People will say having a child with Autism is very difficult, and it’s true. But for me the hardest part of having a child with Autism is trying to make life altering decisions for my son. It’s a very difficult path we begin as parents. We have to pave some kind of road for our children to walk down, then send them off into this great big world and hope that our teachings help them along the way.
We try to teach them right from wrong. How to be independent, to stand on their own two feet. As parents of an autistic child, we have had to teach our son, each step of taking a bath, each step of brushing his teeth, how to put on his socks and shoes, and each step of getting dressed in the morning. We have taught him how to answer to his name. How to greet new people in the home and how to not leave the house without Mom or Dad. How to not touch a stove or run through a parking lot. And now as he becomes much more independent and understanding of these skills, we begin preparing him for that big scary world out there.
A world that doesn’t understand hand-flapping. A society that stares at him, when he repeats the same word over and over again. A society that wants to look him in the eye no matter how difficult it is for him. We are prepping him now, each day for reality. And as parents, it feels cruel and harsh to make your child go against his nature.
But I think of the alternative. Will a world that doesn’t accept him give him a job? How difficult will relationships be if we can’t teach him how close to sit to someone? How can he be independent if the world won’t accept his differences?
I went to lunch with some colleagues of mine, many do not know my son has Autism. We are currently hiring and one of my colleagues was talking about the horrible interviews he had, one of which included a young man who was breaking down in the interview. Rocking, and pulling at his hair, unable to handle the questions. He said he was extremely smart, but just couldn’t handle the interview process, he went on to say, “I think he had Aspergers or something.”
My heart sank. I said, “poor guy”, but inside I could only think of Mateo. And what we are prepping him for, and how hard it’s going to be for him. Mateo has charisma, he’s got an incredible personality, but he can definitely shut down when things are tough. He will melt down when pushed beyond his limits.
I don’t know what his future will bring, but I just hope my decisions I have made for him today help him prepare for tomorrow. I hope that he is able to find self confidence and embrace himself for who he is, and that I can give him the tools to make day to day life a little easier. I hope he finds happiness and balance and never loses his uniqueness, his sense of humor and his knowledge that he can do anything in this world.