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Adjusting to Autism: When Your Normal Isn’t Other People’s Normal

David after his autism diagnosis

In honor of autism awareness month, we wanted to share some of our staff’s personal experiences with their children’s lives with autism. In this post, Darla shares how her son, David, was diagnosed with autism and the impact on which it has had in their lives.

“…they say special needs start at birth, but it didn’t happen that way for us…”

When Darla’s son David was almost three, his school system asked to have him tested. As Darla remembers, “David was drawing pictures, stacking blocks very nicely and talking to the person doing the testing. After they had concluded, they came back and stated he was on the autism spectrum. All I could think was ‘What made you think that?’ Looking back, maybe it was because our reality—what we considered normal—was so different. So often, they say special needs start at birth, but it didn’t happen that way for us.”

As time passed, David’s challenges became much more extreme. “At two and three years old, David was at the Children’s Museum interacting with other children. But by the time he turned five, there were more photos of him sitting in his stroller. It is hard as a mom to look back at those photos and remember that everything was fine before, when he seemed like every other child.”

“He has been and always will be my first priority”

With kids with special needs that are identified at birth, parents can—from day one—learn what they are dealing with and accept it from the start. It is a different beginning with parents of autistic children. “You start with a child who appears to be typical, who develops normally for so many years, and then it begins to change. After that, you spend time trying to explain it away, or accept what the reality is. Having children absolutely changes your life—you have this love that you can’t imagine, and, with autism in the mix, it is up to us to change the realities of the situation and the expectations of what should and should not be.”

David’s challenges can sometimes create uncomfortable situations in public, which means one question always comes up for Darla: “Do I do what others want me to do because I am offending someone, or do I do what is best for my child? That is when you have to be tough and choose to make life experiences better for him over keeping everyone else feeling comfortable. He has and always will be my first priority.”                                                                                                                                                   

How do you handle it when your child’s behavior triggers disapproval in other people? Share your thoughts below.

About the Author:

Laura Ashburn works as a Content Specialist in San Diego. In her free time she enjoys cooking whenever she can and spending time exploring California and all it has to offer.

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3 Replies

  • By Sona

    Your commitment and love is a gift for your sons and an inspiration to many. Thanks for sharing

  • By Jill

    What a touching story. David’s picture is sooooo cute! Very Happy Thomas is NOT in the spectrum anymore. Can be tough for children and families to accept this as a diagnosis. As a parent, I would wonder WHY? And do any and everything to help my child no matter what people thought about what I was doing. You DO ANYTHING to protect, support and help your kids. Thank You for sharing Darla and may GOD BLESS you and your family on your journey. Sincerely Jill

  • By Melissa B

    I think we need a re-write of “normal,” thanks for being an inspiration and for sharing. I love this comment:
    “Do I do what others want me to do because I am offending someone, or do I do what is best for my child? That is when you have to be tough and choose to make life experiences better for him over keeping everyone else feeling comfortable. He has and always will be my first priority.”
    I say a big YES to that!