How I Cured the Autism “Problem” in Our House


When my autistic son, Dominic, was four years old he ate nearly every piece of a foam puzzle while I was in the shower.  He seemed fine enough when I came out, looked at me with his round, cornflower eyes blinking.  He wasn’t the least bit distressed. But I was pretty flipping upset.

“Why did you do that?”  I asked him, with the fear in my voice palpable.

He looked unconcerned, but turned his little head up to me.

“What do you think you are, a goat?” I asked him, with the frustration in my voice palpable.
He looked at me still, no expression.

Here’s what he was probably thinking: Her face is much prettier from far away.

Here’s what he said: Nothing.

Then again, he did have autism and couldn’t speak.

I shook my head at him, firmly.  “NO!”  I said, pointing to the pieces of chewed up foam that remained.  “NO EAT!”

He shook his head in imitation. Then again and again.

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He was still shaking his head when I wrapped him and his brother in their snowsuits and drove to the Children’s Emergency Room.

The doctors there determined the foam wasn’t going to cause him much harm, but they admitted him to the hospital for a day of observation.  Maybe they just felt sorry for me and thought I could use a break.  Pregnant mom shows up with two toddlers in her arms, one with severe autism who has a penchant for eating plastic. You throw her a freaking bone, right? I didn’t have the heart to mention I had a six-year-old daughter waiting to be picked up from school or perhaps wandering the streets of our neighborhood by that time. Sometimes people can only take so much.

While Dominic was in the hospital, I asked nicely for a psychiatric consultation. Well, I kicked my feet and pounded my fists on the ground and threw a major temper tantrum, but then, after people began to stare, I decided to use my words.  The resident said that the child psychiatrist probably wouldn’t be willing to come.

Luckily, the resident was wrong.

Since Dominic was diagnosed at age two, we had seen therapists at school and community mental health.  We had seen psychologists and social workers and speech professionals.  I was desperate and afraid I wasn’t doing enough, giving enough. I spent some days huddled up in the corner of the kitchen, so paralyzed by the daunting task of “fixing” Dominic’s behaviors that I, too, was flapping and jumping and rocking. Other days I was developing complicated systems of therapy, aimed at resolving the finger waving, the moaning, the rituals that slowed him down and kept him from my vision of “living.”  But we had never seen a child psychiatrist and with the chances of another Gregory the Goat-like episode looming, I had so many questions.

The doctor was brisk without being bristly, matter of fact in the most consolatory ways. He said lots of things that day that left Dominic’s father and I with a mixture of understanding and fear.  It was the first time someone spoke harshly, honestly to us about our son’s condition, a condition that was just starting to infiltrate every corridor of the media and overwhelm our functioning.

“Your son has classic autism.” the child psychiatrist said. “There’s no cure. Anyone who tells you they ‘cured’ their child of autism didn’t have a child with autism. It’s that plain.”

And instead of sadness, I felt relief.

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It seemed okay to me suddenly, to stop fighting the demon then.  I couldn’t see the demon after all, how could I tell how big and sharp his teeth were? I was sick of my invisible enemy. It was running my life.

It was going to be a battle that would only defeat us all in the end if I didn’t find a way out, I had known this but didn’t want to admit it.

And something worse had been nagging me for months, something I didn’t like saying then and I know makes people uncomfortable to hear me say now.  But the truth is, Dominic didn’t seem to really mind being autistic.  In fact, he kind of seemed sort of…really….happy.

So from that day forward, I stopped trying to cure my son of who he was.

This doesn’t mean I didn’t send him to occupational or speech therapy.  It doesn’t mean I didn’t find him the best school or tell him “No” when he would jump up and down in the middle of the family room, while the other kids were trying to watch The Goonies.  I still believed in therapy and supports. I still believed in giving him the best.

It just meant that I began to expect from him only as much as it was possible for him to give me. Frankly, I just tried to–still try to–help Dominic be the best Dominic he could be.

What it really meant most of all is that I stopped trying to banish the autism from Dominic’s life (or my life) and just started letting my son live with it.

It was a part of him, just like his blue eyes and love of eating all things foam.

And that’s the story of how, instead of shadowboxing the unseen enemy, I invited autism in for tea, but only if he agreed to be on his best behavior.

And it feels nicer this way, for me.  I understand it can’t work for everyone.  Maybe letting go of fighting the diagnosis, for some parents, would leave them with a powerlessness. Maybe some people would see this as giving up, as being weak.

I just see it as getting on with things.

And I don’t mind if other parents don’t think this is something they can do.  I just don’t want to have an argument over the whole thing. The autistic community is fractured over so much already.

Me, as a mom, accepting Dominic’s diagnosis isn’t a cause for debate.  There’s already too much cause for debate.  Aren’t we really are all the same?

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We are, collectively, the moms of the flappers, the jumpers, the wanderers, the pickers, the groaners, the moaners, the kids that makes people stare and laugh and feel sorry for us.
Divisiveness over vaccines and diets and acceptance—those are just ways to get sidetracked, red herrings meant to divide us.  Let’s just agree to disagree sometimes.

And. Let’s not get distracted from the real issue, the one that we all seem to universally agree on–the one that unites even the fiercest enemies in our divided autistic community.

Let’s all agree to focus our energy, together, in a much more useful direction, one that every mother of an autistic child seems to embrace wholeheartedly——-

Hating Jenny McCarthy.


Doesn’t that feel better?

