In just a few short days I will turn the chapter and enter year number 44 of my life. It has been 8 years since two of my three children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. It has been 8 years since I was also deemed as an autistic mom, wife and woman.
I started to think about all the things in my life that have changed or been altered by our autism diagnoses. I honestly felt a huge sense of relief the moment my daughters were diagnosed. That may sound strange to typical parents, but I have never been typical. I finally felt validated. Years of stress and struggle finally ended for me. You see many teachers and family members, thought my daughters were poorly behaved and strange. I never thought they were even remotely different, because they did some of the same things I did.
I felt free when I received my diagnosis.
Finally, I was free from all the previous 30 plus years of trying to be normal. I struggled with everything involving social interactions all throughout my childhood. My parents were abusive and indifferent towards me. They constantly prompted me to act like other children. Emotional and verbal abuse were my constant companions while living under my parents’ roof.
Learning that I am autistic gave me the relief I sought from trying to be like everyone else. My happiness was short lived when, once again, my parents shunned me for being different. At the age of 37, my parents disowned me. They refused to accept me and my daughters. They chose not to accept our autism.
I became an orphan of sorts.
My parents felt autism was a diagnosis reserved for only severe nonverbal children with repetitive behaviors. Surely a person such as myself would never be classified as being on the spectrum. After all, I had a job, I was married and had three children. My parents would not accept that autism is on a spectrum and that every autistic individual is different. We may have similarities, but we are not all identical.
So, in my mid-thirties, I became an orphan. My parents have not had any kind of contact with me or my children in almost 8 years. They are not dead but they cannot live with our autism.
The loss of my parents has brought clarity to my life. I no longer have to pretend to be someone I am not. Gone are my parents negative comments about my behavior. I am free from their verbal and emotional abuse. My daughters have the freedom to be themselves without judgement.
Autism gives me strength to fly!
I have discovered that not only can I live with autism, but I can thrive. I can have it all. Autism does not bind me in chains. It gives me the strength to fly! I am a joyful person. I can do anything.
Autism is not the monster my parents made it out to be. While I will never look back at my childhood with starry-eyed memories, I did learn some important life skills. I am fiercely independent and strong willed.
My own daughters will:
- NEVER receive the harsh parenting I experienced.
- NEVER be expected to act normal.
- NEVER face abuse because of who they are.
Autism isn’t a dirty little secret.
Autism is not grounds for punishment in my house. And it isn’t a dirty little secret to be hidden in shame.
The world is not always kind to those of us that are unique. I still face criticism and prejudice from peers. There will always be someone who just doesn’t understand (or doesn’t want to understand) me. I have learned that autism is who I am. It is part of me and my family. It is a gift and not a curse. Autism has shown me the beauty of life. It has given me back my voice.
I will stand up for those who are different, unique and maybe just a little too out of the ordinary. Please teach your children that autism is a beautiful view from a beautiful mind.
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