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The journey to acceptance

"Can you fix it?" The question stung. "He isn't broken" my gut responded. My son, Will, has autism spectrum disorder (ASD). He is 10 and received the diagnosis about three years ago. I refuted anyone who suggested he might be on the spectrum when he was a toddler. But friends who watched him play asked often. Obsessively lining up toys by color, size, and type isn't typical for a one-year-old. I thought he was just unique. Then, his outbursts got bigger. His language development got further behind. His obsessions increased. Leigh, my husband, and I still played off Will's personality as "bigger then the rest". We thought he was intense and a feeler. We still avoided seeking diagnosis even though he would scream for hours about something small like cleaning up his toys. We thought he was stubborn and we just had to be firm and out-stubborn him. We thought Will was going through a phase that maturity or language skills would end. But he could communicate through sign language. And he understood us perfectly well. As he neared seven, we decided his obsessions with completion and dinosaurs and organization were outside typical ranges. We continued to see melt-downs and food aversions too. By this point, he could speak well and read. He was light years ahead of his peers academically. Socially, he seemed so far behind, though. Even his five-year-old brother reconciled emotions and transitions better. Leigh and I looked back at all the red flags and started looking for diagnosis. I grieved my perceived loss of my perfect child. I cried about missing the windows for early intervention and speech therapy. I wept about the loss of normalcy. Leigh comforted me. I didn't have anyone else. None of my friends understood or had lived this life. Their kids were "normal". We were no strangers to unique in our home, but this was a different kind of difference. The intensity of life was explained. Will's brain and needs made more sense. Autism. High-functioning. Profoundly gifted. Autism. I knew where to look for help. I knew what questions to ask. But no one seemed to have answers. No books I read (so I wrote one). No therapists gave me new information. I felt it was up to Leigh and me to figure out how to feed his insatiable brain and prepare him for the world that didn't understand his outbursts and needs. I still grieve sometimes. I still feel I am failing him. I have accepted who he is and how I need to help him, though. I have found an online community of people like him. I have been able to explain him to the tribe I have found in the last few years. Their kids don't have autism. Will knows and is comfortable with who he is. Will's comfort with who he is is my number one goal. He can learn to do life in his own way and can blend in when needed. If he is comfortable with who he is.

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