About the writer


Nicole Jankowski is a mom of four kids and two awesome step-kids, a divorcee, a writer and very good at saying all the wrong things to the right people. Read about her experiences with autism, addiction and awesomeness at


Patricia 2 weeks ago

Perfect. As a nurse who cares for families with Autism included in the mix I applaud your strength ….life is complicated on so many levels..stay strong

Rebecca 2 weeks ago

well written, accepting the diagnosis is key, finding how to best work with it is good, changing the foods that nourish your child’s body even better, check out or the Weston A. Price foundation. There is hope for a more functional life for all these kids including my son and so many of my friends who’s kids also have varying degrees of Autism.

Walter Winesberry 9 months ago

I will never understand how accepting autism is seen as the evolved position. I didn’t invite autism in for tea, I rolled up my sleeves and kick it out on its arse. Look for yourself at

Dee 9 months ago

Standing up and clapping for this. :)

Marilyn Rain 9 months ago

Perfectly put. Beautifully phrased.
My daughter’s ASD makes me behave atrociously sometimes. I flap and moan and twirl at the frustration of it all, only to have my daughter tell me I’m scaring her. Swallowing the disappointment and remembering to love makes more than a world of difference – for us all.

Kim 9 months ago

Love this story. I have a son on the spectrum, which I embraced whole-heartedly from the day he suddenly lost his words and eye contact (although he was clearly “different” to me from birth). It was my husband that wouldn’t let go and accept it as incurable. I had to convince him not to be angry about behaviors and instead just be a teacher. My son has learned a lot about how to properly function in the world, but the lack of figuring things out on his own will be a forever problem. Instead of my husband wondering “what’s wrong with this kid?? every time something is “off,” (which totally killed my son’s self-worth) he has come to accept that he is just a unique kid!

Neesha Hosein 1 year ago

Hi, Nicole! What a refreshing and delightful post! I get so fed up of clicking a link and reading the same old POVs. I personally related to everything you said. My boy is 16 now, and when he was about 4-5, I developed the same frame of mind as you. And I loathe all things Jenny McCarthy-related,so thanks for that too, lol. Cheers!

Felicia Cheek 1 year ago

I loved this article. I feel the same way. When my first child was diagnosed I tried everything to fix him. When our fourth child got his diagnosis I thanked the doctor and went home. I never on my life thought I would have four autistic children and it did take some getting used to but we are a family. I love just the way they are.

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laranita’s free content source 1 year ago

This. All day long. I wish I had written this post. My son has high functioning autism, which somehow made me feel like if we could just get him “a little better” then we’d be “normal”. Letting go and loving him, embracing him, and enjoying all the things that make him who he is has been one of the most difficult, but freeing parts of my life. Thank you for everything you said. Including the Jenny McCarthy statement. :-)

Jenifer 2 years ago

Wow! Thank you!
Can you please come to a parent meeting and tell this to them?
I’m an Educational Assistant with teenagers with various diagnosis and high needs.
It makes me so sad when some of the parents seem so obsessed with us “fixing” their kid… and their kid knows this. They know they’re letting their parents down because of who they are, which just increases their anxiety.

    Kim 9 months ago

    You are so right, Jennifer. It was my hubby who wouldn’t accept that our son’s line of thinking is simply “different,” and he stressed our son out to no end. Still does sometimes. But he at least now accepts that this is simply how our son is, and we need to work with him in his world of understanding and thinking. Things go a lot better and he actually learns instead of hating himself for being a disappointment to dad.

MrsPhlem 2 years ago

One thousand times yes.

Lisa 2 years ago

Okay seriously I love your post and boy can I relate. Easter Sunday my orally-fixated 5-year-old who also has autism decided to eat daffodils at her aunt’s house, while I was trying to help her 5-year-old sister (who also has autism) with her pull-ups in the bathroom. The scariest thing? Nobody knew she did it until she got sick. Toxic, but not life threatening. If it would have been the bulb of the plant, then that’s a 911 call. I’m still freaked out that one of these days she’s going to find something, eat it and poison herself without anybody even realizing it went into her mouth. I must admit, if I could change/cure one thing about her autism, this is definitely the one thing I would change.

Christine Iwanski 2 years ago

I really loved this post. I needed to read this tonight.

And I really hate Jenny McCarthy.

Anne 2 years ago

Thanks, needed to read this post!! Couldn’t agree with you more!! My son is the most important thing to me, he is what really counts!! Lol on the JM comment, it is the truth!

    Anne 2 years ago

    To clear this up, I hate no one!! I just don’t share JM’s view or her platform!!

Dana Read 2 years ago

I was with you until the end. Please don’t claim to speak for all autism parents. Many of us don’t hate Jenny McCarthy or anyone else for that matter.

Marianna 2 years ago

Fantastic post. It’s just too exhausting to be angry all the time. My son is the happiest person in the house.

AnnieT 2 years ago

There was much that I loved about your article….accepting your child for who he is without trying to chase your tail “fixing” him. But I really didn’t like your Jenny McCarthy cheap shot. Our autistic son was helped tremendously by a gluten dairy and soy free diet, and I’m not just talking digestively. He came out of a fog quite dramatically. He is now much more able to be the best he can be. Jenny McCarthy has been a tireless advocate for getting some tough questions asked….trying to get people to make sure vaccines are safer and letting them know about options like the diet I mentioned that make a huge difference for some kids. I wish all the hating on her would stop.

Redone 2 years ago

Fantastic post with a great ending line!! Your insights are refreshing to read and are very welcome to a mom like me who often feels like she is rolling that rock up the hill each day only to have it roll back down and whack me in the face (and heart) as the day ends. My son is 16 with a PDD-NOS label that I still struggle with and lord, it is exhausting. I will strive to keep your wise advice at the forefront of my thoughts in the hopes of achieving a little more peace of mind. Many thanks.

