You know, for so long I’ve had an issue with that word. That label. Yes, as defined by society and mental health and the school system and blah blah blah, Carter does have characteristics of what is known of as Autism. I use Autism very loosely, only when it’s necessary or when I discuss the trials and tribulations that we go through. Only because people now know about Autism and what it means. But, that’s not all that Carter is. I don’t want to get stuck constantly discussing the negative or the setbacks.
Carter also has characteristics of what society deems as a “normal” child. He isn’t just non verbal or behind the majority of his peers when it comes to sorting and cutting and identifying. Carter is sweet, loving, playful, happy, quirky, and from time to time he’s difficult. Who isn’t? It is true that Carter sometimes doesn’t want to do something he’s told to do. Yes, he tests the waters and the patience of others. He sometimes doesn’t understand rules and he doesn’t take hearing “NO” very well. He doesn’t like when others raise their voice at him. He likes to be told “Thank you” and he likes to be motivated and encouraged. He’s impatient and busy. He doesn’t like big crowds of people, loud noises, or overwhelming situations. He has a great big heart to match his great big smile. He’s absolutely beautiful.
Now…….how many of us have these same characteristics? Many characteristics of Autism are characteristics that many people have. I’m not saying that Carter isn’t autistic. I’m not saying you’re autistic. I’m not in denial about what he needs help with. I’m very thankful for the fight and success that Autism (as well as other needs) have brought to society and the benefits that have come from the awareness. I’m saying that I know he has a developmental delay, but let’s remember that these kids are much more than that. Let’s celebrate them, help them, praise them, and elaborate on their other qualities and characteristics. Let’s not use the labels so much. I don’t want Carter to feel different in a negative way. I want him to embrace his differences and feel like he still belongs. I don’t want him to feel separated or alone or like he can’t do something. I want both of my kids to be happy, to lead not follow, to stray a bit from the norm, to be proud and confident, and to embrace whatever differences they may have from others. I want them to aim high, work hard and soar over whatever hurdles are in their path.
Autism is a reality, but it’s just one of Carter’s many characteristics. It’s not what defines him.
It’s not a label I’m going to use all the time. It’s not something I’m going to let my son think that’s all he is.