Happy World Autism Awareness Day! I want everyone to acknowledge that Autism is a real and those with it enrich our lives!

My teenage son is on the Autism Spectrum. He’s higher functioning and what used to be considered “Asperger’s,” but on the Spectrum none-the-less.

I guess I’ve always known he was special. My Abuser would tell me I was making that up for attention, so I let it go for a LONG time. However, never once did I think there was something “wrong” with him. All children are different, so I wanted to know how best to love him.

What caught my attention was that as an infant he would cry unless I or my daughter was holding him. Ours were the first voices he heard. He probably heard my Abuser’s voice when he yelled and I’d jump, so no wonder he cried when he was held by him!

He was very colicky and sensitive, even when being breastfed. I really had to watch what I ate. His father only tolerated me breastfeeding for so long, so I had to find a low-gas formula that he could tolerate.

Then, he started biting other children, for stimulation purposes. It became such a problem that he was almost kicked out of daycare. I got really strong and bumpy teething rings and he “chewed” them…like a puppy. True story!

I also noticed how he played…lining things up in a row or by size or color. He would sit in a “W” sit (see picture), as well as show other sensory issues, as a toddler. My daycare provider recommended that I consult with his pediatrician, who witnessed his delays and sensory things and called in the “First Steps” organization. They provided physical therapy for children with developmental delays, and they were wonderful with him!

We utilized “First Steps” for nearly a year. It was during one of his sessions that his therapist asked if I felt anything else was going on. I explained to her my concerns about hi. Rocking back and forth to soothe himself and his flapping of his hands when he got anxious. She agreed and she was pleased that I asked about that. Then we spoke about what Autism could look like or present in children if his age.

I spoke with my Abuser about our conversation and he dismissed it. “She’s a quack,” he said nonchalantly. “I’m glad he’s outgrown that service! There is nothing wrong with my boy!”

“There’s nothing wrong with him, honey,” I explained. “He just reacts to the world differently and perceives things a different way.”

“NO! This discussion is over!” he hissed. “Never bring this up again!”

As luck would have it, I lost my job, so as I was on unemployment, he qualifies for the Head Start program at age 3 through 5. Those awesome teachers really helped me get through to him and understand him better. They did confide in me that I should have him evaluated for possibly being on the Autism Spectrum. That just wasn’t possible, not in my current situation.

We started primary school and I had to buy him “tag less” t-shirts and underwear, as well as cut the tags out of pants. If I didn’t, he’s scratch himself open — like to the point of bleeding. This was at a time when “tagless” things were a bit more expensive. After nearly getting DCS called on us, I decided it was a necessary expense.

A few years in, I had a parent-teacher conference with his teacher that talked about him screaming and causing a disturbance everyday, that was concerning. I calmly asked her when it was? Was it at the same time every day? She had 32 children in her care and two teaching assistants. He was probably overstimulated, but she outlined that it was during math every day. She politely told me that I needed to discipline him for his outbursts. I then calmly asked her what his math grades looked like. When she looked in his folder, she said, “Oh my, he does need some assistance. Long story short, he was causing a disturbance when it was time for math because he had no number concept and it was freaking him out. I had them get him a teaching assistant and do one-on-one math work. It was then that we established an IEP for my sweet boy.

I then moved him to a charter school, as his outbursts were from overstimulation from such large classroom populations. He went from a classroom of 30 to 10. Plus, my Abuser and I’s relationship just kept getting more and more tense. He was a barometer for all of the intensity at home.

When he first started the charter school, he could clear a room, simply by flipping his desk. Together we devised a plan of calm and soothing. That was in 4th grade. By the time he left there in 7th grade, he was a different child. He’d even made the honor role a few times! I even had gotten him glasses with tinted lenses to help him read and concentrate better.

The charter school was supposed to continue adding grades to the point of having high school covered. However, with COVID, that was delayed, so he had to go to the public junior high school and back to being overstimulated. Ugh, just ugh. The first year in a new school always has been. “Hell Year.” We are currently in another “Hell Year,” having started high school this past Fall. However, I have a new outlook on life since I met an independent Special Ed advocate. We swapped stories and our children are eerily similar.

God knew I needed him in my life. Those on the Spectrum are “differently abled,” but don’t discount them! The likes of Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Nikola Tesla, Elon Musk, and Anthony Hopkins were all on this grand Spectrum — just remember the great contributions they made and where our world would be without them!