I was recently asked by a young attendant at a special needs family event at an indoor park,” What are your biggest fears as an autism mom?” The attendant was smiling making small talk while watching our daughter Paris from afar bouncing from one area to another in the huge indoor sports arena. I could feel her young bright eyes watching the two of us in curiosity before we connected for her to feel comfortable asking her question. The young attendant was kind, effective at the time with watching all the other guests that were there, and she didn’t come across as rude at all. She and Paris seemed to strike it off immediately, and Paris was one of the youngest in attendance of the fun event.
I learned through our conversation that she had only been at the job for two weeks, was a high school student, a twin as well, and that she was fascinated in learning more about individuals living with autism. The teen was kind, and helpful with Paris as my little one navigated in the big arena. Her inquisitive nature asked several more questions regarding autism that didn’t come across as badgering at all. She shared her connection to a young man growing up with living with autism who now attends high school with her. She was upset in how things such as bullying, teasing, and how most of their teen peers pulled away from him as they grew older. She shared how intelligent he was, but how often times he was counted out. Lastly, she shared while we watched Paris dodge balls as a superhero in the dodge ball area if I was afraid of what could happen to Paris in similar ways when she gets older. It was only a eight minute conversation, but for a young girl it was pretty deep for small talk. I was in no way offended. Most caregivers know that we are “walking and talking advocates” for whatever we are going through with our loved ones rather we want to or not.
My faith helps me cope with everything I experience with our daughter. There are days though honestly as a mother with a young child living autism that I battle with questions internally about how our daughter Paris’ autism will be lovingly accepted beyond the comfort of our home. I see her intelligence, full personality, capabilities, and strength, but I am curious myself in seeing how well she’ll adjust as she grows into an adult.
Paris tends to be more in being to herself, and she feels comfortable with those she knows. She is quiet, but friendly. She leaves a lasting impression everywhere she goes, and she currently has many “friend helpers” at school who look after her as close friends. I know when she gets older teens branch out for comfort, entertainment, and acceptance to friends who are similar. They tend to disconnect from who is different. I’m certain she will find friends who will love her for who she is, and her siblings will never leave her side. I am a protective mother with all of my children, but especially Paris. I know despite how protective I am I won’t be able to block everything negative that may come her way. There will always be someone who through ignorance or hatred who will misjudge those living with autism like Paris who will act unfortunately from a place of unacceptance. My job as a mother is to love my daughter unconditionally, combat my fears by observation of how Paris and others like her break the stigmas associated with autism everyday, take it day by day with her in each stage of her age helping her process the world around her, and to advocate on her behalf the amazing life of purpose that those living with autism have to contribute to the world.