Autism Acceptance Begins with Autism Awareness: Stimming

John Steinbeck once said, “I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen.” How true that statement still is.

Today I want to discuss autism acceptance and how society looks at but doesn’t actually see what autism actually is. I suspect this is because everyone has heard of autism but few can actually explain what it is. This is a problem and this post is designed to help fix that. Today I share with you how I came to authentically understand the beauty of neurodiversity.

I hope this piece helps you be an effective ally for any neurodiverse person, but especially for autistic people.

Right now in America, 1 in 5 autistic teens will be stopped and questioned by police before age 21 for suspicious activity. People with disabilities, including autism, are five times more likely to be jailed than those without disabilities. This is a problem that you should care about.

“But what if I don’t know anyone who is autistic?”, you may ask.

I understand that stance because I once had a similar view. Today, I have a big favor to ask: read this like the person you love most in the world was recently diagnosed as autistic.

Today, 1 in 54 people are autistic. Statistically, you’ll know someone who is autistic and it might not look like what you think it should. Because as I noted earlier, most people are familiar with the word, many could not explain what it means, what it looks like, why it happens, or what supports are needed to help people on the spectrum thrive.

The truth is I would not have made this effort if it were not for the sake of my own child who was diagnosed about 6 years ago. I also know I am typical in this way; I don’t generally care until I see how it affects me.

For the sake of safety and inclusion, I beg you to continue reading because I selfishly want help my own child and because I know your understanding will help many others as well.

If you couldn’t even imagine a loved one being autistic, I invite you to pause and think about why not. If you couldn’t even visualize it,that’s ok; it just means you were like me and you really don’t understand autism. Either way, I hope you will keep reading.

Autism rates are on the rise. In special education support group, the presenter warned that public education teachers like me are going to have many neurodiverse students in their classrooms in the near future and are not prepared. I felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my gut. I knew I was not prepared. “What is autism anyway and how would it look in a classroom?”, I worried. I couldn’t even imagine a class with three or four neurodiverse children.

After having a child on the spectrum, I also realized my own son would be in a series of classrooms and other social situations where teachers and other citizens would not be able to help him adequately unless we all got a similar understanding of what autism meant. 

It’s all so overwhelming. Who should be the one to help with this?

First, Autism is nothing to be cured or feared. This point of this post is primarily to help us understand the way we discuss neurodiversity matters. Once we become aware of how language impacts understanding, then we can become effective allies. 

Many parents like me generally fear an autism diagnosis. Below is an abstract written by Patricia Braus in 2017 in an academic journal to demonstrate why:

Autism is a profound neural development disorder marked by an inability to communicate and interact with others. The condition’s characteristics include language abnormalities, restricted and repetitive interests, and the appearance of these characteristics in early childhood. The disorder begins in infancy, but typically is not diagnosed until ages two to five years. Although individuals with autism are more likely to have severe intellectual disabilities than other individuals, some people with the disorder have a high intelligence level. The cause of autism is unknown although it is probably biological in origin.

Wow. Those are some scary words written by an academic expert in a position of power. No wonder people get freaked out when they hear the A-word. I have no doubt Braus is an expert, but her language is problematic right at the start of the report. Instead of wasting time unpacking the irritating and harmful semantics happening, today I am just going to tell you the answer:

Autism is not a terminal disease but it’s often treated like that because of how “experts” like Braus talks about it. “Tell-tale signs” or “symptoms” are not called traits. When you learn about autism from people who are actually autistic, rather than those who are “experts” because they’re written reports about and observed autism, your understanding will profoundly change for the better.

How will your understanding change if you learn from autistic people about autism?:

Instead of fearing this “mysterious” puzzle-like situation going on (as it is often presented by clinicians), there are many autistic adults who are proud of who they are and gladly share their stories with you. Search #actuallyautistic on any social media platform and prepare to be amazed. Many autistic people are incredibly articulate and often their “inability to communicate with others” was actually just a misinterpretation on the part of people in power, like Braus. But I implore you, please just listen.

Process later.

And don’t argue with the real experts about what being autistic means. Only autistic people are in a place to explain their experience.

