Sandy and his son: A true account of Autistic Pride Day

You will find Sandy playing football with his 5-year-old at the park, in his front yard, or in their living room. It isn’t difficult to spot Sandy’s son – bright as the sun, with his brilliant smile and his caring and loving nature he can melt anyone’s heart. His son runs after the football, kicks it with all his might, then bursts into peals of laughter. The little 5-year-old has learned a lot of things but his speech development is taking longer. He has autism.

Three years ago, Sandy and his wife took their 2-year-old to see a specialist as they were concerned about his motor skills and speaking skills development. That was when the doctor diagnosed him with Mild to Moderate Autism.

APA defines Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as “a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by difficulties with social communication and social interaction and restricted and repetitive patterns in behaviors, interests, and activities.”

Also, boys are four times more susceptible to have ASD than girls. The exact cause for ASD is still a grey area and so are its symptoms. Just as every child is a unique being, the same goes for a child with autism. No two children are the same and no two children with autism are the same, they may not behave the same way or show similar symptoms even with the same diagnosis. 

Although Sandy’s wife works in healthcare, the diagnosis was still hard to accept in the beginning. Both Sandy and his wife had a tough time coming to terms with the fact that their son had mild-to-moderate autism. When they got over the initial denial phase, they braced themselves and started looking for ways to help their son walk and speak. They enrolled in a parent-child training targeted for parents of children with autism. This training, according to Sandy, was the most important and the best intervention.

Unfortunately, the training required Sandy to leave his son with other children while the parents sat in the session. His otherwise jolly son showed resistance, started throwing tantrums and became aggressive. Indeed the training was helpful but  Sandy could not help but feel bad to see his son’s aggression going up. There is a generic diagnosis of autism and just the way each child is unique, each child’s autism is also unique. In his son’s case, he did not like to be confined and enjoyed roaming around. So, being put in a roomful of children where his movement was restricted made him aggressive.

As time passed by, Sandy and his son both have adjusted to the change in environment brought in by the training. His son is a lot calmer now and has picked up some skills as well and so has Sandy. 

Sandy is proud of his son and enjoys every moment he gets to spend with him. He says his son has taught him a lot of things. Some of the things he has learned are:

  • Every child is unique.

The uniqueness also applies to their autism. Although there is no tailored diagnosis/ treatment for individual autism, as a parent he is proud of how unique is son, how loving and caring he is. Autism will never define his son.

  • Children do not learn when you teach them, they learn more when you show them.

Sandy tried teaching football to his son but he didn’t show any interest. Then, Sandy started playing football on his own, kicking, running, for almost a week. The second week his son also started playing with the football. 

Happiness lies in the smallest of things.

Growing up Sandy was a prodigal child with straight A’s year after year. He grew up with a lot of pressure from parents, teachers, and even himself to keep up the grade and to do better. There were lots of expectations from him which often even wore him down. When he looks at his son he feels proud that he will never go through that pressure, he’ll never be a bookworm and he won’t have to live up to other people’s expectations. 

The quarantine has been a great time for Sandy to reconnect with his son and not a day goes by without a pleasant surprise or a lesson learned. Every passing day he cannot help but be proud of his son – in every small things he does. He is proud of his son who has taught him to truly understand the meaning of finding happiness in the smallest of things. 

Let us celebrate today, June 18,  Autistic Pride Day with Sandy and all other parents who are proud of their children with autism, and every individual diagnosed with autism. 

Yes you are DIFFERENT NOT LESS and we are proud of YOU!