Kathy Moore 2 years ago

All I can say is YOU GO GIRL. You have my admiration and you are a total inspiration whether you want to be one or not. It’s like I told my children every day of their lives and now my grandchildren. Life is not fair. You have to dance with the one that brought you. (I love country saying my Mama said). You do the best you can and find happiness even if you have to make it up yourself.

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    “you have to dance with the one that brought you”…that gave me goosebumps. That says it *exactly*. <3

Robert 2 years ago

Well put,l have a daugther about to be diagnosed with autism ,we plan on let her be herself be happy and just be there for her we will not push her or make her unconfortable this is her role in life.

Natalie Budde 2 years ago

First, I want to say that I love the name scary mommy. I hate all other mommies who do not see themselves as scary in some way or another. I’m beginning to think you stole this story from my bank of memories about our autistic daughter, Olive. Or, our children are really long lost twins. Olive also has an appetite for anything foam rubber, metal, etc. she doesn’t seem to turn down anything traditionally inedible. Thanks you for sharing, it makes me feel a little less alone on the planet autism. Oh yeah, I too, hate Jenny McCarthy.

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    Thank you—you are never alone on Planet Autism, even though sometimes it really feels that way, doesnt it? Wanted to tell you, the name Olive is so cute! <3

Sara Guillemette 2 years ago

I am glad that you can accept your child’s diagnosis and who he is, that is the first step. It is too bad that you, and others, stopped there. I did not, I accept my child for who he is yet I still spend time and effort recovering him from Autism. My son is living proof that, as Jenny McCarthy says, you can recover your child from Autism. She is right, I am doing it, I am watching it happen. Yes it takes time, effort, patients and money but it is worth it. My non-verbal Autistic son is now speaking, toilet trained and improving his cognitive skills. It has been an amazing ride, I wish that more people after step one would continue. There is hope, you can make a huge difference in your child’s life with biomedical intervention.

    AnnieT 2 years ago

    I agree. Biomedical interventions, especially diet, have made a huge difference for my son. We all want our kids to be the best they can be right? Eliminating certain foods (gluten dairy soy) significantly lifted him out of a fog. Doesn’t work for all but made an incredible difference for him. Jenny has been a tireless advocate for safer vaccines and awareness of the possibilities of biomedical options (including diet) to help our kids reach their full potential. Please don’t lump us all in your “I hate Jenny pot.”

    MrsPhlem 2 years ago

    Yes, those of us whose children are *still* autistic just haven’t tried hard enough. I cannot roll my eyes hard enough.

      Molly 10 months ago

      There is a very large component of luck involved. But you do have to try. You can’t just sit on your butt and decide that your child will be severely autistic for the rest of their life because only ABA therapy can help them. My son is 11 and certainly not recovered, but he went from severely autistic and nonverbal to only being a year or two behind in his schoolwork and being able to enjoy a lot more of his life as a high functioning kiddo. He responded well to some of his therapies. If I hadn’t tried them, he’d still be severely autistic. That would be on me.

Irene 2 years ago

Why do we hate Jenny McCarthy?

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    I guess I may as well clarify this, because so many people have asked about my “hatred” toward Jenny—it’s a pretty darn fair question too because she has brought awareness to autism in the last few years and for the most part, all press is good press. I don’t really “hate” her, it’s more of a funny way to share what most people I know that have children in the autistic community seem to feel about her—she hasn’t made our lives any easier. Most moms I know with moderate to severely autistic children find it difficult to deal with the message that she spreads that through therapy and diet and other things she has cured her son so that he no longer has autism. This is frustrating when you are a parent with a child who can not speak or even go to the store, or a parent who has done all of those same things and still have a child who will not be cured. It makes us wonder if there is something we should be doing, or wonder if we had more resources we could do better. But what it really comes down to me, is that if Jenny’s son was “cured” he didn’t really have autism. Because autism can’t be cured. Ever. The symptoms can change and get better (or worse) but autism always remains. I grapple with this, but I don’t hate Jenny McCarthy. I just wish she would remember that autism is a spectrum and that many of us–some of us—will never have children who will speak or drive or get married. And that is not because we aren’t trying or hoping or putting our resources there—it’s simply because that is the way autism works sometimes.
    Hmmmm….I should send this to her, now that I think about it. 😉

      Sara G 2 years ago

      Some children can be recovered completely, it is true. It doesn’t mean that they did not have Autism, it means that the triggers that were causing the autistic symptoms are removed or reduced. Yes if the triggers are reintroduced the autistic characteristics and behaviors will return. The book “Healing the New Childhood Epidemics” by Dr. Kenneth Bock (the medical group that my son uses) medically outlines how this works. I can assure you this works, I am watching it happen. Every child and every body is different so the program needs to be individualized in order to be successful. Jenny McCarthy might not be getting her message across as well as she could.

        MrsPhlem 2 years ago

        dude. We cannot cure the way our children’s brains are wired. Can. Not.

Mindy Zeppenfeldt 2 years ago

Thank you, for all the honesty in this article. As the mother of a 20 year old child with severe “classic” autism, this was a refreshing read. When my son was younger, the therapists would insist we had to stop him from stimming, (mostly hand flapping). I felt that it wasn’t hurting anyone, it comforted him, so what’s the harm? The best reason anyone could give me was so he would be accepted by others, and not seem so different. I don’t care what strangers think of my son, I love him as he is, and so does anyone who meets him. When we are in a store and he sees a new toy or something that interests him and he laughs loudly and with pure joy, it makes everyone who hears him smile. Now, I notice the “experts” are ok with stimming, but want to stop toe-walking. Again, why? Some things are not problems to be fixed, they are a part of what makes my son unique. I think he is perfect.

