Be Kind & Include this Halloween

I will admit I did a lot of judging on Halloween before I had kids of my own. Kids that appeared to be “too old” for trick-or-treating, kids that came across as rude because they didn’t say “trick-or-treat” or “thank you” and kids that seemed to not even bother putting a costume on…

Wilson changed all of that.  This kid has taught me so much about doing things in his own time. I’ve also had a front row seat to see how hard he has worked to do any one of those things mentioned above, let alone all at once.  

This Halloween, remember that many kids communicate and process their environment in unique ways. If someone looks “too old” for trick-or-treating, they could be developmentally delayed. Think about our guy, Wilson. He is nine years old and autistic, and this might his first year to be able to wear a costume AND say “trick-or-treat”. Should that be short-lived just because he grows bigger? 

Some might not be able to say “trick-or-treat” or wear a costume but trust me, they deserve the candy.

They may not say “thank you” but I promise, they feel it.

Please be patient, kind, & inclusive.

This boy loves Halloween. He adores pumpkins and would wheelbarrow the whole patch home if we let him. He plays with his pumpkins, acts out songs or scenes, and checks on them before bed.

He wears all kinds of costumes throughout the year, most often Olaf from Frozen or pirate gear.

Though he has never wanted to put a costume on for Halloween night.

He likely hasn’t understood the point of it, nor enjoyed the pressure of the situation where we are telling him it’s time to wear a costume.  

Again, he finds SO MUCH JOY in this holiday. For him, it isn’t about the candy. In fact, he’d be more interested in what is going on in your living room versus what you have in the Halloween bowl out front.

He might take a piece of candy, but he’ll have no intention of eating it. His sensory processing and motor planning difficulties keep him on a strict diet right down to preferred brands of cheese and bread.

Through listening to his favorite Halloween stories and shows, he knows now that this is what you do. You take the candy, and you put it in the beloved pumpkin pale. So, he just might try it this year.

Either way, he will be so HAPPY to be pointing out spiders, skeletons, witches, ghosts and most of all, PUMPKINS!!

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!!

We practiced a little trick-or-treating at a friends house, Wilson did great!

This is NINE✨

He loves music by the Beatles and watching Teletubbies & Toy Story.

He shouts “choo choo!” whenever he sees a train and quacks at ducks and creates beautiful pieces of art.

He dresses like a pirate & craves movement.

He is curious, adventurous, and has eaten the same sandwich every day for years.

He is gentle and tender.

He is courage and resilience.

He is simple and complicated.

He forgives. 

He never gives up.

He is fierce and fragile.

His joy is magnetic.

He cannot be summed up in a cute little box labeled “AUTISM”. Nope.  Trying to summarize him is more like trying to catch and examine the wind.

He is magic.

Love this One of a Kind kid of mine.

Some photos from the day…

Listen With Me

I want so much for this boy, above all, to just be understood.

I don’t care if he finds his voice through a device, or a drawing, I just want him to be heard.

A boy who was built differently than most.

Whose words get lost while intention and thoughts remain.

One who fights daily to just be calm in his body and peaceful in his mind.

His favorite color is red, though he’s never once told me this. I just know.

I also know that he’ll tolerate wearing blue, but only on some days.

Sometimes the world is too much for a boy who feels everything.

So, we’ll have to change the world.

He listens, even when he doesn’t respond.

He knows, even though he may not say.

I want his laugh to be shared and his efforts to be acknowledged.

This boy who jumps and jumps to share the pure joy radiating through his body.

I want people to see that.

The jumping and the joy.

The resilience.

The blue shoes.

Being his mom means listening to a million things that are not said. Or trying to.

I am trying to listen.

Please, try to listen with me.

Let’s Change the World

“He’s just wired differently.” 

We heard this phrase often in those first months after Wilson’s autism diagnosis.  We were trying to wrap our heads around this world of autism in which our son was living.  It’s a fairly simple phrase, which was almost refreshing given the complexities of this disorder we wanted so badly to understand.

We’ve since learned that for us, autism is in the moment. It’s unpredictable.  Some days it is two steps forward, and one step back. It’s phases you cannot wait to get out of, and moments you want to freeze in time.  It’s taking the long way. Routine and repetition. Pure innocence. Contradiction. Hope. Unconditional love and loyalty. It’s falling down and getting back up. It’s courage + resilience. 

“I would not change my son for the world. I would change the world for my son.” 

I came across this quote the other day and it reminded me: This is why I share my son’s story.  There is so much about his autism experience that is out of my control. What I can do is spread awareness and hope that it leads to a little understanding, patience, and compassion. 

So, let’s talk to our kids about how all their friends are unique, and that it is a beautiful thing. How we all learn at a different pace, and speak in distinct ways, but can still have so much in common with one another.  

All children could benefit from a friend to help them overcome challenges and build confidence and self-worth.  Let’s teach them acceptance and inclusion.

Let’s change the world.

A Little Advocate

This is Charlie.

