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.

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

A Very Merry Season

I was wrapping presents last night when I came across one designed for children 3-5 years old that I had purchased for my eight-year-old.  It got me thinking about how we do things a little differently around here.

Throughout the years, we’ve found that not every holiday event is one we should attempt.  Occasionally we get a sitter for the outings that we know Wilson cannot tolerate so his sister still has the chance to go. Sometimes we leave early, or we arrive late. And sometimes we buy toys designed for toddlers because we know how happy they will make him.

This year, we were all able to go on a holiday train ride to see the city lights. We even saw Santa and Mrs. Claus, and Wilson did amazing. He loved every minute of the ride (beyond the wait to board the train.)  This was huge progress for him, and something we wouldn’t have attempted just a few years ago.

I don’t share this for any kind of “I’m sorry” or what not. The fact is that we don’t lack any JOY around the holidays while doing things a little differently. I wish everyone could FEEL this season the way that Wilson does.  I am overjoyed to be wrapping these items that I know will bring my boy such happiness, all while knowing that they may also lead to some overwhelm or sensory overload, too. I can appreciate a time not that long ago when we were at much more of a loss as to what to get for him. He’s never asked for much of anything.

Doing things differently was harder in the beginning. Birthday parties, trips, holidays.  Now we appreciate the joy and balance we find in the way we do these things our own way.

So, this little note is here as a reminder for those in the beginning, the ones struggling with wrapping their heads around “different”, the ones stumbling and getting back up. It gets better.

Or maybe you have friends or family with kiddos like Wilson, who are navigating things like autism, sensory processing disorder, developmental disabilities, or anxiety.

During these times, your grace and patience is extra meaningful and so appreciated.

Be easy on you, and where you are in this. And remember, it always gets better.

Wishing you so much JOY this holiday season.

xo,

Lauren

Appreciating the Slow Progress

All that progress at the salon and then look what his mama did!   I feel like a broken record talking about haircuts on here, but I am so blown away at how this boy is doing with them these days. There was a time when I honestly thought we just wouldn’t be able to cut this guy’s hair. It was just too much for him, and in turn, too much on everyone around him.  I resolved that we would have our own Wilson-Rapunzel situation going on for the rest of our lives and that would be simply fine because the torture that haircuts caused all around was just not worth it.

Here we are, seven years later, and he is cool as a cucumber (well, almost) as mom decides she’s going to buzz all his hair off. I think he’s pretty impressed with the outcome.

A reminder to appreciate the progress, no matter how slow it may be!

The Magic of the Season

Well, the magic of this season is finally upon us. If Wilson had it his way, we would have gotten our tree on Halloween. With some carefully crafted social stories, a countdown calendar, and a felt tree to decorate in the meantime (from a very thoughtful friend), we were able to hold him over until now.

This boy brings the JOY, let me tell you. He has seen Santa three times already (something that used to be such a tough production for us all) and he just walks right up and says, “Merry Christmas, Santa!”

He and his sister decorated our tree, and he continues to adjust and rearrange ornaments daily. I found him sitting by the tree, “reading” a Christmas themed book the other night. He just FEELS this season so deeply, it’s hard to explain. I really can’t tell you what it feels like to see him so HAPPY.

If you see him in the next few weeks, he will likely serenade you with a few rounds of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.  I just love watching him spread so much love and joy and cheer this time of year. It really is contagious. Watch a sweet video below of Wilson getting into the Christmas spirit!

Video Reel of Wilson getting into the Christmas spirit!

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.

Autism & Progress & a Proud Mom

Proud mom moment.  Wilson hasn’t had his hair cut outside of our home in more than six years.  The last hair salon we attempted with him was when he was about two years old, and he was screaming so much before he even got into the chair that the stylist said she couldn’t work with him.  So, we left, and started a haircutting program with his therapy center that lasted about four years.  I’ve continued to cut his hair at home, and while he doesn’t necessarily like it, he has improved greatly and will tolerate it.

Last week, while I was getting my hair done, I asked my stylist if she would be willing to attempt to cut his hair at her salon.  I honestly sat there thinking about it for an hour or so before I asked her.  Deciding when and how to attempt things like this is tricky.  I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but we have been there and done that and I was sweating at the thought of attempting it again. I pictured the screaming and the other clients staring, and the headbanging, and the hand swatting. And thought maybe continuing with the mediocre mom-cuts was good enough.

Her salon is small, quiet, and I had a feeling he just might like it there.  She was very happy to give it a try and we agreed that if it didn’t work out, we wouldn’t push it.

I talked with Wilson about the salon over the weekend. I told him about the cool plants he’ll see there, the big mirror, and the nice lady named Sarah that was going to cut his hair this time. He said “no.”  Later we talked more and landed on him getting to watch his dad’s iPad after his haircut. Sunday night and throughout yesterday, he calmy repeated his schedule, including the haircut.

