I resisted suggestions my son might be autistic. When my godmom first floated the idea, he was only six months old. I figured she was over diagnosing, seeing impairments that weren’t really there. “He just makes that sound when he’s excited.”
Over the next four years several people gently mentioned autism as a possibility. Each time I expressed my doubts and moved on. When he started kindergarten and the school wanted him evaluated for autism I said “Sure, let’s rule it out.” I didn’t even consider it might be true.
Why did I so strongly believe that label was wrong, and why have I changed my mind? I thought he couldn’t be autistic because he’s just like me. We talk late in my family. We have textures we can’t abide. We are picky eaters.
My son fit into the family normal, and Autism Speaks and awareness campaigns told me autism would make him different. And he isn’t different, not as much as he is similar. He is the third generation in our line to wait until 3 years of age to start talking. “It doesn’t mean anything,” I kept saying, “That’s just how we are.”
The women I grew up with, my mother, grandmother, and aunts don’t fit the typical portrait presented of an autistic person; they’re adult women so that’s two strikes against them. My family was one of the few places I ever fit in, and I always chocked up our oddities to our intelligence and minority religious views. Now I wonder just how many autistics are in my family tree.
Autism awareness convinced me my son couldn’t be autistic. It wasn’t until I accepted his diagnosis and started making friends with autistic adults that I realized he’s normal because autism is part of our family normal. And that normal is what makes us special.