Autism is a spectrum disorder. I think every child with ASD is at a different spot on that spectrum, just like every snowflake is different. That means that we can identify with others in our community, and take bits and pieces from everyone, whether it’s comfort, advice, hope, or sympathy.
Life is also a spectrum. The Boy is entering his “tween” years: getting pimples, being secretive, and asserting independence. But I remember the endless potty training (I think it was 4 years in total, for us), the jumping off of furniture that got us kicked out of daycare, and later, preschool. I remember the bolting: down the driveway, in the parking lot, into the ocean. It may sound barbaric, but we actually used to have to tie a rope to his life preserver, because he would literally try to swim to Africa if we let him.
Just as he has grown more independent over the years, and the challenge of the constant vigil of watching his every move has subsided, new challenges have taken over, like the inability of just picking him up and carrying him out of a public place, and getting him to eat anything besides pizza.
Having support from the special needs community helps us see. It helps us remember where we were, and see how far we’ve come. It also helps us to see possible futures for our children, and gives us hope, and sometimes a dose of reality. Sometimes all of this “seeing” is painful, but most times it’s not.
I went to The Boy’s Ice Cream Social at his ESY program the other day, and there were kids with all kinds of diagnoses there. I watched them choose toppings for their ice cream, and play, and sit with each other and talk (or not). I watched family members sit and enjoy these kids, and I smiled. We are all in different places, dealing with different stuff, but we can enjoy some ice cream, and some free play time together. The world could learn from the example set by these special needs kids and their families.