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    Mindy, you made me cry. My son is like yours. He rocks when he is happy and I have long since given up on trying to change that. I want so many things for my Dominic but most of all, I want him to have joy. I love that even before awareness came into the spotlight as it has in the last 7-8 years, you understood innately what your son needed and went with what works for you. It makes me less scared for the future when I read about a mom like you who is making it work and finding happiness in the space of raising a young adult with autism. Thank you for that.

Rose 2 years ago

Sanity is such a precious thing :) it can be quite elusive when you are challenged in every possible way by your own beautiful child who insists on being exactly who they are – not who you want them to be.

Jillian Lee 2 years ago

Thank you!! I agree! Fighting each other over “strategies”, meds vs no meds, “discipline tools”, etc. just serves to divide a community that desperately needs to unite…our strength, our passion, our ideas, our support and most of all our love.

Max 2 years ago

I love how you’ve accepted your child and best of luck with the future, it’s wonderful so many people are embracing the whole no cure thing. One thing, though, mothers of autistic people aren’t the autistic community. You’re a neurotypical parent. The autistic community is the community of autistic folks (“autistic community” – it makes sense!). There’s already a massive problem with well-meaning parents flooding our spaces (although I totally understand you need your own spaces to connect with other parents of people with autism!) and speaking over us so that in a lot of cases, we have nowhere and ‘autistic’ stops really meaning much. Changing your phrasing would be massively appreciated, and it’s pretty simple to do.

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    You honestly made me think about this very carefully, Max and you are right. The “autistic community” is those with ASD, I am the mother of someone in the community and those are very different things. I will be more mindful of that. As a mother of a child with ASD who is getting older, I am increasingly more aware of the unique challenges that adults with ASD face, thank you for reading and for responding.

Jesse 2 years ago

I just wanted to say that I think you are amazing. I don’t have any children on the spectrum (that I know of, my only son is 6 months old), but I have ADHD running strongly in my family, and my husband has ASD running strongly in his. I think you are doing the best for your child – trying to get your son the best support he can get, and then accepting his differences. I also loved your kind, respectful, and thoughtful replies to those that disagree with this article. Keep it up, you sound like a wonderful mother and advocate for your children.

Janel 2 years ago

Thank you. This is so perfect. I really needed to read this today <3

AspieCatholicgirl 2 years ago

Awesome post. As someone with Aspergers, now called “Autism Spectrum Disorder” (my issues are not quite the same as someone like your son, but I am more similar to him than most people are)…I love this post! it encapsulates the main thing us on the spectrum want: for others to relax, calm down about our odd but harmless behaviors, and learn to just enjoy the relationships they have with us.

Elizabeth IDIC15 Mommy 2 years ago

I love the freedom of Scarymommy but I have some issues with the way this issue is portrayed. There is no olive branch, only teasing of those who want to use anything but ABA to treat the fear, lack of communication, and loneliness in their kids.

I have no doubts that autism, in many, many cases, has a genetic component. It clearly does for my daughter with IDIC15q. But I would like to take to task those mommies who think that “acceptance” means not finding therapies and poo-pooing every method of dietary support. I grew up NOT neurotypical, not having anyone to talk to about what it was like to feel like I was falling over in a classroom chair, unable to control the volume of my voice and frustrated that ignorant fools walked past me thinking those things were my fault instead of doing some soul-searching about the quality of their values. I know what it is like to have sensory sensitivity and overreactive fear responses- so-called “fears” that come from my nerves (not the same neural disorder as my daughter) and not my values or perspective on life.

Our ASD kiddos do not adjust well to life and it isn’t fair. It’s not a cakewalk to go through life with each painful/overstimulating sensory experience getting banked in your brain and given free reign over your social interactions and body posture. It’s not fun to be afraid all the time… but that is what our kids have to fight to overcome every day. If you are neurotypical, you do not understand what is like to live a horror film when you wake up in the morning. But do you have celebrate your child’s journey through a horror film every morning to keep from feeling judgemental? That’s not judgemental, that’s compassion!

My daughter has genes that are an inescapable cause of autism. She has a different role to play in life and different gifts to use in Christian living and daily service. But that does not mean that I should leave her as she is, helpless to communicate and at times, so frustrated at the world’s misinterpretation of her wishes that she pulls her hair, bites herself, and hits her body. Even with the diagnosis not every kid in her group has a diagnosis, and not every kid has the same symptoms. While gluten and vaccines are not causes for the syndrome, they affect our kids’ ability to interact with the world. For many, gluten means silence, hitting oneself, and severe sensory seeking behavior. For others, vaccines have caused severe responses. Then there are those who have vaccinated and have autistic-type behaviors but are subclinical for diagnosis– it’s still possible that those vaccines aren’t helping, even though the genes are the “cause” of the autism.

It would be easy to screen for several disorders causing hypotonia/seizures- which are very closely associated with ASD symptoms- and let those kids get vaccinated on a different schedule. Kids with Fragile X, IDIC/Dup15q, Prader-Willi, and mitochondrial disease. It would be one more level of protection for those who react to vaccines. The kids in our IDIC group who respond poorly to vaccines are often those with complicated mitochondrial disease diagnosis (an incredibly rare disease in the general population) on top of the IDIC diagnosis. My daughter never reacted to her vaccines, but her vaccines were never very close together. It’s still possible that she and I carry the Mito disease part, as I have no IDIC gene, but still have many neuromuscular symptoms starting from 12 Months, which have no known cause – no brain lesions, neuropathy, muscular dystrophy- but a family history of muscle disorders with some autoimmune problems. But there are rings and rings of security, red tape, and barbed wire around those tests which could indicate potential problems. The CDC hasn’t evaluated those things, I’m sure- and I’m sure, because I talked to a guy who is in charge of increasing vaccine compliance among those of us who, quoting, “don’t believe in germs,” because we believe a lifetime lived in a horror film is more terrifying than the very rare chance that with good healthcare and sanitation, some of our children will get a temporary illness that leads in the vast majority of cases, to either peaceful death or complete restoration of health.