Many of my perceptions and fears about autism were unfounded because I took a clinical approach. Autism is still medically referred to as a disorder (Autism Spectrum Disorder), not a different operating system (think Mac vs PC). In your quest for information about autism you might not “see” any answers because of an inappropriate approach that autism is a disorder. It’s not. It’s just a different order than many people are accustomed to. I now refuse to call autism a disorder. Autistic people are in perfectly fine order. I just didn’t comprehend what I was looking at because I spent way too many hours reading clinical studies about how different it was from a specific neurotypical standard that was set by neurotypicals.

Accepting and harnessing the power of neurodiversity will help solve a lot of society’s problems.  I’ll tell you more about that in another post, but today I need to talk about something more pressing: the safety of autistic people

Before I begin, I must note that I struggle to critique people in positions of power because I know at the end of the day, we are all doing the best we can. I am not anti-police, anti-medicine, anti-teachers, anti-psychologists- I am not anti-anyone. But I am unapologetically pro-safety, especially when it comes to my own child. Lots of people are aware of autism but it’s very obvious many do not accept autism. We need acceptance so parents can help their children thrive, so doctors can authentically support their patients, teachers help empower their students, and law enforcement do a more effective job when working with autistic people.

We need not just autism awareness, but autism acceptance. You cannot accept what you don’t understand, so the point of this post is to help us understand autism a bit better, nothing more, and nothing less.

Autism accetpance would have helped the Utah officers who shot 13-year-old Linden Cameron eleven times. Eleven. Times. I wasn’t there when Linden was shot eleven times, but I bet this 13-year old was stimming in public.

Why was this 13-year-old was shot eleven times? More likely than not, officers didn’t know what they were looking at and felt threatened because of their ignorance. Stimming can seem scary. Especially if you hear lots of sounds and noises and don’t know these are simply a very important way some people need to regulate their senses. I hope you can understand why parents like me, who are also parents of Linden, would want people in positions of power to genuinely understand the autism spectrum.

It’s the same reason Elijah McClain, a young black man who “looked sketchy” (that is an actual quote from an officer involved), was ultimately was killed through events orchestrated by law enforcement. It happened because of Elijah’s unusual appearance.

If we just accept that getting riddled with bullets is simply a part of life, we are doomed. It’s not normal, so don’t act like it. You can be outraged that this happened and still want to work with police so that this never happens again. And by the way, this doesn’t just happen with police. Abuse by parents, caretakers, educators, random people also happen daily.

But of the most pressing importance is that people in positions of power are stressed out when they see neurodiverse people regulate their senses in public. A major reason for the stress – which manifests in fear- is because these powerful people are uninformed/miseducated. So let’s inform people properly so that everyone can interpret what they see correctly and help everyone thrive. But you can’t be informed if you judge stimming to be something to be “cured” or deem it rude and something to suppress.

Stimming can look like rocking back and forth, flapping hands, making noises. My son often stims by galloping back and forth and making grunting or squealing noises. The purpose of stimming is to work through a sensory or stimulating experience. That’s what my book The Case of Sensational Stims is about. You can pre-order it here until May 1, 2021.

Stimming is a common behavior of many people, especially autistic people. It is often confused for “antisocial” or “suspicious” behavior that needs to be stopped. When adult autistic people stim, it is often interpreted as a person on drugs, which might be one reason why they are more likely to be apprehended by law enforcement.

My own child tends to stim more when he is anxious or excited. He often takes a second to stop or respond if he needs to answer a question, and I can clearly see how someone like him could get in trouble by the police. Depending on the intensity and nature of the stim, it is difficult for him to immediately stop or listen to a verbal command. I wrote The Case of Sensational Stims to address stimming. I did not want my son to have the same fate as Linden or Elijah. That’s the real, selfish reason I wrote this book.

But on a more positive note, it’s a happy book that celebrates stimming for what it is: a way to regulate one’s sensory experience and needs. Special sensory needs are nothing to be ashamed of. They simply need to be understood.

I also don’t believe in the concept that there are “other people’s children”. Linden and Elijah deserved safety. My son will be one of the most vulnerable in society because he is not in the majority class of neurotypical. People in incredible positions of power like the officers who shot Linden did the opposite of creating a safe environment. I don’t think they intentionally set out to harm an autistic child. They didn’t know what they were looking at. We have an education problem that can be fixed. But please, do not waste your time defending these officers. To do so would be to normalize shooting children. That’s lunacy. If you feel the strong urge to do that, this is not the place for you.

I wrote this post and my children’s book to fill the gaping, dangerous abyss that exists because people in positions of power do not understand some basic things that are critically important for the safety of neurodiverse people.