He did AMAZING.  He stayed calm, let her use scissors (hadn’t used those in six years either!), and was so excited to feed the ducks at the lake afterwards.

Proud is really an understatement. As much as I want to erase some of our tough experiences from memory, they sure make me grateful for how far we have come.

Also, there are really good people out there. Find the courage to ask, it’ll be worth it.

Wilson’s Climb x Little Rebels with a Cause

We’ve been busy over here at Wilson’s Climb! We started an inclusive clothing collection, Little Rebels with a Cause, with this sweet boy in mind. Sometimes it’s just nice when the shirts can do the talking for you.

Our designs quickly morphed into much more… for the advocates, the upstanders, and the world changers.

We make apparel with purpose for LITTLE REBELS: upstanders who embrace differences.

Our son is an adorable, curious, eight-year-old who is autistic and processes this world differently than many of us do.  We see the way his little sister advocates for him, from running to get his headphones when a noise is painful for him, to telling most people she meets that her brother has autism. She does this in the same way one might say their brother is great at football or playing the guitar. She’s proud of him.

We’ve seen the value of inclusion for both of our kids, and so many more incredible humans who are a part of this Little Rebels community. We have so much to learn from one another.

We believe words are important, and we hope our tees spark valuable conversations in your communities.

Our son’s sensory processing difficulties can make clothing choices tricky.  We worked hard to find the softest, most comfortable tees around, most with easy to tear-away tags. You’ll notice an abundance of black and white throughout our designs, as that is the only kind of tee he will wear.  

We’re proud to donate ten percent of every purchase to some amazing nonprofits. These programs range from assisting anyone with a disability in finding their inner athlete through outdoor recreation, to programs who build inclusive and ACCESSIBLE playgrounds so that ALL can play, and those who advocate for a loving and inclusive community for anyone with a disability.  We plan to introduce additional nonprofits throughout the year.

We look forward to raising awareness for these programs and making a difference with you.

P.S. A heart is one of our boy’s favorite shapes, so he helped us out by drawing the one in our mission statement.

Come see our shop at http://www.littlerebelscause.com

Unconditional Sibling Love

I’ve found it very difficult to protect my heart when it’s beating outside of my body. These days it’s running around in the form of little sandy-haired, blue-eyed kids, in such vulnerable form.  

I’ve wanted to protect these two from the Big Bad World since the moment I met them. Most of the time, my boy’s adventurous spirit would get in the way of the bubble wrapped life I had in mind for him.  

I wasn’t ready for fearless. I wasn’t ready for vulnerable. I wasn’t ready for autism.

How will I protect him now? Will he be OK?

Will he ever talk? Attend school? Be bullied on the playground? Will he have a job? Drive? Live independently? Fall in love? And commence the spiral to nowhere.

As parents, we never want our children to feel pain and sadness. Hunger or cold. Lost or confused. It tears me up from the inside out when I look into my boy’s eyes and see how confused and frustrated he can become.

I remember a moment years ago when, during one of his meltdowns, his 2-year-old little sister hugged him and would not let go. Eventually he started laughing because it became a game to try and get her off him.

I noticed something that day. The way she looked at him. It was simple and unconditional adoration. In her eyes, he isn’t “different”. He is her big brother. Her hero. Her person.

I pray that she will always see him in that same light. As time passes, the weight of his world will inevitably impact hers more.  New challenges will arise, they both will grow and change, but oh, how I hope that their unconditional love remains the same.

My children are both unique and made for one another. I can’t catch them every time they fall, but I can teach them how to help one another back up. To comfort one another. To laugh together.

They have shown us fearless. They have taught us how to find comfort in vulnerability.

My son has a phenomenal tribe of family, friends, doctors, teachers, therapists, specialists, and peers to help raise him up as high as he can go.

And he has her.

So just like that, I had all the answers to that pesky spiral to nowhere:

He’s going to be amazing.

They both are.

E I G H T

Joy.  I want to get it right, explaining this birthday boy to you, and joy is what comes to mind over and over again.

Sometimes fragile but mostly fearless, he’s going to discover, celebrate, and remember every little thing about this big old world.

He finds the joy around him all the time… a spontaneous “moo!” to the cows out his car window and an ecstatic “choo choo!” when we are lucky enough to spot a real-life train.

I know other eight-year-olds might not do that, and that’s okay. Sometimes he celebrates joy in atypical ways or in places you wouldn’t expect. But it’s always there with him, radiating throughout the room. 

He is happy in his soul.

We don’t waste moments with worry & comparison.  We left that game a long time ago. Wilson is in a league of his own, right where he belongs. 

We’ve been rushing this boy to grow his whole life. In true Wilson fashion, it will all be in his own time, and in his own way.  Now I see this big eight-year-old in front of me and pray for time to slow down, just a little.

I am so thankful for his joyous energy, his curiosity, and the way his happiness feels like sunshine.

Hoping this year is filled with chasing more trains, searching for the ends of rainbows, and that sense of wonder found only in a child’s heart.