What does my autistic child wish for you to know?
He’s a kid.
What? You were expecting me to say that he has special needs, he sometimes needs a little extra patience from you, a little less judgment, that sometimes he really is so focused on something that he doesn’t hear you, that sometimes he has meltdowns that may seem to be happening for no reason to you, that he’s not really like that guy in the last Hollywood movie or TV show you saw that had some guy with autism?
See, you already know those things. Even if you don’t know much about autism, you know those things. It’s why you expected me and anyone else who writes a “what my autistic child wants you to know” article to list things like that, maybe in hopes that we’d mention something new or say something in some new better or more enlightening way.
All children need extra patience. All children should be judgment free. All children should be able and encouraged to focus on what they love sometimes.
I could go on and on but having a child with autism hasn’t made me realize how much more I need to do for him, it’s made me realize how much more I can do for him, for my other son and for all children.
When I go to my kid’s school and see other children, they say “Hi Mr Duncan!” because they know me. Some can’t speak and give me a wave. It’s because I help them when they need it. Because I smile at them and for them, even when it may seem like they’re not looking my way. Because I see a child. Not a troubled child, not a special child, not a slow child, not a disabled child… just a child being a child.
And it’s awesome.
I could argue that because my son has autism, it’s made me a better parent and even a better person in general because all of those things you thought I was going to say about autism, while true, have helped me to realize that those are all things that I should be applying to my other child as well and to all children.
So I’m not going to give you a long bullet point list of behaviors, clinical mumbo jumbo or anything else because there’s a bunch of those articles already out there. And even though I’m not doing that, I do encourage you to find them and check them out. More than one, as they all have something the others don’t.
And then when you’re done reading them, consider this… how can you apply what you now know to all children?
So stop looking at a child as “weird” or “not normal” or as “a problem” and stop thinking about how terrible the parent is because the child is not as you would expect them to be. Because yes, that child may have autism but you know what, it doesn’t matter.
Because a kid is a kid. And when you learn how to best understand, accept, respect and encourage the most needing of children, you can then apply that to all children.
They’ll be better off for it and so will you.