This alphabet soup may come from a well meaning doctor, therapist, parent, or a freak you out internet site. I'd imagine the words following The A Word are difficult for a professional to say to an already terrified parent. I'm sure there is probably a fine line between being AWEnest and trying not to crush that parent's dreams of his or her child's future with a few letters of the alphabet. Regardless of how hard it may be to say The A Word, I assure you, it is much harder to hear it.
Let me give you an example of how the conversation may go....
"Your son has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism is a lifelong, pervasive developmental disorder which means it will impact many areas of his life. Your son is very bright and he will do well in school, BUT, chances are high that he will struggle socially. Your son is progressing nicely in many areas, however, I CAN'T predict if he will be able to go to college, hold down a job, live on his own, or have a family. Due to the core deficits of an autism diagnosis, DON'T expect him to develop at the same pace or in the same way as his peers since autism is a LIFELONG PERVASIVE DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDER."
Cue The F Word here.
Then there are the well meaning parents. You know the kind, the Debbie Downers and the Donna Doomsdays. The parents who you see making a beeline for you in the parking lot of your child's social skills class and you quickly duck under the closest car giving little to no thought whether the car you seek shelter under is running or not. These parents may mean well, but, they live in fear and perpetuate that fear by sharing doom and gloom with everyone they see.
Even if in between all the A's, B's, C's, and D's, there are other letters like Progress, Therapy, Success, Support, and Resources, when you first hear The A Word, it's hard to hear any other letters, but, A, B, C, and D. I was no different. For quite some time, I only heard Autism, But, Can't and Don't, which lead to a lot of tears, fears and mumbling of the letter F.
Whether it was from a specialist, a parent, or a chat room the word that followed The A Word that I heard, read and sadly believed the most, was The B Word.
"Your son's receptive language is good, but, his expressive language is poor."
"Your son will struggle socially, but, he may have one or two friends."
"Your son may do well in math, but, reading and writing will be difficult."
"Your son's autism may not be so obvious as a child, but, it will as a teenager."
"Your son may graduate from high school, but, he may struggle with independence."
"There is no cure for autism, but, with support, your son can live a relatively normal life."
If only I had known. If only I weren't so sucked in by the naysayers. If only I weren't so scared, this is what I would have believed when it came to both The A Word and The B Word....
"My son has autism, but, it does not define him."
"My son may not look at you, but, he sees you."
"My son may not show love in a way you understand, but, he feels it."
"My son may not be popular, but, he is loved."
"My son may be different, but, he is not less."
"My son may struggle, fall down, and hurt, but, he lives."
Even though Ryan knew all his letters, even though Ryan at some point and time probably heard every A, B, C and D, he has refused to listen. Ryan does not live in fear of words or letters, and he will not stand by and let Autism, But, Can't and Don't determine his future. There are no letters, no words, no specialists and no predictions that can ever determine how far Ryan will go or how big he will live.
If the one and only thing my son takes away from all my encouragement, all my pushing, all my fighting and all my advocating is that But, Can't, Don't or even Autism can dictate how Ryan lives his life. If Ryan hears this, if Ryan believes this, then I know so many more letters, so many more words, like Success, Happiness, Confidence, Fulfillment and Pride will all be words Ryan will hear loud and clear.
Ryan has autism. Ryan will always have autism. Autism does make some parts of life more difficult for him, but, Ryan works hard everyday to foil the negative connotations that are associated with The A Word as I stand by watching with pride and AWE. As far as Ryan is concerned, when it comes to his life, there are no buts about it.
And here is the proof....