Most people hear the diagnosis of someone having Autism and they immediately assume the person is either a savant-genius and expect an Elon Musk or Temple Grandin type person. Sometimes they expect something like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman. Others assume the person must have intellectual disabilities, are non-verbal, basically a pitiful little soul they must automatically have pity for.
Truth be told, it is called a spectrum disorder for a good reason. Autism is never a one size fits all diagnosis. Long-term prognosis is uncertain. Each person will have a completely different outcome based mostly on genetics, upbringing/environment, early intervention/therapy, and resources available to them. Finding professional, emotional, and education help early is key to success in reaching fullest potential for any child, but especially important for someone on the Autism Spectrum.
My neurodiverse family is comprised of varying degrees of severity and additional needs. Regardless of that, the second someone learns of this fact, I receive “I’m so sorry” pit parties and sad faces. I have even gotten those who are overjoyed and have lots of questions about what their “special gift” or “Super powers” are.
I hate to disappoint y’all. We are “none of the above”. In many ways we are very “normal” and “boring”. In just as many ways we are very different. But what is “normal” anyway? I’ve never seen a single “normal” family in my lifetime. We are all unique in some way or another.
I shuffle around family members to more therapy sessions than sporting events. I have more doctor’s appointments than most. Schooling requires an IEP (Individual Education Program). We have the oxymoron experience or more structure yet sleepless nights. We have genetic syndromes and special diets to deal with.
To look at my family, at first glance you might miss noticing any Autism characteristics at all. Spend a little time with us and you will start thinking some of us as “quirky”, perhaps even “spoiled”, “a little off somehow”, etc. . if you never heard of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).
We do have lots of strengths in our midst of difficulties. Nothing Hollywood Movie worthy, but we personally do have an extra dose of honesty, integrity, memory, and things like that. If they come across as your idea of “normal”, please don’t ask me if I’m sure the doctor got it right, or did they get tested properly. Just because you don’t live with them fulltime and see the symptoms doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
The next time someone announces, or confides in you, that they or a family member are on the Spectrum, wait for them to explain that further. Feel free to ask questions. Don’t assume anything. Every person and situation are different in life. A diagnosis of Autism is no exceptional to that rule.
Kindness and compassion go a long way, so does acceptance and understanding. In the end, I want you to see my family members as a human being. They are not on this earth to impress anyone and jump through hoops to entertain you if they do possess certain gifts. On the flip-side, they are not requiring sympathy if they need a little (or even a lot) of extra help. No one wants to be pigeon-holed into someone else’s idea of what or whom they are. In the end, basically, every child and adult on the face of this earth is just a person wanting to be loved. Having Autism does not change that.