Yes, he really is autistic.

Something that we have been struggling with recently as a family is the tendency for people to negate LM’s autism, as if they forget that ASD is a spectrum, that real people have autism, that cool and awesome people have autism (and that is regardless of what autism mental picture they most match).

Sometimes, it’s well-meaning. They are attempting to assure us that everything will be okay. “He will figure it out” when I explain that jokes, teasing, new social games are hard for him. “Just let him be.” They say that he won’t fit in with “those kids”, as if I knew what that meant, but I can assume it’s something negative — and almost certainly against kids and adults with complex communication needs. He talks! He said hello to me! They get excited, and never even realize the screaming ableism and discrimination these statements show. Or the stereotyped views of autism that we somehow still cling to in our society.

They want to normalize him, and I want to scream — he does not have to be normal! He does not have to do what you think a boy should do, or an 8-year old, or anything. He can, after all, be both autistic and amazing. He can not at all understand jokes and be hilarious. He can misunderstand your teasing and still enjoy being with you, being family, being friends. He can say hello and talk and still see the world from a unique vantage point that we can witness but never share.

Other times, it’s doubt-filled, or even caustic. Professionals who have spent less than an hour with LM asking pointed questions about the evaluations and studies of others, in some seeming attempt to keep their boxes neatly organized. Emotional issues here, and autism over there, after all. I mean, kids with disabilities, they don’t have emotional lives, don’t you know? They don’t feel or think, and cannot be stressed or traumatized or sad or justifiably angry (/sarcasm).

Life’s not like that, though. Is it ever? We are people and we are messy and we don’t really sort ourselves out so easily as that.

He’s just Little Man. He is angry and sad about some stuff and he deserves to be so. He is giddy and loves being the big man on campus, too. He is beginning to have friends who scaffold for him, because kids are sometimes more awesome than adults. He wants to belong. He so, so, so badly wants to belong. He reacts quickly to perceived danger and sometimes needs to be held while the panic subsides. He yelps and yips “chicken butt” while dancing and jumping and flapping. He loves Ben 10 and George and playing the same games with us every night and thrice on Sundays. He is ALL of this, and more. And my mama bear will defend him always, the right to be who he is as he is, without needing to change for you, whatever your reasons may be.

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