Simple Inclusion. It Matters.

For the first time, Wilson is participating in Show-and-Tell at school today. I told him to pick just one toy to bring to school and show his friends and assured him it would go right back home where it belongs after school. His wonderful teachers had us write up some information about the toy to help Wilson answer potential questions that classmates will ask about it.

This is inclusion. The kind that is so simple but pings me in the deepest part of my mama heart.

These are the kinds of things that Wilson hasn’t always participated in. With limited verbal communication, he often has a hard time understanding what is being asked of him. I could pick an item for him and send it with him to celebrate/share/join in the fun but unless there is support/facilitation from teachers, it would likely just remain in his backpack all day.

Spontaneous questions are hard for him to answer, so the thoughtfulness in getting the information about his toy to help support him in that conversation with classmates is so beautiful.

He has grown so much.  He understood exactly what was being asked and marched up to his toy closet.

He chose his Mickey Mouse Jack in the box.

For his ninth birthday, our amazing friends scored a Mickey Mouse Jack in the Box, knowing how much our guy loves Mickey and is enamored with Jack in the Boxes of any variety.

I am writing this for everyone.

I often remind myself why I am here, sharing this boy’s story. I wonder who is listening.

I know parents who have struggled to find new Barney toys for their twelve-year-old, or a Paw Patrol shirt for their teen. As caregivers, I think we all find that point where the whole “age-appropriate toy” thing flies out the window, no longer stings, and we just want the thing that will make our kids HAPPY. You are not alone no matter where you are in this journey.

For the teachers, friends, and family who meet and celebrate our kids right where they are… thank you, it really means everything.

Sometimes the simplest things (kindness + inclusion) are actually really, really big things in someone else’s world.

I share this boy’s journey because I want everyone to see the challenges, all the hard work, and the reminder that everyone is fighting a battle you cannot see.  But I also want you to see ALL. THE. JOY. It’s everywhere. It’s not missing or lacking or sad because it is sometimes found in different ways or places or things.

Different. Not less.

Also pictured: Auntie gave him a new pirate costume and ship for Christmas and YO-HO MATEY you better believe we had a fabulous Christmas with Captain Wilson.

Nothing Comes without Hard Work.

Nothing comes to this boy without hard work.

Wilson is nine years old and autistic, and procedures like this used to rock. our. world. Anxiety, communication breakdowns, new environments, sensory processing overload coupled with every-other-unknown that would come our way.

So, when Wilson’s doctor ordered a routine EKG for him, I felt all of the above come flooding back.

He got to work. He practiced with his teachers and therapists, all the way down to putting the stickers on and laying still until the doctor says they can be removed.

He watched videos and social stories to help him know what to expect.

We continued to work on waiting and flexibility with his schedule across various environments.

He was ready, and he did amazing.

Whenever I have my doubts/fears, this kid shows the way. I’m so proud of him.

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

Thank you for being so kind to our boy today. Wilson is nine years old and autistic, and these kinds of activities are not always possible for him, as crowded malls and long lines often lead to anxiety and sensory overload.

But today he spotted you on our favorite small family farm and patiently waited for his turn to see you up close.

He didn’t know how to answer when you asked what he would like for Christmas.  Those kinds of questions are hard for him to find the words for. But as his mom, I can tell you it is this. These moments. You’re pure magic to him. 

He doesn’t know about the latest games and toys for kids his age. He has never asked us for something like that. But he knows the magic of Christmas. And he celebrates it every day, beginning in October.

You listened as he scripted about his favorite holiday books and characters, and asked more questions that went unanswered.

He continued to stand in awe when his turn for a visit was over. He quietly watched you from afar, taking in your every move. You should know that he doesn’t usually do this. He’s always moving, spinning, jumping, and dancing onto the next thing.

I want you to know that your kindness & patience matters. 

Not just to him.

But to a mom and dad who have waited a long time for these moments, too. 

You probably already know all of this, but I think sometimes others forget. That the simple, little things might be really, very big things in someone else’s world.

Thank you,

Love Wilson’s mom 

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!

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. 🖤