We have a genetic cause for our disease, but we have the compassion to see that our children deserve a voice, whether it come from a computer screen or sign language. We also have the compassion to seek dietary and immune supports to enable our children to have more “good days” than bad. If they had enough “good days” not to get a diagnosis (as I cannot) that doesn’t mean you’ve cured anything, but it sure takes the sting out of getting silenced, bullied, and horrified every day. And that is what matters to our kids’ daily lives.

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    Elizabeth, I have complete empathy for you and the challenges you must face—I have said often I think it is easier for me in so many ways to have a child who is very severely impaired versus one who fluctuates in the area of grayness, spectrummy but not quite classic autism. When I wrote the piece it was geared toward my experiences dealing with a child who does not speak, is not potty trained and will never live alone–as much as I hope for progress, and I see progress through school and therapy, there are certain truths that just won’t change for him–he won’t be able to drive a car or get married. And yet, he is happy. For me, and for him, accepting the limitations while trying to work within the boundaries of the things we can change (communication, self-care, behaviors) is the only way I cope with having a child who has never called me “mom” or said “i love you”. He doesn’t see the point of the things that most people value (conversation etc) but enjoys other things (his Ipad, tv shows, being outside) and it could hurt me very much if I didn’t focus on the fact that he finds happiness differently, but still finds it.
    But I can’t even imagine what it is like to raise a child who KNOWS something is wrong and WANTS to fix it—that would be a difficulty that would make me feel just as you do—frustrated, helpless, hopeful for something, anything to fix it just a little bit. I can tell you are an educated, wonderful advocate for your child and I have such respect and sensitivity to the challenges and the fight—your daughter is lucky to have such strength through, and in, you.

Dawn Marcotte 2 years ago

I loved this article – I remember the same moment in my own life when I suddenly realized that it didn’t bother my daughter at all that she is autistic – it is just part of who she is – when I was able to accept that and just help her be the best she can be our whole lives changed – I am so glad you shared your experience.

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    Dawn, that’s it exactly. It is a strange feeling to know that your child is happy—even when the rest of the world wonders how it must be to be “so different”. It does change everything! Rock on, mama!!!!

Manisha 2 years ago

I used to hang out with a couple who has a son who may be on the autism spectrum (I stopped seeing them so I don’t know what has happened in the last two years). One parent is a doctor, the other is a priest. One day they decided to diagnose my child as “spirited”. I was so infuriated because I saw valid reasons for her behavior, primarily no nap and lots of tiring activity. I finally argued back that I’m not seeking to find a solution, I don’t see my child as a problem to be fixed. She is who she is and i accept for who she is. They were quite astonished at my response and started to treat me like a negligent parent. I was already finding motherhood to be a huge challenge so I had to just stop interacting with them for my own mental health. I appreciate so much what you have written here. Acceptance for our children is the key to developing the right parenting skills for each one.

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    “Spirited” in my opinion is just about the best quality in any person, ever. I think you’re the lucky (and the smart) one. <3

MryJhnsn (@mryjhnsn) 2 years ago

I love you. Thank you.

Laura wood 2 years ago

Good for you I think every parent wants what is best for their child. My son has an issue w/pooping his pants he’s 8 I tried everything when I realized he has to change it I can’t now he only does it once in a while insted of every day. I think soon he will decide to stop. But its up to him.

Gretchen Harris Cunningham 2 years ago

Thank you! Jenny McCarthy is the worst thing that has happened for these children and families!

Kathy Reese 2 years ago


Liz Robin 2 years ago

Not what I expected. Love it!

Elizabeth 2 years ago

Why do you hate Jenny McCarthy? I don’t understand that. She has done a lot of good – in her brash way – of making people wake up and smell the… autism. I also have 2 children with autism. We all try hard at being good mom’s. There was a time when we were just “bad mothers.” Please don’t forget that – a time when doctors actually believed that as mothers, we CAUSED our children’s autism. People like Jenny McCarthy have changed the world’s view. That is a GOOD thing. Maybe you don’t agree with her – fine. Let’s support each other anyway! Bashing another mother doesn’t help anything.
I have often had to do my own little bit of “public education” when out in public with my youngest. Once, he decided to throw a tantrum in the grocery store parking lot – in a puddle of muddy water. What fun!! What horrid looks!! That was a not the worst. I have been “clucked” at, looked down at, downright sneered at, and had my share of rude comments come my way because I “allowed” my child to throw a screaming fit wherever we happened to be at the moment. But guess what people – Life Goes On – even with autism. We cannot exist in a cave, and there are times when our little joys must appear in public. Get over it. I am so happy to have the Jenny’s of the world shouting from the roof tops – GET OVER IT.
But also – Mom’s – get your butts in gear – there is a LOT you can do to help your child. I needed to hear that, too. I have seen too many children that are getting NO therapy at all – and that IS a crime.

