My journey with my son’s neurodiversity has been difficult to say the least. I hesitate to even claim it as “my” journey at all. First and foremost, it is his journey. He is learning to accept his differences and celebrate his strengths. He is learning that different is not a negative thing. It is a journey that my entire family is on together - all in our own ways.
In January 2021 we finally received a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (among other things). It has been a long time coming. We had suspected Autism for a while and have always known that he was neurodiverse to some capacity. But still? I am an elementary teacher. I am well educated in child development. I still missed most of the signs and symptoms. He is 10-years-old, way too old to be diagnosed with Autism - right?!
Autism doesn’t always look like it does in the movies or on t.v. In fact, it rarely does. The Autism Community is known for saying that if you have met one person with Autism, then you have met ONE person with Autism. He has an extensive vocabulary and is one of the smartest little boys that I know. He loves anything mechanical and is incredibly creative. He is curious. He climb the highest trees and run for miles. He loves Jesus and his younger cousins. He thrives on one-on-one quality time. He was a late talker. He struggles to make friends. He is very impulsive. He doesn’t make appropriate eye contact. He likes things “just so.” He doesn’t like people touching his things or going into his room. He has always struggled behaviorally and socially - and his other diagnoses masked his Autism quite well. We just always knew we didn’t have all the answers. We couldn’t quite figure him out.
Now it all seems obvious - but hindsight is 20/20 right.
This artwork is a part of MY journey. My dealing with my (unfounded, I KNOW) guilt of not realizing all of the signs earlier. I should have helped him MORE. I should have advocated for him MORE. I should have studied and read MORE. I should have fought the schools that labeled him as “bad” and sent him to the office continually, which had devastating effects on his self-esteem. The truth is that I have always done my best with what I knew at the time. Now I know more and I can do better. I can advocate for him and his needs in more effective ways.
This artwork is my coping with the grief in learning that my child is not “perfect.” That he may need medication for his entire life to function “normally.” That he may struggle with things that most people find to be second nature. That he may have a hard time building and maintaining friendships. I realize that “nobody is perfect” but as a mom, I think you allow yourself to see your children as perfect. I think it is okay and normal to grieve those things a little bit. You want things to come easily for your children. You want to see them be successful. And, he will be successful - he just may need more support and more “tools” in order to get there.
This artwork helped me process all of the things I was learning about Autism and raising a neurodiverse little boy. All of the changes that I can make to help support him more effectively. All of the ways I can educate people around me to better accept him the way that he is.
My whole life was spent looking for ways to “fix” him. To help him be a “normal” little boy. I am learning that he doesn’t need to be fixed. Neurodiversity is a difference in the brain and how it developed before birth. Think about it similarly to being left-handed. Does society try to “fix” this? No, it is a difference in the way a brain developed - it would be impossible. Instead of trying to change him and who he was created to be in order to better fit society’s standards - I will focus on trying to change the views and ideas of people around me to be more accepting and welcoming of him. He is a wonderful kid and I am so thankful to be his mama. Our journey is far from over but I finally feel like we have some ground under us - at least we know what we are working with. We can continue to learn and grow and change and accept.
This artwork helped me in so many ways and I would love for them to live in your homes as a reminder to see beauty in every journey - no matter how big or how small.