" 
he is trying to shout.
And when one day you do
he will proudly stand out.

I have no doubt that one day, when the doors of middle school close behind him, Ryan will fully appreciate his unique and fascinating mind, and understand that underneath the same cool clothes "everyone is wearing", we are all different. Until then though, I believe he will continue to try and fit in, while embracing what makes him stand out. 

I'm sure Dr. Seuss would suggest I stick to blogging not rhyming, we can't all get a National Holiday to recognize our birth (sorry Jay Z). Regardless of what Dr. Seuss would have thought of my mad rhyming skills, I still wouldn't eat green eggs and ham with him. Nope. Not a chance. Not in a box. Not with a fox. Not on a boat. Not with a goat.

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.