Frank Welch 2 years ago

Love this a lot

Kristen Mae of Abandoning Pretense 2 years ago

Okay, I actually really like Jenny McCarthy (because she’s funny and I like funny people) but that ending had me snorting. And the rest of the piece was great, too. I don’t have a kid with autism, but I do have a kid with ADHD. I know it’s not as “hard” to manage as autism (how the heck is it possible to say that without being politically incorrect???) but the point you made about letting your kid be exactly who he is — while still giving him the interventions he needs — was a powerful one.

DontBlameTheKids 2 years ago

This was great. Your son is lucky that you are his mother.

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    Nicest comment EVER! <3 Can you speak with my 13 year old daughter about this?? 😉

Connie Thomas 2 years ago

You are strong and informed, you have shared and now l am enlighten and informed. Thank you

Michelle Diederich 2 years ago

We consider it all just evolution:)

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    Love this :)

Danielle Hearn 2 years ago

Such a great post!

Toni Gehrig Rossmiller 2 years ago

Might I add that this pretty much applies to “typically developing” kids as well? Great article.

Heather 2 years ago

Thinking back to when I was in school, some of the brightest kids who went on to prestigious universities were/are definitely in the spectrum. Back then, there wasn’t any therapy. Had there been, would their rewired brains allowed them to excel as they have? Would the kid in my class who refused to participate in Halloween dress up and other group activities still have gone on to work for NASA had he undergone therapy to be ‘fixed’? Another friend of mine attended MIT and jokes that everybody on that campus was in the spectrum, and the most top students were extremely autistic – some were even non-speakers.
Then again, another adult friend now realizes he’s autistic and is bitter he didn’t receive any help as a kid – only horrible teasing. So I guess it goes both ways.
My son is different than other kids, with some of the symptoms some of the time. His diagnosis was not officially autistic, but maybe kinda sorta, which left me more concerned and confused than before. We’ve discovered that he’s a totally different kid when sugar and red dyes are removed from his diet, and most of the symptoms disappear. So while I wasn’t crazy about your Jenny McCarthy dig, but can understand why some think it’s funny. She was obnoxious long before she had a kid. However, I like her because back in the day when she hit the scene, pretty girls were supposed to keep their mouths shut. She defied that stereotype earned my respect. But that’s for another post. =)
Thank you, a good read!

Darcy Perdu (So Then Stories) 2 years ago

l laughed out loud at your ending. Great misdirection — I thought you were going to go “sappy and sweet” and instead you tossed a funny punchline! Anyway, great post about accepting and getting on with life.

Ria 2 years ago

My daughter would eat the oddest things. But not food. Picky eater unless it was toothpaste, or dryer lint. What is up with that?!?!

Ria 2 years ago

Too true! Loved this article. But I don’t “hate” Jenny, she is just a mommy trying to help. I am jealous because she is beautiful, but that is another story for another day.

Nicole Forrest 2 years ago

Many doctors have been on both sides of the fence regarding vaccines but some of the evidence is overwhelming. Jenny speaks out because she has educated herself to the possibilities not just assume the government is doing what is in our best interest. Actually, they are doing what is in their best interest as they force you to vaccinate your kids to protect their kids from yours. As someone who has lost in infant 2 days after vaccines I have also educated myself to the potential dangers of vaccines. For anyone who has the time, listen to this biologist which explains how the brain is affected by vaccines.

Erin Houchins 2 years ago

This is beautiful and so eye opening. Thank you..

Penny Heiman 2 years ago

I speak as a mom who knows first hand how aspergers can affect the whole familys life. When pregnant with your children you have ideas or dreams of what will be for them. As this child grows and those ideas are no longer valid, you adjust. When the younger sibblings pass this child up in social skills or school work to the point that the rolls of who is the big brother and who is the little brother has now has flip flopped and the younger ones are looking out for their older brother, you all adjust. When they go thru the school years, other children can be cruel. It breaks a moms heart. Not only to see her child become a target of ignorance. But to see the frustration of her other children. They love their brother and have empathy but they are children and feel embarrassed. Then feel guilty for feeling embarrassed because they love their brother. And the cycle repeats itself and they adjust. I as a mom with personal experience can tell you. My childs aspergers was not in the plan during pregnancy. It was not caused by how he was raised. He did not become a member due to peer pressure influencing him as if he became addicted to drugs. My child has aspergers. WE ADJUST. There is no FIX. Your childs bad eyesight gets glasses, bad hearing gets hearing aids or sign language, asthma gets an inhaler and diabetes gets insulin. Hell even something as minor as a whiz bang of a colic in their hair right at the top of their head gets hair gel or a buzz cut. The thing is, you do what needs to be done and you do what can be done. AND YOU ADJUST. You don’t expect rehab or time to fix that hair colic or anything else that is just a part of who he is. This child of mine with aspergers once said something that I will never forget. In a conversation with him about someone he noticed that was talking nonsense to himself on the street, my son that all the therapy and time can not fix said “Well hey if he’s good enough for God, he better be good enough for me”!!! Now WHY would I want to FIX that? I just wanted to share with you something my son gave me to think about.

Lori Chenard 2 years ago

Great advice for all parents! Accept who your children are, it makes parenting them much easier.

Rocker’s Mom 2 years ago

This is excellent advice for all parents! I am the mom of a rocker. No flapping, just incessant rocking and a world of people who misinterpreted his lack of speech to mean that he had nothing to communicate. They called my boy “profoundly retarded.” Joke on them. Yes, he has only spoken to me ONCE in 31 years, but, when he did, it was perfectly pronounced and something important to say. And he still rocks–the boy, now man, has always had a body core strength that elite athletes would envy. He is delightful to all who take the time to get to know him. Yes, he needs supports to navigate the world–paying bills, shopping, cooking, medical appointments, and so on, but he is happy and healthy and LOVED BEYOND MEASURE.

