I had to find my voice as a parent in a way I had not previously, after having our son, Austin.
Very reserved, quiet and shy by nature, I am not a person who is outspoken about anything.
But being quiet was no longer a choice when I was given the gift of my beautiful little boy.
A little boy who rocks and throws and screams.
A little boy who doesn’t make friends or play.
A little boy who doesn’t have a voice.
You see, Austin is autistic.
When Austin was first diagnosed, I stayed quiet. I didn’t want to be “that mom” constantly posting and writing and talking about autism. It wasn’t anyone else’s business.
It wouldn’t help anything.
Awareness or not, people stare at kids throwing fits.
People stare at the “bratty, undisciplined” kid hitting his mom, and pulling her hair.
They stare, and they judge my parenting, or in their minds, lack of.
People have opinions about autism, ADHD, and other invisible disabilities, whether they know anything about the conditions or not.
Who was I to speak up? I would do better to let more confident, well-spoken people take that on.
I let those thoughts keep me quiet.
As Austin grows and the gap between his peers and himself widens, it becomes more apparent that something is different.
As he gets older and knows exactly what he wants and needs, but can’t voice it, his frustration level increases.
Austin can’t tell me if his belly hurts or he doesn’t feel well.
He can’t tell me if someone was mean to him.
He can’t explain to me why he suddenly starts sobbing for no apparent reason.
He can’t tell me why he slams his head on walls or floors.
My son is completely vulnerable.
Austin doesn’t have a voice. If I don’t speak for him, who will?
If I don’t make the calls, do the research, and educate myself, if I don’t go into the IEP meeting prepared to advocate for him, who will?
Having Austin is pushing me out of my comfort zone and forcing me to become vocal when it comes to my son and his needs.
I found a side I didn’t know I had when it comes to living life with autism.
I pushed and pushed when I initially knew something was wrong with my little boy. Others wanted to talk me out of it, convince me I was overreacting, but I refused to give in.
I found a mama bear within when an applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapist pushed way too hard. I found a voice to clearly say that it is never OK for my son to be treated like that.
There are so many moms who share their autism stories and blog so eloquently. Every time I write I doubt myself and question why I bother.
But then I think of how much more noise we can make together, as a group, if we share and educate others about autism.
If we can make you stop and think that maybe, just maybe, there is more going on than just a 4-year-old having a tantrum and hitting his mom.
If you consider for a moment that maybe this isn’t just a bratty kid. Realize that maybe his mom is barely holding herself together.
Consider that your stares will contribute to her sobbing when she can’t hold it in anymore.
If instead you offer a sympathetic smile, an encouraging word, or even an offer of help, then our voices have helped to make this world a little bit better for our special children and their families.
I’ve found my voice by being Austin’s.