Julie Green: The Other Side of the Coin


Would You Be Ok With A Family That's Not Normal Like Mine?

Learning to love difference


I have a beef with the n-word.

No, not that one, although it too sickens me. I'm talking about the word 'normal.' It doesn't fit my son, and quite frankly it has never fit me, either. Suffice to say, my grasp on normal is pretty tenuous. 

From the moment my baby was born—thanks to a plethora of parenting books and websites—like many new moms I became hyper-conscious of norms and developmental milestones which I tracked meticulously. 

I panicked when my little guy was late to crawl and again when he didn't have enough words at his 15-month check-up. He caught up just fine. 

Then came his autism diagnosis, and all those milestones were thrown out with the bath water. Comparing him to typical children was heart-wrenching. Even comparing him to other kids on the spectrum felt pointless. (As the cliche goes, meeting one kid with autism is meeting one kid with autism.)

It's been a process, but I am slowly coming to appreciate my son's individuality. His one-of-a-kindness. If we hope for any kind of autonomy for our kids in the future, parents should nurture a special interest since it can help further career and life prospects. So says autism advocate Temple Grandin, and this approach certainly made her the success she is today.

Of course my son has to learn how to interact with people if he is to get along in the world, yet he is at his happiest and most fulfilled when he is pursuing his special interest. (Right now, at age five, that means teaching himself Russian via YouTube videos. This is him below singing and making the русский алфавит out of Play-Doh.) 

His enthusiasm is contagious. His mind, a marvel. At times I admit it would be more straightforward if he just raced Hot Wheels around the house and learned how to play hockey. But that wouldn't be him. By extension, that wouldn't be us. And I have to say—normal be damned—I love the us that we have become.

Do share: what does your 'normal' look like?

Doctors predicted this boy would never read or walk. Bet they're eating their words now. 

Image credit: Flickr | Peter Becker