Josey Schaub 2 years ago

Very wise advise. My own daughter was able to become a much happier child once we stopped fighting to make her fit into the mold of average kids her age. We changed, not her and now shes thriving and everyone is much happier. Breaks my heart to think of the years we wasted being angry at all her tantrums and “misbehavior”. So sad. Love my daughter more than life. :)

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    You gave me goosebumps, Josie. “We changed, not her”. That’s meaningful and brilliant and awfully hard to do—you have a lucky girl. <3

Steph Lane 2 years ago

Haha love the end. Wasn’t expecting that.

Melissa 2 years ago

“Hating Jenny McCarthy” LOL Yes!

Kerry Cooper Muntz 2 years ago

I hope you follow “Diary of a Mom” on Facebook!

Jen Humphreys 2 years ago

I have two on the spectrum and I cried reading this. Not because I am sad, but because it really needed to be said. I have 4 kids total and they are all different. (I call them north, south, east, and west). I try to embrace who each of them are. My youngest is more severe and it is harder, I believe, because of the “youngest” dynamic, not the severity. The baby of the family is still the baby, no matter the personality. The older ones have always babied him. Kids are kids and should be loved right where they are, always.

Laura Hohm 2 years ago

loved the last line. i think that can unite all moms!

Sarale Hickson 2 years ago

This. This. This. And also, listen to autistic adults (some of them might not speak but they can communicate). Check out the autism self advocacy network,

Nichole Michelle Lewis 2 years ago

I love love love this!

Chelsea 2 years ago

Thank you! So far in the past 18 months, my son has eaten a penny and a tub of vicks vapor rub- that I know about. He was diagnosed on the spectrum recently. He’s an engaging little fellow, until he gets overstimulated, and he just bats his eyes and smiles at the therapists and teachers and proceed to spin and attempt to bash in a classmates head because they had the audacity to touch something he was playing with. He’s 4 and just finishing his year of head start. I was feeling overwhelmed and anxious and this made me realize I’ve got a lot of work to do on my behavior. It’s going to be difficult to convince his older sister to be more understanding of his needs though. All she knows is that we don’t get to go hang out in the park after softball practice because brother needs to go to bed on time. All I know is that the constant xrays are getting expensive :/

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    Chelsea, I wrote a post about this on my blog—all of the “non-food” foods my son seems to really enjoy—a penny and the vapo-rub are new ones but seem right up Dominic’s alley. Toothpaste is a huge issue in our house right now—I’m thinking of attaching it to the wall in the bathroom with a cord like one of those pens they have at the bank to avoid him taking it to his room for snack time….sigh….

Destinee 2 years ago

My darling oldest son was diagnosed with autism at 21 months old. Me being me, I read everything I could on autism-what it was, what it meant for my son and his future, what I could do about it…and by the time I was done Googling, I thought I was going to go insane. From the get go, though, we had doctors and therapists similar to the psychiatrist you met in the ER-they all told me from the beginning that while my son could learn to cope, he would never be cured, and anyone who told me otherwise was selling something. Talk about hard to deal with! I can’t imagine him any other way, though, two years into this. And looking back, I’ve come to accept that he was always meant to be this way-he was never a “normal” child, even as a newborn. I now have an NT child as well, and the differences are astounding. Things I never thought were strange about my firstborn now show me what the redflags in him were back then. I so agree with you on just letting them be, within reason. (BTW, I love your comparison of inviting autism in for tea-we’re big fans of Alice in Wonderland over here and I got this whole image of the Mad Hatter with that….LOL)

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    Oh Destinee, we could have a wonderful conversation about this—I didn’t realize how “off” things were with my autistic son (even though I had an older child!) until I had my son after him. And then, I saw all those red flags so clearly and far earlier than I even imagined in my older son—the differences were striking. And LOL about inviting autism in for tea—I kept thinking of the wild things in the Maurice Sendak book sitting at a table with my son and I…the Mad Hatter is equally as funny.

Anne Baier Sedore 2 years ago

This was a great post, it gave me the chills!

Leah Sugarman 2 years ago

this is so wonderful!

Allyson Lang 2 years ago


Paula Nixon 2 years ago


Cindy Bryant 2 years ago

Love it. It’s true. Ok my son doesn’t have the classic autism , it’s Aspergers so he has his own different issues to deal with.
Loved the end too.

Amanda Oriani 2 years ago

Thank you, sharing it.

Marlene Ochoa Prieto 2 years ago

This is such a true testament of what all autistic parents go through day in and day out

Cheri West Jones 2 years ago

I can so relate to this. It is a beautiful revelation. They are who they are.

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    “Beautiful revelation”—-I just love this phrase. <3

Jessica Marie Rude 2 years ago

I needed to read this today. My 9 year old was diagnosed with Aspergers when he was 5… I just need to let him be and stop trying to “fix” him. God obviously had plans for him just the way he is.

Deborah Rosen 2 years ago

Loved this article. That is all. :)

Hayley Samuel 2 years ago

Woman you don’t know how much I needed to read this. I’m in tears. I’ve been through hell trying to “fix” my son & now they’ve taken him away. I feel like my world is ending.

Emily Elizabeth 2 years ago

love love LOVE the end!

Amy H 2 years ago

So well written. As a school psychologist and a mom of a daughter with special needs I feel that parents (myself included) put so much pressure on our kids to achieve. Let them be who they are and be happy :-) everyone’s idea of happiness is different and who are we to judge? That doesn’t mean we don’t give them what they need to reach their potential but we can stop pressuring them and ourselves to be someone who they are not.

