17 years - HAPPY BIRTHDAY MY BEAUTIFUL BOY!

My beautiful first born son. You have inspired so much in my life. It was because of you I went back to graduate school. It is because of you I founded CARES Consulting. It is because of you I have lived the other side of Autism, not just as a professional, but as a parent. Being in this field before you were born gave me a solid foundation about Autism and how it presents across ages. However, I was not quite prepared for the lessons I would learn when I found myself on the other side of the table, the parent side. It opened my eyes to the needs of parents and caregivers of individuals with Autism - needs that were oftentimes overlooked. You opened my eyes about the uniqueness of Autism and the brilliance that lies just beyond our comprehension. I have had to look at you for who YOU are and recognize that Autism is a part of you just like your beautiful brown eyes and curly hair. I have learned to accept YOUR form of communication, whether that is talking or texting. I have learned to let YOU make choices for your life. Especially now that you are 17 years old and moving toward adulthood.

You have voiced that you do not want to be an adult and I think that is a very common thing that we all feel. You have made your likes and dislikes known and I respect you for that. I have had to listen to some hard truths about your feelings regarding recent changes in our family, particularly in our moving to a new house. While we are still working through this transition, I am happy to see you start to enjoy things again. Today, as we head to Dave and Buster’s (your choice) I am reminded to release the reins just a little bit and allow you to take ownership of your life and how you want to spend your days. I am learning to give you more autonomy - and you surprise me with your requests. You wanted to look nice today for your party, so you asked me to cleanse your face and pick out your clothes. I can’t remember the last time you actually asked me to wash your face! Now that you have a mustache - Yes, I said mustache! - you are aware of your appearance and have a vested interest in looking good. This is new! But then, you ARE 17! I look forward to what this year will bring and the new things I will learn about you. I am excited to loosen the reins and see where YOU want to go.

For parents, who are starting on your Autism journey or who may have been on it for quite some time, take a step back and truly SEE your child or young adult for who they are - Autism included. Embrace them wholly and completely - just as they are. You might discover a totally new person right in front of you, just waiting to be seen!


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