This text was originally posted 10/18/19 on my Facebook Page, and updated for this blog.
I got asked recently if Sawyer would always have autism. The short answer is yes.
The long answer is yes, he will- and that it frustrates me that in 2023 there is still so little autism awareness. Autism is a neurological disorder; it’s not a disease, and there is no cure. It simply means that an autistic person’s brain works differently than most.
Yes, Sawyer has come a very long way since he was first diagnosed. My formerly non-verbal “textbook autism” hand-flapping boy functions on a much higher “level” now, and I couldn’t be prouder. He has overcome a lot of personal struggles to be where he is, and I cannot credit or thank his tutors, teachers, and therapists enough for the hours and hours of hard work they put in to help him learn to fight through his brain’s signals and help him function more “normally”. Today, people who meet Sawyer for the first time may not even realize that he is autistic, but that doesn’t mean he still doesn’t struggle with certain things or that he is “normal”.
The reason I keep putting the word ‘normal’ in quotations is because “normal” is subjective- to our family, Sawyer is normal. Lining up his toys over and over, or being unable to tolerate loud cheering at ballgames, or even being unable to pronounce certain sounds correctly is normal to us because it’s part of who Sawyer is. Not being able to wear certain fabrics or getting overstimulated in certain situations is normal for him, and we are used to making accommodations to help him feel more comfortable. We know going into a sporting event that we may need to leave early, or that Sawyer may need his noise-cancelling headphones. We know that we may not be able to stay at family functions for as long as we’d like to, because he may get overstimulated and need to leave. We know that he can’t stand wearing long sleeves or anything with a tight cuff, so I’m fine with him wearing t-shirts year round (with a hoodie or jacket in the cooler months). In our eyes, he is perfect and there is nothing wrong with him; I have never and will never believe that he needs to be “cured” or changed, and I pray that someday we will end the stigma that autism is this horrible thing that we need to get rid of and spread more acceptance for those living on the autism spectrum and their struggles. The things that make our special needs children are part of who they are, and that’s what makes them unique and sets them apart from everyone else. We don’t need to “cure” them; we need to help the world understand that we need more inclusivity and accommodations for those who need them, whether that be at home, at school, or on the job.
Autism is our normal. I wish that more people understood it, but I feel that’s part of why God gave Sawyer to us, and one reason we feel compelled to share so much about our life as an autism family. Sawyer wanted me to create this blog as a way of helping to educate people on what life is like for him and for us, and we will continue to spread awareness and autism acceptance every day.