My son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder eight years ago when he was 2 years old. It came as no surprise to me. I finally felt validated that my intuitions were correct — something was, indeed, different.
Parents of autistic children go through a journey. Sometimes it includes acceptance, sometimes denial. Sometimes it is knowing exactly what your child needs, sometimes it’s having no clue. Sometimes it is advocating fiercely, sometimes it is regretting that you did not. As parents raising neurodiverse children, the journey will include regrets.
One of my regrets has been not seeking out the adult autistic community sooner. It was when I started looking for and following autistic adults online that I finally felt like I was understanding my son. I started to understand why he may be behaving in a certain manner and how I could support that behavior. Yes, I said it — “support the behavior.” There is nothing wrong with behaviors like stimming, pacing, meltdowns, and lack of eye contact. I’ll admit I have been wrong, and I cringe that I once used function labels. I am still learning and seeking out as much information as I can to help my family.
Parents of autistic and disabled children must seek out autistic and disabled adults in order to best learn about and understand our kids. We must listen to them. We must amplify their voices, both speaking and non-speaking. In eight short years my son with be an autistic adult. He will be an autistic adult for the rest of his life. Will he be silenced by people who think they know autism better than he does? My hope is that his voice will be heard by his community, by his peers, and by society. For parents of neurotypical children, this is generally not a concern. But for parents of the neurodivergent, it is a grave concern. It weighs heavily on us.
Here are some of the social media accounts that have meant so much to me over the last few years. They have given me confidence and direction as I advocate for my son. They have made me aware of my own ableism as well. Whether you are connected to the autism community or not, please take a look at these accounts to see what you can learn.