Kids with autism are different.

They act differently, they see the world differently, and experience life differently.

From now on, Keller will have the label ‘autistic’ and will be different.

I love Temple Grandin (noted doctor, professor, author, and autism activist) who says that autistic men and women are “different but not less.”

I like that.

I’m not sure if the world agrees with it.

In our world it’s not good to be different.  I learned this early on.  I don’t know how it happened but around 6th grade I started copying and mimicking anyone.  My poor, poor best friend Laura Riley received the most imitation.  It was not flattery in her eyes.  I had very few friends and spent every day desperately trying to be like everyone around me.  My clothes were never good enough, my body didn’t look like theirs, I wasn’t as successful at sports or school like them, it was exhausting.  I even literally tried to mimic the ‘cool girls’ handwriting.  I do have good handwriting these days.  But none of these exploits ended in friendship.  I was lonely and not cool.

Austic children don’t know how to mimic and copy.  It’s actually a natural part of our development, that as children we mimic our parents and those around us to learn language and social skills.  Thus why Kieren is a ‘mini me’ (for better or worse).  However, since Keller has autism, he doesn’t know how to mimic and copy and so hasn’t learned language, communication, and social skills.  We will have to TEACH him these things.  It will be a painful and arduous process.  He WILL learn, but social skills may never be like his peers.

He will likely always be DIFFERENT.

This is a painful reality as a parent.  I had already been processing this for months as we began to realize some of Keller’s unique personality quirks.  He is an introvert and doesn’t like a lot of people around.  He loves dirt and sand and enjoys covering everything in it.  He doesn’t want to hug or cuddle most of the time.  We thought these were just quirky parts of Keller.  But autism is a whole new world of different.  A painful different.  A special needs and disability different.

I love Keller’s quirks, but I don’t want him to be pushed out or ostracized because he is different.  I don’t want him to be talked about behind his back or made fun of.  I want him to be accepted and loved.  I want him to be the most popular kid in the history of the world.

Okay.  Maybe my dreams are a TINY BIT shallow.

We hate for our kids to struggle and we just want them to be loved.  But maybe struggle is a part of the journey. Maybe being different and knowing from the beginning that he isn’t like the rest of the world is a positive thing.  I have spent so many years of my life trying to mimic others and fit in.  It was exhausting, fruitless, and never worked!  Now I live in a colored community where I am the weird white lady who is different from EVERYONE… and I love it.

I have learned that it is FREEING to be different.  It’s fun to just be you.  It brings peace to be who you were created to be.  Keller was created to be a unique and special boy.  He is definitely different but CERTAINLY not less.  He is more.  He is joy.  He is special.  He is OUR Keller.

I have a feeling that this is one of a MILLION lessons I will learn in walking through autism with Keller.  Being different is okay.  Being different maybe is even… good.  Being different can even be more.