To be an effective advocate I needed to do the painful unlearning of some serious misperceptions, just as I am asking others to do. The Case of Sensational Stims, a children’s book I wrote to educate all of society about the importance of stimming is the result of my unlearning. It’s founded in my new education from resources written by autistic people as well as from my time spent in a classroom and learning about my child’s and my own neurodiversity.

My son’s “mysterious” needs are actually very relatable when I took the time to just listen to those who had similar needs. Typical behaviors of autistic children often begin with a question rooted in dismay (e.g. “why is he lining up his trucks!?”, or “why does she cry when I give her a bath!?”, “why does he keep saying the same words over and over!?”) and these same observations are often problematized by clinicians. Most of this unusual behavior is not harmful, but it certainly is different. And obviously, some stimming can be harmful if a person is banging their head against a wall or picking themselves until they bleed. My son often would bite hard things like bed posts and banisters. Something about the pressure on his teeth felt really good, but I feared he would only have nubs for teeth and all of my wood surfaces would have bite marks. We eventually learned about chewlery, got him a few options, and behold! His teeth are safe and so is my furniture! It was also very encouraging to know that this was a common need and that there were stimming tools to help my child with his unique sensory needs.

This realization took many months of agonizing over what I was doing wrong to make him want to bite hard surfaces. The answer was nothing! His sensory needs had nothing to do with our parenting. Relief!

But many well-meaning people try to “teach” their child how to stop regulating themselves if it is not socially acceptable. Instead of encouraging others to repress their stims, we need to discover what the root of the stim is and if necessary, help replace with healthy, safe behaviors. Stimming is an important means of regulation and supressing it causes burnout and meltdowns.

Before I knew better, I pathologized stimming. “He can’t keep moving around while we are at a restaurant!”, I would proclaim. I viewed my son’s behaviors like a tumor growing on his body, but if I am really honest, this was mainly because I knew others were judging his behavior and I felt ashamed and embarrassed. When I changed where I obtained my information, I gained a newfound perspective that empowered me to become a better parent to my child and teacher of neurodiverse students. I quit caring about judgement because I had clues about why he was behaving certain ways.

I realize now that all forms of behavior from all people, both neurodiverse and neurotypical, are important forms of communication. My son’s “unusual” behaviors serve a very meaningful purpose. For the first time, I saw beauty and wonder at his behavior like most parents of young neurotypical children do (instead of the chronic anxiety and dread I previously experienced when I saw him stim). And certain behaviors like running back and forth incessantly- one of his stims that led me to the path of diagnosis- was an indicator that he was regulating himself due to environmental stress. I was finally able to see it for what it was (for him, this was due to loud noise that hurt his ears). I now could support him appropriately (we use ear plugs/ defenders, or sometimes we just leave if it’s too loud). It was a miraculous yet simple discovery. I didn’t have to judge his behavior nor worry how others would feel about my child “running amuck” in a restaurant when he was really just soothing himself.

Getting information from the right sources is critical. Everything seemed to “fit together” when autism was explained to me by autistic adults (but no, for the record I don’t use the puzzle piece to symbolize autism and here’s why). I no longer hoped my son would “learn better” or “be different”. There was nothing to mourn; he just needed a specific kind of support that I knew nothing about. Everything came into focus, but I wasted critical formative years on a clinical approach to autism. If this post can prevent one parent from the agony or one child from the misery, my effort here will not have been wasted.

My transformational understanding is not overly optimistic nor does it discredit the real challenges and concerns that accompany those with special needs. But caregivers, whenever an “expert” pathologizes an unusual or undesired behavior or says it’s a manipulative, conscious decision made by your neurodiverse child, I tell you without hesitation seek a different advisor: your “expert” is a hack.

Advocating effectively is difficult. I’m not sure I’ll ever get to the final destination of total inclusion and societal harmony. I also know I make mistakes even though I’m trying my best. I’m sure some reader will be offended by something I’ve written here and inform me what a piece of trash I am because of the way I worded something. I’m fully anticipating it and ready to do better once I know better (also I will leave room for the possibility that sometimes keyboard crusaders can be wrong).

If we want a healthy, thriving, conscious society, we need to call things by their proper names and take time to genuinely learn about what we don’t understand. Just because you can “see” something, as Steinbeck noted, does not mean you actually understand what you are looking at.

