So often when I tell others about our lives, they apologize. They apologize that we have to deal with food allergies. And autism. In the same breath, they say how amazing it must be to have such advanced learners. I am here to tell you that dealing with food allergies is far easier than addressing all these peoples' learning needs every day! Some days I don't know if the learning needs or the autism is harder. Yes, our lives are hard. Harder than most. But this isn't something to apologize for. Apologize about the babies I desperately wanted to hold and raise, but don't get to because they were lost too soon. Don't apologize about the precocious children I get to learn from every day. I fully realize the apology comes from the stigma that society holds dear about kids with autism, ADHD, food allergies, and other diagnoses. However, we need to break that stigma. We need to raise up our challenging kids and show society how wonderful they are. Rory, 13 and doing college level work, but struggles with friendships is delightful, funny, sarcastic, and mature. These characteristics are appreciated in adults, but not children. Her maturity makes friendships difficult. She doesn't think ridiculous escapades of her peers funny. She thinks them poor choices. Sure she makes her share of poor choices, but they typically surround not planning her time well to ensure she has time to do all the things she wants. Will, my 11-year-old who's excelling in math and reading with his eidetic memory wants the normalcy of close friendships and silly play like he sees other experiencing. But his autism and significant emotional and planning needs hurt his options. Not many kids are willing to have a 30 minute conversation about what to do, how, where, and why. Fewer are able to live up to the lofty expectations of playing out a consistent story line over a period of months or years. He has now reached a maturity level that allows him to meet peers where they are, and let himself loose in play. Not everything needs as elaborate a story. He is learning to compromise. His planning and story telling are fun parts of who he is that people often miss because they focus on his rigidity instead. Mack is on the cusp of puberty and making incredible decisions right after terrible ones. At nine, he is experiencing the typical hormone surges and changes that cause difficulty in families and friendships. He is still impulsive and rarely thinks through his choices. He is also known for rushing through every task he tackles. When he slows down and considers his options, he succeeds at amazing accomplishments. People see the impulsivity and rashness not the goofy side that shines all around him. Kae is known for arguing with her parents, taking forever to eat, and tugging on her clothes. She is sweet and thoughtful for a four-year-old, though. She can read now. She writes thorough stories, and craves all the information her little brain can handle. But what people see is stretched necklines and arguments. We see the beauty in the weeds in our incredible children. Stand with me to shine their beautiful lights to the skeptical world! Let's flip the script and brag on our kids awesome instead of hide it because people don't believe us, or think we're bragging. What are the wonderful things about your kid with autism? How about your little with ADHD or SPD? Let's raise them up.