You know my son. He’s the one who demands attention because he often shouts out the answers instead of raising his hand. He’s the one who makes you laugh because he loves to spin and run around in circles. He’s the one who sometimes hurts your feelings because you ask him a question and he doesn’t respond. He’s the one the who makes you nervous because his smile can quickly turn into a teeth-baring snarl. He’s the one one who scares you because he sometimes hits the teacher and throws chairs.
I want you to know my son has autism.
I realize that term probably doesn’t mean much to you now, but it might in the future. What’s more important is that you know my son really wants to be your friend. I’ve seen him try. He asks you to play with him, but sometimes you’re across the room and can’t hear him. Sometimes, he knocks over your block tower, then asks you to play a game with him. Sometimes, he mentions your names at home and calls you his friends. I know it’s confusing, but he thinks you know this, even though he doesn’t tell you.
I want you to know I appreciate your constant forgiveness. Even when he gets mad and yells and pushes you, I see you playing by his side the next day, even giving him a hug. You are unconditionally forgiving.
What scares me is when you lose that gift and start judging. When you finally decide you can’t handle his aggressive outbursts and tire of talking to someone who won’t look you in the eye.
I’m scared of the day you decide to start teasing him because he makes comments that don’t make sense and speaks with an unusual inflection or because you’re genuinely scared of him and simply don’t know what else to do.
I want you to try your best to remember that underneath all of that rough exterior, my son really cares about you. He wants to be your friend.
I want you to know 1 in 68 children are now diagnosed with autism. That means in your current school, it’s quite possible two or three of you have struggles similar to my son. For those few of you, because of your own difficulties with social interaction though, it’s very likely you and my son have an even harder time understanding each other.
I want you to remember that the bruises and scratches my son gave you will heal with time and the doting affection of your family, but the invisible bruises my son will wear from the nasty glances and hateful remarks of those who have labeled him as “bad” may never go away.
I want you to know you have a choice to be compassionate to all people and set an example for others.
I want you to know that, while I’m terribly afraid for my son, I have hope you will maintain the respect you may not always receive in return.
The Mother of a Child with Autism