At the very least, we need to believe people -all people- when they share their experiences. And if you haven’t made yourself uncomfortable by getting to know the person –not the topic– maybe that’s where you should first begin. It’s important to support where we can, and genuinely ask questions with the intent to understand. It takes time to look, see, and interpret. You might have to unlearn some things. That’s ok. This courageous decision is an investment of your precious energy. I can promise you though, the reward is worth it. 

If you would like to pre-order a copy of The Case of Sensational Stims you can do so here until May 1, 2021. After that it will be available on Amazon in May. 

Special Handshake

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*Disclaimer- I wrote this in 2019 but got the courage to make it public in 2021. Progress!*

I wish there was a special handshake for parents and allies of special needs kids. Something subtle, but noticeable that shows, “I understand what I am witnessing and I am cool with it, and you. I come as a friend.” It would need to be something that is appropriate in all cultures, so it could work on an international scale. Something inviting, like the Star Trek Vulcan salute, or a wink or something. It would really make our lives a lot easier.

This post is a chronicle of a social excursion for me, a parent of an autistic child. I write it to commiserate with other special needs parents, and perhaps help others understand (especially teachers and voters) why articles like an entire graduating class giving a silent ovation for a man with autism, matter. If you find yourself rolling your eyes at headlines like that, I definitely get it. I used to be of a similar mindset. I mean, inclusion is cool, but that isn’t how the world works, right? How in the world is not clapping for one kid a big deal? And why should we not clap? Everything is much better than it used to be. This kind of stuff is going too far. What’s next? Who cares?

Also, this is not written because I feel bad for my son or need to identify with being a “special needs parent” to feel special myself. I don’t. He’s perfect just as he is. I simply and firmly believe that there is no such thing as “other people’s kids”. We belong to each other.

I want to try to explain why you should care, but it’s a nuanced answer that is best explained with a recent, actual outing. Though we’ve come extraordinarily far, the bar set before things like the Americans with Disabilities Act was set extremely low. If you want to learn more about our country and the world’s relationship with special needs people, please read this incredible book. But today is just a brief insight into one family’s daily life, continue on.

Yesterday we went to the library to return some books when we unexpectedly arrived at the exact same start time of the reptile show. Reptiles are a favorite of my kids, but especially for my son who is on the autism spectrum. It’s been my experience that autism is generally misunderstood for a variety of reasons, but one main reason is that it presents so differently in each autistic person. For my kid, one volume and types of noises, textures, and lights often cause sensory overload for him. This is so not just for autistic people but for many others who have any kind of sensory sensitivity or processing disorder.

Since it was a Thursday afternoon, I felt like it was even better because the place surely wouldn’t be that crowded, making it simpler for my child to succeed in this setting with fewer sensory stimuli.

Except for today, the room was packed.

I took a deep breath. While I am thrilled that a public library was bursting at the seams midweek, I am still very weary of how my son will respond in crowded settings. I am not quite as on edge as last year, when he entered a general education kindergarten class. I worried extensively about elopement and social trauma, but it went about as well as it could. Life is starting to get a little easier.

It’s a tricky thing to be a parent of an autistic child. There’s a unique paradox that only the parents seem to know: on one hand we are so proud of our brave, resilient child, but also so fearful of the inevitable cruelty that will cross our child’s path. We all cope with this differently, but I find myself on daily alert for brutality towards my child. I also remind myself that everything, even cruelty, is a learning experience. I still get nervous when we attend social events, but am not deeply anxious anymore. This is not just because I understand that if I only look for cruelty, that is what I will find, but also because he practices a lot with trained professionals like speech therapists and occupational therapists outside of the normal school day.

Most kids sat on the floor of the retile show and parents sat in the back. The presenter was pretty funny, and made jokes throughout as he educated kids and parents.

Though nervous to let him be on the floor with his neurotypical sister but I decided, “I’ve got to learn to let him do this stuff, it’s the only way he will learn.”

The first half of the show he figuratively hit it out of the park- I couldn’t believe how well he did sitting on his bottom, listening and raising his hand. “Just like a regular kid”, I thought proudly.

Someone else arrived partway through the show. A beautiful little girl, maybe about 5 or 6, who walked right through the crowd and up front to the reptile presenter. She showed no concern for the others around her. The presenter frequently had to ask her, in front of everyone, to sit down, to stop touching his reptile containers or the reptiles themselves. She walked around touching other kids’ heads near the end of the show.

