Today is Autism Awareness Day but in my family this is every day. But April as a whole is Autism Awareness Month.

I’ve pretty much known most of my kiddo’s life that he falls on the spectrum but because his genetic disorder took precedence and some of the behaviors and symptoms are similar the docs were reluctant to give him the official autism diagnosis – until 2 months ago. He’s now 15.

From the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital Website:

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex set of developmental disorders. It includes a wide range of symptoms that may be mild or can cause severe impairment. ASD can affect your child’s ability to communicate and socialize with others.

My son was non-verbal until he was about 5 – it’s a bit challenging to say whether it’s from the genetic disorder or from the autism. But that wasn’t the only reason that led me to believe this – while he is now verbal, his meltdowns became turtle mode – where he will hide into his jacket or sweater.

The challenges we face are primarily in the social aspect and his resistance to go to new places and try new things. Whenever we have plans, it’s always best to tell him days in advance and remind him repeatedly so he can adjust and well be prepared. This has been helpful and reduced the amount of shutdowns and meltdowns he would experience.

But I also believe he has to have his boundaries pushed a little, and I am well aware of what he can or cannot handle and we communicate – a lot – about doing and trying new things.

Like going on road trips and he knows he will be missing out on game time and watching YouTube – and he’s resisting only to then turn around at tehe end of the day and say it was the best day ever.

But it also shows up in expectations and his thinking process – think Christmas and birthday – where he has a list a mile long – and while we made sure he would get *some* things on the list – there were years that wasn’t always possible. Cue the meltdown. But then he turns around at the end of the day and tells us “it was the best _____ ever”.

And these are just a small part of challenges that we’ve learned to maneuver over the years. Anytime his schedule is changed without warning – his processing becomes very clear.

I think sometimes what’s more challenging is his processing of emotions such as anger, disappointment, frustration. He retreats into himself, and isn’t forthcoming about how he feels – and only occasionally is he open to being asked questions around it to support him in processing it all.

Now two people with Autism are alike – each and every person is different in some small way – even when the symptoms are the same.

One of my kid’s peers is on the spectrum as well – and when they first met my boy was in awe of him – how his buddy maneuvered the world around him – it’s been a beautiful friendship.

And now I am trying to find my own resources in areas my son will need support in when he’s an adult. But the point really is – whatever you think autism is or looks like – you may be wrong about it.

Because at the end of the day, people with autism are people. People with feelings and emotions – who tend to process them differently than we expect. People who may not always understand or get some of the social cues – but just maybe you could have a conversation about it – and then again maybe not.

In a world where we are taught to be all the same be happy that you’re not.

Petra Monaco

Petra Monaco

The Rebels Den

Petra Monaco is a published author, coach, mom and breaks the status quo for fun. As a foster kid, she knows the challenges and excuses people make as she rewrote her own story and then worked her way through to become a Master's level therapist. However, after watching her son fight for his life due to a rare genetic disorder and three liver transplants, she now coaches creatives and multi-passionates to stop waiting for “one day” and the “perfect moments’. Petra helps you dive deeply into the heart of things in order to discover your next steps, inspires you to set up your own personal framework so you can break free from fear, doubt, and overwhelm so you can start creating the life you want now. Petra uses her personal story to inspire and motivate people into doing the work they need to do to create change because she believes that your excuses are just avoidance. You can have the cake and eat it too if you're willing to show up for it!
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