When her big brother, who is eight years old and autistic, lost his first tooth, she asked us to write a letter to the tooth fairy because she knew her brother would love a toy more than money.  She made sure to check his pillow the next morning and show him what had arrived.

She has taken on the role of a special sister the most beautiful way. I don’t know how a six-year-old can accept such big things? Like how sometimes her wants and needs just must come second. Or third. 

She doesn’t know about all the things we’ve had to miss out on because we were not able to take her brother, so we all stayed home.  But my heart says that she wouldn’t mind. She always wants him with her anyway.

This little light came into our lives when we needed her most. When her big brother needed her, too.

She quickly took on the role of looking out for her brother, telling people when he can’t do things or when sounds are hurting his ears. Or when he just needs a break to sing himself a song.

As you can imagine, being relied on through toddlerhood is a lot. It continues to be a lot, but she navigates everything that comes her way with more grace and patience than I have most days.

Her brother doesn’t like it when she eats cheerios because of the smell. He cannot tolerate some of her favorite shows or toys because of the sounds they make.

She has learned to bring him his headphones when he is overwhelmed, and rush through her morning cup of cereal. These are things I wish she didn’t have to do.

The majority of her first few years were spent in the car, shuffling her brother around to different specialists on his long journey to an autism diagnosis.

Then it was her turn for the doctors, specialists, and more waiting rooms.  Her severe allergic reactions, ambulance rides, Epinephrin pens, glasses, patching, asthma… she continues to adapt. Nothing slows her down.

She is happy, independent, curious, and I love watching her learn and grow more each day.  She asks questions (so many questions!), watches, listens, and takes it all in.

She encourages her brother through difficult food therapy and haircutting programs. “It’s okay, Wilson.” She whispers in the sweetest voice on earth. She takes his hand to show him when he doesn’t seem to listen.

She tells others matter-of-factly that her brother has autism.  She looks up to him, admires him, and is so proud of him.

When she empties her piggy bank to get a toy at the store, she asks to pick one for him, too. How is so much kindness and love packed into that sweet little body?

She is not an autism expert, none of us are. She is learning to be a thoughtful, kind human who knows differences are good, beautiful, and something to be proud of.

We’re so proud of her and the amazing person she is becoming.

awareness + acceptance

My boy with autism. Or my autistic boy. This is a very important thing.

One is a person first, after all, he is a beautiful boy who just happens to have autism.

The other is an all-encompassing identity worn with pride.

I wish we didn’t have to choose. Can’t it be both? I want both for him.

There is no right answer, but people will tell you otherwise each way you choose.

Maybe someday my boy will tell me his preference.

Just like someday he will answer his dad when he asks him what he did at school that day.

Every day, he is met with silence and a smile. Some day.

A lot of people really want to skip the whole awareness thing and have everyone move right on into acceptance. That sounds ideal to me, but I really don’t see how one can happen without the other.

So, we continue to talk about autism to spread awareness & acceptance.

It does get a little exhausting, I will be honest.

The repetition, the hope, the advocacy on eggshells.

But I get excited, thinking about more people joining in on this awareness + acceptance thing.

I can start to see a world where communication without words is commonplace.

And maybe things like atypical eye contact wouldn’t be a thing, and maybe parents like us wouldn’t hear that word, ATYPICAL, so damn much.

In this world I picture people who understand that sensory processing is so different for everyone. How it can be downright painful for some, and never given a second thought by others.

People would be better about not taking the little things in life for granted, like outings outside of the home that for some, like my boy, require navigating a battlefield of anxiety, sensory input, and communication barriers.

They’d know that nonspeakers still FEEL greatly.

There would be just enough awareness for people to be kind, patient, & accepting of those who move through this world a little differently than most.

Raising Rebels

This boy of mine has the greatest community of Little Rebels one could ask for. He’s surrounded by kids who are raised on intentional conversations about beautiful differences. 

Kids don’t need to understand big, complex things like autism spectrum disorder to advocate for a friend. Little advocates are curious, kind, patient, and EMBRACE differences.

They know that their voice matters, and they use it to stand up for themselves and others.

There are so many kids out there who need a tribe like this one.

It’s our hope to help them find just that. For more people to be met with kindness and ACCEPTANCE and for all differences to be embraced and celebrated. Thank you for being here with us and continuing conversations around kindness and inclusion!

Get your gear at our Little Rebels with a Cause shop! We make kindness, inclusion, and advocacy apparel for EVERYbody! Ten percent of every purchase is donated to amazing nonprofits in disability services and advocacy.

✨World Autism Awareness Day✨ 

This boy works hard every day to communicate in ways that don’t come naturally for him.  

He works through unanticipated sounds that physically hurt him. 

He relentlessly creates order, repetition, and sameness all around him to feel safe. 

He’s so curious, craves adventure, and would examine every inch of this big old world if he could. 

He constantly teeters along a line of fearless and so incredibly fragile. 