I don’t know this child, but I’ve seen this kind of behavior before. My son is built with a motor that prevents him from being able to stay seated very long. He has never finished a meal without getting up multiple times. Sometimes he gets lost in his thoughts and forgets what he is supposed to be doing. His compulsive need to touch interesting things make for some very awkward apologies when I explain to the middle-aged woman standing in line why my kid put his hand up her shirt. Because of my experience, I realized the way this little girl was behaving was not that of a naughty child, it was of a person who has special needs. Without raising a child like mine, I know I would have judged this mother to be negligent and this child to be willfully disobedient. In fact, even with my personal experience, I began to wonder why the mom didn’t just grab her kid and hold on to her after the fourth or fifth warning by the presenter. This was social suicide for her kid, and frankly, a bit disruptive.

The mom stayed in the back and watched this happen. I must give kudos to the presenter, because he had every right to ask the mother take her “disobedient” kid out. He didn’t do that, but I could understand how he probably wanted to. I wonder how many times this mother and child got dirty looks and judgmental statements hurled at them.

I couldn’t help but wonder if she knew she could get help to allow her daughter a better life experience. Maybe she did know and this is just what it looks like right now. Maybe she is in total denial? No, I saw how this little girl was dressed and groomed; this is a devoted, engaged mother who does understand society. But when I looked at the mom, she didn’t look disappointed in her daughter. She saw everything her child was doing, and didn’t spend her energy attempting to look disappointed to please the people she knew were looking at her, like I usually do. I was equally impressed by her, and ashamed of myself for moments earlier mentally congratulating my child for appearing “regular”.

I was also reminded of another thought I had only moments earlier about my child and wondered if she had the same thought about hers: “I’ve got to learn to let him do this stuff, it’s the only way he will learn.” Maybe that’s where this mother was, too. If so, she had way more grit than I have. I would have pulled the plug on the social outing way sooner.

We have come a long way from the old days of locking up children with special needs, or attempting to beat their “bad” behavior out of them. It was not that long ago where society as a whole believed children could be born defective, and though we usually didn’t murder them, we found it socially acceptable to lock them up in facilities that would halt anyone else’s “progress” by being slowed down by another. If you do not believe me about our history with people with special needs, please read In a Different Key. We still have a long ways to go before we can say we are a totally inclusive society, and even though it doesn’t always feel like it, our culture has made tremendous strides in a positive direction.

This child’s behavior was really hard to watch; it’s tempting to remove her from the situation. But each time we remove someone with special needs from the group, we prevent social progress because we prevent inclusion. At the reptile show, her awkward interjections made us go a bit more slowly, but there was a lot of learning happening. No, not just for this one child, but for the entire group, though I am not sure if the entire group knew. We were learning not just about reptiles, but also about patience, compassion, and empathy. As a teacher, I now think about how often we stop learn “in the moment” learning because it’s awkward and feels super slow and off-task. But I realize now how important slowing down is. It is no waste- it’s a valuable investment.

Deep down, and I am ashamed to admit this, I was a little relieved that it wasn’t my kid this time. This behavior is what my six year old’s social outings used to frequently look like, though he still does socially unacceptable things. However, for the first time in a long time, I got to be the objective onlooker and I noticed this child didn’t hurt anyone. She responded to the presenter each time. It was awkward and slowed us down, but we all still enjoyed the show, and she got to be a part of the group. There were lots of awkward, cringe-worthy moments, but it all worked out.

One interesting fact: to date, nobody has died of an awkward situation.

Sometimes I wish I could just go places with a big, light up billboard right over my head that said, “My son is autistic, that’s why”. I would turn it on whenever that cringe-worthy thing happened. Like when he raised his hand to go up and hold the python with a group of kids. I noticed he put his hands in his pockets, which was probably because he really wanted to hold up his shirt and bite it (but I told him earlier during the show he cannot do that and have told him this what feels like millions of times). I was proud of him for finding something else to do with his hands, but then the presenter told him to get his hands out to hold the snake, he wouldn’t do it. We made eye contact, and I gestured for him to put out his hands. Reluctantly, he took out his hands. He held up the end of the snake with glee, but I know he was mitigating the desire to squeal, flap his hands, and probably bite something because he was so elated. Though it took him a bit longer, he responded to the request. His progress makes me proud and breaks my heart. He has to do this every single day. And also, why can’t he just flap his hands? Who cares?!

