From time to time, I have shared about Moose and our journey with autism. Actually, I have shared about it from the very beginning, from the day of his diagnosis almost eight years ago when I thought my heart would break, when I couldn’t believe or accept the words the pediatric neurologist said to me.
Over the years, acceptance has come. I realized that the public school was a good place for him, that he needed help we couldn’t give him. But the acceptance wasn’t always complete. Until he was in third grade, I could keep the label “autism” off his school files, and I did. I didn’t want him labeled, didn’t want that to be his defining feature, all that his teachers saw him as.
This year, when I went to his IEP meeting, things were different. He’s doing so well in school that there was discussion about taking that label of autism off of his file. He could still have an IEP based on his need for continued speech therapy, but maybe they could take off the specific diagnosis.
That’s when I found my voice.
I told them in no uncertain terms that I did not want that label removed. Autism is a part of my son, good, bad, or indifferent. He is who is because of autism, or in spite of it, or intertwined with it. But it is a part of him, and his teachers, and the other professionals that work with him, should know and understand that.
That was a big moment from me. Afterward, I looked back at how much my attitude has changed; how much I’ve grown over the years. It can be a long, frustrating road at times. There are days when I hate autism and how difficult it can make life for my son. But it can also be an amazing journey, and there are also days when I realize that without autism, we would have missed out on some great moments. Whatever it is, it is part of our lives, part of who Moose is, and needs to be recognized and accepted, and even embraced.