I have a confession to make: I’m a bad autism mom. I own a grand total of 1 autism awareness shirt. I’ve participated in exactly 1 autism charity race (badly, I might add). My van features 0 autism bumper stickers. I almost never share Facebook posts about autism awareness. And why? I’m just too busy loving and supporting my 3 boys who are on the spectrum and helping them be the best versions of themselves that they can possibly be.
I love it that April is Autism Awareness Month, but my house is 24/7/365 about autism awareness. We are constantly focused on helping all 7 of our kids, neurotypical and spectrum alike, navigate the tricky twists of their teenage years. Autism is just another bend in our family path. We have a 15-year-old (Connor) and a 6-pack of newly-minted teenagers (Isabella, Sophia, Kyle, Logan, Alex, and Lucy) who just turned 13 in February, so life is noisy and crazy and busy, weird and wonderful and smelly, all at once and always at full volume.
My boys are the true embodiment of the spectrum that is autism.
Kyle is at one end: non-verbal and low functioning, with interests at the toddler level and many sensory issues that cause meltdowns.
Logan is somewhere towards the other end with his jokey and disorganized personality, fixation on movie trivia, and difficulty understanding social cues and the unwritten rules of teenaged friendship.
Alex is at the polar opposite end of the spectrum from Kyle; he is very bright, fascinated with technology and video games, obsessed with schedules and his daily routine, and fiercely loyal to the same group of similarly challenged friends he has had since kindergarten.
From the time each of them was diagnosed to the present, our autism journey with the boys has been a whirlwind of therapy appointments, doctor visits, school collaborations, IEP meetings, and adapted activities. Now that they are teens, we focus on hygiene, self-care skills, academic goals, and making them as self-supporting as possible in preparation for the challenges of high school and life beyond. We are very fortunate to have so many excellent resources locally, like Akron Children’s Hospital, which allow us to find the very best care for our boys without a long drive.
Each one of our boys has their own challenges and needs, but they are unquestionably the same in how we work together as a family to support each of them. As a family, we have learned the value of patience, love, a fresh-baked cookie, and a good nap. We know what makes each of them happy, and we’ve learned what situations to avoid because they are too stressful. And that’s really what Autism Awareness Month is all about: learning how to work together as one huge worldwide family to support all people on the spectrum and their families.
So thank you to all who take part in Autism Awareness Month events, and who love and support a spectrum family. Your friendship and understanding makes the world a better place for Alex, Logan, Kyle, and millions of other children and adults on the spectrum who are struggling to find their place in a world that doesn’t always fit their needs.