As you can imagine, being told that your child has autism is not an easy pill to swallow.  Ashley was 2 years, 9 months when she was diagnosed and we were committed to doing whatever it took to make her as “typical” as possible.  At the time, I thought THAT was the goal. I wanted Ashley to be just like all the other kids.  I wanted her to fit into “the box.” Nobody wants their child to be different. Being like everyone else was the definition of success.  It’s honestly what I wanted more than anything in the world.  And I explained that to a therapist when Ashley was about 8 years old.  She listened to my words, took a long pause and then said to me, “What if she can’t?  What if being the best that she can be isn’t the same as other kids?  Will you love her less?

That was a life changing moment for me.  I cried my eyes out when she said that because in that very moment I felt like THE WORST mother on the planet. But that day was also the day that I shifted in my role as Ashley’s mother.  I came to truly accept her for who she is, autism and all. I stopped comparing her to other kids and looked for her to make progress at her own pace. She is a beautiful, amazing girl, a teenager now.  In some ways she is very much her age of 13 & 1/2 and in other ways she’s really not.  I have hopes and dreams for my only daughter…the same way any mother does.  And as she grows I see maturity, development and understanding that I wasn’t sure we would ever see.  I am filled with hope while also trying to balance reality.  Some days that balancing act is really hard.

You might think, why is she sharing this? My answer is, why not? Sharing our experiences is what connects us all.  I didn’t ask to take this journey, but I find comfort in sharing the ride with others.  If you were sitting on a park bench with me, I would share the same story.  I hope that sharing stimulates consideration and understanding. When our kids are born we think our job is to educate them about the world, what I’ve learned is that my job is to educate the world about Ashley and others like her.
If you know someone who has a child, with autism (statistically if you don’t, you will) I hope you can share my story.  If I could go back and talk to myself on the day that I felt like the worst mother on the planet, I would tell myself that things will be okay.  She is different, not less and my love for her is extraordinary.

5 thoughts on “#DifferentNotLess”

  1. Thanks for sharing Shiela!! It’s sharing these thoughts that will help others and start conversations and understanding!! Your a great mom!!

  2. Sheila, well said.
    Every day is different for me. I have days where Connor does great and I think he’s going to do just fine. Then there are the real “autism days” and I wonder how will he ever live a full life.
    Every day is a new day. 💙

  3. You have an amazing way with words… I’m in awe of your strength in telling your story and opening so many eyes to what it means to a family who love and cherish a person with autism.

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