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    Amy, I’m sure it must be interesting (and probably maddening too! to see this from both the clinical and mommy side of things!

Lauren Wilensky Weingard 2 years ago

This is awesome!!

Mindy 2 years ago

The Jenny McCarthy line made me spray my drink all over my screen. I don’t have a child with autism, but as an SLP I have worked with many, many of them over the years. I think we can all take a lesson from this…kids come how they come, we can’t fundamentally change them, just push them to be their best. Thanks for the reminder!

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    Mindy—just want to say that the speech pathologists, OT’s and teachers that we have had over the last 10 years have taught me far more than they could ever teach Dominic—they have changed my life. Thanks for being willing to do the hard job and for giving families like mine something—even the smallest things–to celebrate. <3

Lisa 2 years ago

Great attitude!! Great insight! My son has ADHD. It has its challenges but it is what makes him uniquely him. Some days I want to run from the house screaming due to his behaviors that make me insane. Then he will do something so sweet and loving I feel bad for being crazy. We are happier when we just accept, I think.

Brandi Dalhover Bowman 2 years ago

I LOVED the end of this.

    Meghan 1 year ago

    HA! I know, right?!
    I HATE Jenny McCarthy!

SAT17 2 years ago

Really loved this article, right up until the last 3 paragraphs. You mention earlier that a doctor helped you to accept your son for who he is, diagnosis and all, by clarifying that anyone who cured their child didn’t have a child with autism. I couldn’t agree more. But the fact remains that many children – I’d imagine a majority if the 1 in 68 now diagnosed – have experienced toxic neurological, immunological, or gastrointestinal insults which manifest in autism-like symptoms. Their parents – including Jenny McCarthy – are not wrong, crazy, or intentionally hurtful to the greater autism community by discussing the treatments that work for them. I realize this is a much larger issue, and also that you were trying to make a joke, but it seems to come at the expense of those families whose experience with “autism” is different, but no less, than your own.

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    You are completely right about this–my younger son had/has “spectrummy” symptoms (late to talk, isolated at times, needs structure) and so I parent from both sides of the issue and in so many ways, it is easier to parent my child with severe autism because there is something definite there—a “diagnosis” that gets us served. Its much more frustrating to know something is wrong and have people tell you that if you were more impaired or less able, they would help. :( “Different, no less” is a wonderful way to state it. <3

    stephanie webb 2 years ago

    I agree completely!! Very well put!

Oonagh Kingston-Hyde 2 years ago

Thank you. That is exactly the same method we have adopted. So my son’s brain is wired differently to others, it doesn’t make him any less of a person. X

Katie Kattmann Griffin 2 years ago

Love this!!!

Mary Schneider 2 years ago

So well said, and a sentiment that applies to all of us as moms. Our kids are who they are… It’s up to us to help them be the best they can be, but not to try to make them into someone they’re not. Learning that every single day, and mine are teens.

    Catherine DiFonso 2 years ago

    I, too, am finally coming around to this way of thinking, and it’s definitely brought me and our family more peace!

Mikki 2 years ago

Wow, this is such an amazing post. Thank you so much for sharing!!!

Carol 2 years ago

This hits home for me! My son is not dx’d with autism but it has been mentioned as we search for some neurological or inherited disorder on top of cp. This opened my eyes to what I already knew and as we are having a particularly rough morning it is a great reminder… He can not help the way he is and the things that drive me crazy, he does not doing on purpose to annoy me. I must remember this.

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    Carol, I have such empathy for what you must be going through—the searching and trying to piece it together when you know something is “wrong” and just don’t have a “name” for it—it’s a helpless place to be. I remember looking at my son when he would cry and scream and hit his own head simply because he didn’t like being outside or because we turned down the wrong street and thinking for a moment—why are you making things so difficult right now? And I would feel myself getting so frustrated with him. The more I reminded myself (and still remind myself) that he wasn’t being “bad” the more I could take the frustration away from him and put it on the situation itself. I still struggle with it but it helps me. I know how hard it is—the fact that you are trying to reframe it in the face of a difficult morning shows what an amazing mom you are. <3

Allie @ The Latchkey Mom 2 years ago

This was a great article. As the mother of four, with one child on the spectrum, I couldn’t agree more (except for the Jenny McCarthy part – I love her). Once I stopped try to cure my son, life became so much easier – and I finally had a happy child. To be clear, not trying to cure him in no way means that I’ve given up trying help him reach his full potential. But once the fight was over, he made amazing strides in all his therapies. I also think that a calm and loving environment does more for his well-being than any therapist ever could.

Elise 2 years ago

Thanks for this great post. Also, I think it also applies, in some ways, to children without disabilities (some people are relentlessly freaking out on their kid’s personnality!)

    Nicole Jankowski 2 years ago

    Elise, this is so true! Sometimes it just makes sense to find a way to work within that child’s strengths and weaknesses rather than to try to change who they are—I hadn’t thought about it as it applied to all my children, but you are SO RIGHT. It does it apply to so much of parenting as a whole!

    Stephanie 2 years ago

    This is exactly what I was thinking as I read the article. I’ve had to learn to accept things about my kids that I wish were different. When you stop worrying about “are they okay?” or “are they happy?” and just take your cues from them, it’s a calmer life. Good for you, Nicole! You figured it out early in your kids’ lives. My oldest is 22, and I’ve just sort of, kind of come to this realization.

    Tonya 2 years ago

    I keep re-reading this article. I love it so much. Thank you.


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