Last weekend was world Autism Awareness Day and we marked it in this household.

Actually, we celebrated it with another household, an amazing family that had invited us over to a celebration BBQ. Like us, they have an autistic child and wanted to make a celebration of the day.

And what a celebration we had! Both boys and their neuro-typical (as in ‘not autistic’) siblings had loads of fun. We had a bouncy castle, slides, bubbles, a fire (it is still cold-ish in Canada) for roasting marshmallows and keeping warm as the sun went down over the garden. There were a few heart stopping moments, stepping back from the brink of disaster – unavoidable really when you have 4 boys and a tomboy-ish girl (mine) tearing around the house and garden at a 100 miles an hour!

It was a beautiful, normal evening (at least for families like ours living with autism).

My takeaways

There is indeed safety (and support) in numbers. It is good to know you are not alone. Your experience and the particular demands that life places you as the parent of an autistic child is also shared by many others. You are not alone. It is a ride of a lifetime. You bring your ‘A-game’ to the the match as a parent. It takes all of you, but it is also very rewarding indeed. Love is the secret weapon in the arsenal. We are not called or asked to be perfect – we make mistakes and have ‘off days’ – we just need to love. Love is all accepting, all believing, all persevering.

My child doesn’t ‘have autism’. To say that suggests that autism is a ‘disease’ or illness that you catch, a disability or handicap (a non politically correct label I am surprised to see is still used in Canada).

I prefer to say my child ‘is autistic’. This recognises autism as just another way of being, rather than something being wrong or broken. I come at autism as simply another variation within the rich tapestry of human experience and expression. Some will see this as an oversimplification of autism, and that is OK. Autism does cover a broad spectrum from extreme ‘non-verbal’ to ‘high functioning’ autistic children. However, this perspective works for me as a parent. It helps me bring my A-game to the parenting task and supports my dreams and aspirations for my child growing up and functioning in a world full of neuro-typical (‘normal’) people.

I teach my child that being autistic makes them unique. It is their super power.

My job, amongst others, is to help him increase his self-awareness, equip him with the tools to manage and harness this super power as he navigates the world in pursuit of his own dreams and aspirations.

So help me God as I say ‘yes’ to the challenge and brace myself for the long-haul. This is not a sprint. It is a marathon.