My little boy loves to make jokes and he knew that this presenter was very funny. When his time was over, the presenter told the kids to sit down. He wanted to be silly with the reptile expert, but struggles to know when and where this is appropriate. After a few failed attempts to make the presenter giggle, he finally took his seat. At least he wasn’t doing what the little girl was doing, which was getting up again and attempting to touch his basket containing a lizard. I believe the distraction helped people not judge my kid so harshly for doing “weird” things.

After the show, we went to the children’s reading area where I ran into a respected administrator in my school district. He was there with his four perfectly behaved children. I introduced him to my kids, my neurotypical daughter said “hello”. My neurodiverse kid reached out to shake his hand, then told him he doesn’t shake hands, then offered “knuckles”, then shook his hand anyway, then told him to do knuckles, then he closed his hand over the administrator’s hand, then wandered to the back of the reading room.

*cringe*

I wish I had that light up billboard right then. But awhile ago I decided to no longer explain to people that my child was on the autism spectrum whenever something like this happened because: 1. I don’t think many people actually know what that explanation means and 2. I know that he notices EVERYTHING, even things cannot be seen. When I act disappointed in the way he is, I am sending him a powerful message that who he is isn’t right or good. I know I get a lot wrong, but I’ll be damned if my kid gets this message from his mother. That’s what advertisements and social media are for. Also, my kid loves to make jokes. This greeting, in hindsight, was actually pretty funny. Why can’t I just celebrate that in the moment?

We finally went to the back of the children room where the mother with her little girl were reading. The mom was struggling to get her to hold onto a book and look at it, something my son still struggles with, too. I noticed the mom spoke to her in Spanish, and the little girl answered in English. I was impressed by their bilingual exchange. I wanted to go say hello to the mother, but I didn’t know how to do it and wondered if she was fluent in English. I knew some Spanish, but if I was going to connect, I feared my Spanish skills wouldn’t get the job done (this is why we need a special handshake!!!).

I wanted her to know I understood the behaviors I was witnessing and that I thought her little girl was great. I tried to make eye contact to at least offer a smile, but it seemed the mother either didn’t notice me, or didn’t want to even go there, which I totally understand. This mom would have no way of knowing if I was friend or foe. I’ve been chastised by a perfect stranger for “neglecting” my child who was behaving in a socially inappropriate way. I’ll never forget it and would never want someone to experience that either. I suspect this mother has had this happen to her more than a few times.

Social outings are extremely exhausting for me even now with how much progress we have made. I know they are exhausting for my son too, and usually he goes to his room and lays down with his animals when he is done.

Children with special needs like my kid try so hard every single day, and succeed often. And they fail sometimes, too. Because they are children and learning. Because they have special needs. Because they are human beings. We push children with disabilities way harder than typical children. If I were my son I would hate to always have to make behavioral adjustments and mask who I am because society as a whole will fundamentally misunderstand me.

But how do I change this reality? This is the paradox of raising a neurodiverse child: you know they are brilliant and awesome exactly as they are, but they do need to respond in a socially appropriate way to the world around them if they ever want to thrive and have a chance at independence. There needs to be a way to explain briefly to people things like sensory overloads so people quit judging the wrong darn thing. Behaviors that are demonstrating a sensory overload need support not moral judgement. The worst part is that the ignorant onlooker seems to be the ultimate factor in determining if a child like mine is worthy of inclusion. This judgement is why autistic people are more likely to be apprehended by law enforcement, even when not breaking the law. People often do not know what autism actually looks like in regular life and the amount of trauma it inflicts on innocent people is one of the most despicable things I can think of. This fact is why you see autism awareness stuff EVERYWHERE; parents like me are scared. And we’re tired. And we are dependent on you to help our kids (and our autistic kids who become autistic adults, too!). And often, we parents aren’t even the autistic people! Can you imagine how they must feel?

I wish people could also consider what happens before the odd behavior, or at the very least what the function of the behavior is before they determine a person to be “bad”, or “weird”, or “naughty”. Right now, this is not considered to be relevant in the general population. Until that kind of thoughtfulness is pervasive in our society, kids like mine will live on the fringes. Until that day of sincere daily inclusion comes, I will keep writing to try to make the world a better place through education.

On a more basic level, I wish we had a special handshake or signal for the day to day activities to help families move through the world of parenting a child with special needs. Something that says, “I get it!”. It would help so much.

Any ideas?