A few weeks ago, I posted a picture of myself, my 7 year-old son, and my husband, on my Facebook page. We were sitting in my son's Kindergarten classroom, where he goes in with an aide a couple hours a day, for an end of the year awards ceremony. The caption said something like, "Other parents are proud of the awards their kids are receiving, and we are over here like, we just sat through this whole presentation semi-quietly and didn't have to leave the room! Hi-fives all around!"
This is our "normal." Our lives will never be that of a typical, "normal" family. Is it all bad? No. Is it sometimes hard to accept? Definitely!
With autism diagnosis on the rise now at 1 in 68, I feel like our families might become the "new normal," which would hopefully lead to greater autism awareness, and acceptance everywhere. My family's normal is ever changing. Do we try to go to that restaurant, party, other outing? Do we attempt that vacation? The outcome is almost always something different. So unpredictable.
Sometimes everything works out great, and we feel like autism rock stars. Other times it does not work out so well and we leave wishing it were easier for us to enjoy a "normal" family experience. We try to always be prepared for every possible thing that could go wrong, to always be on our toes, but sometimes life throws you a curve ball, no matter what your situation is.
There are some things my son is allowed to do at home that you might not see in a typical family household. Like they say, you have to pick your battles. If it's raining outside, as long as its not lightening, you will probably find him out playing in the rain, jumping on his trampoline, and loving every minute of it. If there is a mud puddle to be found, he will likely be in it, covering himself from head to toe. It's probably really good for his skin anyway! If there is something to jump on - a bed, a sofa, whatever, he will probably be jumping on it. He may not always have all of his clothes on, and he will definitely never be wearing shoes of any kind. If we come to your house, he will be dressed.... maybe. If he eats a new food, my husband and I act like we just won the lottery, only to have him not touch it again the very next day.
On the flip-side, many other neighborhood kids his age are playing in the street, at each other's houses, riding their bikes. My son cannot leave the yard, always plays alone, and is under constant supervision. He doesn't care one bit about the latest toy, movie, or video game. Other kids after school activities may be sports and music lessons. Ours are therapies and more therapies, and it has been this way for years. He also does not have the language to tell us how he is feeling, how his day was, or what activity he might want to do, so it is a constant guessing game. But, when he is happy, there is nodoubt. His smile and his laugh could melt the coldest of hearts.
These things are our normal. Welcome to the autism family. The New Normal.