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He is Thirteen!

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

Emilio Da Paz is 13! This has been a unique Autism journey. Usually, I talk about my older son whose Autism is a bit more pronounced. Emilio is different. Although he attended an Autism preschool, he has been mainstreamed since kindergarten. My Meeley (what we call him) is the coolest kid I know. He is a talented artist and has an incredible self-taught proficiency with video animation. He has a sarcastic sense of humor. For example, we were watching a shark movie and he said, “This plot is so predictable. Swim - swim - scream - shark!” He also is very rigid when it comes to following rules. This has been since preschool. He had to tell the teacher who was not following the rules and even suggested that the child needed time out! This led to the teacher creating a social story about who was the teacher and who was the student. I chuckled when I first read it! When he was bullied in the 5th grade, he wrote a letter to the principal citing the school rules which stated a “no tolerance” policy for bullying. Another time, his teacher told him that he was not engaging with his assigned small group. He said, “But they are not listening to me.” The teacher said, “They are not listening to you or they do not agree with you.” He said, “They are not listening, because if they were listening, they would agree!”

Having an older brother whose Autism sometimes shows up as explosive emotional outbursts, he recently asked, “Is this how all people with Autism act?” We talked more about the brain with Autism and how sometimes self-control can be challenging. He then asked, “Do I have Autism?” Wow! This was a first. I have not had the discussion with my boys that they had Autism. I was waiting for them to ask. This led to a discussion about the Autism spectrum and how every individual is different. We talked about his unique style (which I love) and how following rules to the letter is something that is important to him. We also talked about how his body is constantly on the move especially when interacting with others. This question happened just days before his 13th birthday. We have talked about Autism before, but only in the context of his brother. Actually, our first conversation about why his brother acts the way he does sparked the publishing of a book entitled, “Mommy, What is Autism?” (co-written with his big sister Olabisi).

Emilio continues to amaze me with his perspective of the world. I love that he can communicate his truly mind-blowing thoughts with me. As a parent and a professional, I experience the full spectrum of Autism everyday. It solidifies my passion to continue helping families navigate their own journey.

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