He was born with the kindest heart and I want the world to see that… I want them to see the hard work, the kind heart, and the bravery for heading out into the unexpected even when it could be painful & confusing. 

He’s my constant reminder that EVERYbody is SO MUCH MORE than what meets the eye.✨

I tell my boy’s story to raise awareness and acceptance for him and millions of others who were born into a world that wasn’t quite designed for them. 

All I want for him is to be understood, accepted, & supported. 

Thank you for following his story and learning more about the beautiful, complicated world of autism. 🖤

I share this boy with you

I share this boy with you because he is unique.

He is a constant reminder for me that every single person I encounter is so much more than meets the eye, and maybe he will remind you, too.

While I don’t ever want to miss an opportunity to celebrate this amazing boy, I also choose to share some of his challenges, progress, joy, and everything in between.

I do this because it isn’t enough for people to just know that autistic people exist.  I want the world to understand the vastness of this spectrum including the behaviors, abilities, needs, challenges, and beauty in all people who live with autism.

I want people to learn about and celebrate differences.  When someone looks, sounds, smells, and behaves differently than you, how wonderful of an opportunity you have to learn from them!✨

When you meet someone like my boy, whose brain may work differently than yours, it may take some time and patience to understand the contradictions weaved throughout his daily life.

How someone as wild and free as the wind can also feel as caged as a bird; with words, thoughts, and feelings often trapped inside of him.

How he needs predictability and order like his sandwich cut a certain way, the same clothes daily, and to constantly see his schedule, but this same boy loves speed, spinning, and falling just to the edge of out of control.  I think all of this is how he feels safe but also feels ALIVE. ✨

I spent a lot of time trying to untangle all the contradictions inside of this sweet boy, like it had to be one way or another. It doesn’t. He is not something to be untangled or fixed, just understood, supported, and included.✌🏻

This blue-eyed boy finds JOY ✨ everywhere, and the best part is, he helps others see it too. I hope you get the chance to know him, or someone as uniquely wonderful.

Pictured: getting cozy at a photo shoot for our kindness/inclusion centered apparel brand, Little Rebels with a Cause 😍

LittleRebelsCause.com

let someone sit with you

During the years surrounding my son’s autism diagnosis, I could barely say the word “autism” out loud.  I thought I would just break down every single time and, frankly, I didn’t have time for that. To be clear, this had nothing to do with shame.  Not one day has gone by that I am not immensely proud of this boy.

It was about fear, worry, the unknown, and all the other bumps along the road to acceptance. All a parent could ever want is for their child to be okay.  Autism has a way of tricking your brain into questioning if that will be the case.  There is so much to learn and understand before some of that uncontrollable worry begins to fade.

I threw myself into research. We got on waitlists. I began on the path to truly knowing this boy.

And I wrote. I got it all out. Everything that was too hard to talk about at the time.  Processing this kind of information is not easy, and it can be very lonely. This is a big reason why I am here, sharing our story. I never want other families to feel the same confusion and loneliness that we felt in the beginning of this journey.

It has meant so much to me to connect with other autism families, some who are going through the steps to a diagnosis or have a child that was recently diagnosed, and other parents of children of all different ages and abilities.

The main message I want to convey to all these parents is that there will be MANY times that you will feel alone in this, but you do not have to be.  I constantly must remind myself of this.

I cannot tell you how many situations there have been where my knee-jerk reaction was that no one knows how this feels. The same battles, day in and day out, the medical incident reports, medical and educational decisions, the moment I saw AUTISM written on paper in an evaluation about my boy. 

Remember this: there are others who have been there, too.

Things can still be hard for me to process a lot of the time. Sometimes it seems easier to sit alone with the tough stuff. If you do this, please don’t stay there long. Let someone sit with you.

Find your own way to work through your thoughts and feelings. They are real and should not be ignored.

Talk to someone. You might find this safe person in a waiting room at therapy or the pediatricians office, on the playground, or online.  If all of this sounds impossible and overwhelming because you can’t even say “autism” out loud yet, that is okay too! It will get easier to talk about and then you will be ready to lean on others.

The best way for your friends and family to learn about autism and support you as a parent raising a child with autism is to tell them. Tell them about your child. Tell them about your struggles, your child’s struggles, strengths, passions, victories, and all the things.

They might not understand exactly how you feel, but they don’t have to. Sometimes talking through things just leaves you feeling better. I promise your people want to support you and celebrate with you and your child, you just have to let them.

I’m not saying you have to wave your autism awareness flag as loudly as I do. We all do this life differently. Find a place that makes you feel supported.

I am so much stronger than the day I walked out of that psychiatrist’s office with my son’s diagnosis in hand.  My whole family is. If you would have told me this back then, I may have not believed you.  

My boy is always growing and evolving and most days it feels like autism is always one step ahead of me.  It’s like trying to catch and examine the wind.  There is still so much unknown to wrestle with.

While I may never understand everything going on inside of this complicated boy, what I do know is that I will never stop trying, and there are so many people here rooting for him.

Originally posted in November 2020.