There will always be some gifts you never forget for the rest of your life. The gift I received happened exactly a year ago on my 25th birthday…
A few years ago, I received a friend request on Facebook from a mom asking if I could help her answer questions as her son was recently diagnosed with classic autism. Over the next few years, we went back and forth. She told me about her son, both the successes and challenges he was having. Every time she’d share a story, I’d revert back to my younger years, discussing my parent’s experiences with me and what had helped me as I got older.
She would send me photos and home videos of her son every once in a while and he seemed like one of the most wonderful kids you’ll ever meet. As our dialog continued, I felt a connection with this mom and her son, even though I had never met their family before in person . I’ve consulted for many parents with kids with autism, but this one was different somehow.
So…my birthday came last year and I received a Facebook message from the mom. She wished me a Happy Birthday and told me that she had decided to tell her son about his autism diagnosis. She had been looking for resources and then came across one of the first poems I ever wrote on the San Francisco Chronicle. She printed it out and decided to read it to him one day before school.
The poem reads,
My name is Kerry and I have Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified.
This means I have autism.
This does not mean I am autism.
This means I see the world sometimes in a different light.
This does not mean I’m in the dark.
This means from time to time I may have a difficulty expressing my emotions.
This does not mean I don’t feel.
This means when I communicate, I do it with a style that is my own.
This does not mean I don’t have a voice.
This means I may have sensitivity when it comes to a certain feel or touch.
This means sounds can sometimes make me feel uneasy.
This does not mean I’m deaf or hard of hearing.
This means I can often focus on certain interests for a long period of time.
This does not mean those are my only interests.
This means that I’m the only person in my family to have this.
This does not mean I’m alone.
This means I may have 500 other symptoms/capabilities that are different than yours.
This does not mean I’m any less of a person than you are.
My name is Kerry, and regardless of what PDD-NOS means or doesn’t mean, autism can’t define me, I define autism. I can only hope those individuals, regardless of being autistic or not can define their lives and their journeys in the way they see it.
She told me that even after explaining to him who I was and what autism was, she wanted him to know that above all else, autism didn’t define him; that he was going to be the best Anthony he could be and that no matter what, he was going to be loved by her.
The gift she gave me that day was something that will always stay with me. One year later, I am still in awe of her. I hope we all can see autism in a way that is similar to hers. No matter the journey a person with autism is on, he or she deserves to be loved each and every day and accepted for whom he or she is. We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses, but we are all people. If we can pay this forward and share this gift, this message of unconditional love for 2014 and beyond, there will be many bright days ahead in our community.