I am not proud to admit this, but I had a true breaking point after my son's diagnosis. I will never forget it and am still learning to forgive myself. It was a small act, but it was one that had a profound effect on my journey. After my son was diagnosed with autism, I would look for any shred of evidence that the doctor's were wrong. I still had not accepted the "label" and was not ready to move past it and onto learning how to embrace it.
You see...there was this bus. A little, yellow Fisher Price bus. It looked just like this one.
My mom gave this bus to Andrew one day during a visit and he loved it. At first, I was so happy that he was playing with this new toy appropriately and happily. UNTIL......IT WAS ALL HE WOULD PLAY WITH! EVERY SECOND, OF EVERY DAY...THE BUS RAN ALONG OUR FLOORS, HUMMING THE TUNE OF "IF YOU'RE HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT."
It was not the fact that this annoying jingle got stuck in my head on a daily basis that bothered me. It was that my son was exhibiting another trait of autism-"obsessive", special interests. One afternoon as Andrew napped, I just looked at that bus and lost it. I picked it up and flung it off the back deck. When I walked back inside, I fell into a puddle of tears. I was so disappointed in myself as a mom. It was a toy. It was a toy that made my son really happy. There didn't need to be a hidden meaning behind it. All I needed to know was that.....it made him happy.
From that day forward, I turned a corner. That is when I moved away from the label and towards the "long run." In my search for positive support guides, I came across someone who gave me so much strength and so much perspective. This person honestly changed my whole outlook....the crazy part is....we have never met.
PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO WATCH THIS VIDEO-THIS STORY CHANGED MY LIFE!
*I asked Wendy permission to share her content and story prior to publishing this post.
Photo Credit: @evol.evolution
Wendy is a mom-just like me. She has a son-just like me. Her son has an autism diagnosis-just like mine. Wendy is the reason my whole perspective changed.
After hearing her and Luca's story and following their journey on social media, I began to see where I had it all wrong. I did not need to change my son- I needed to change my mindset. Her son Luca is an amazing, little boy. The way he explores something that interests him and the way his family supports him inspired me to see this diagnosis in a whole, new way. Maybe-just maybe-the traits that I was once so afraid of could actually become the parts of my child that I love the most.
Here is just one small example of how Wendy embraces one of Luca's passions-
"When Luca gets hooked on something, he learns all he can about it! He’s writing out the #scolvillescale , which is the units of measurement for chili 🌶 peppers. This is why I choose to
see the upside of an #autisticbrain … I would have never learned about this without Luca. He’s expanding my knowledge and teaching me to appreciate the world through the often overlooked details. Thanks buddy.
"This is just a small example of how you follow their interests. I KNOW he’s going to talk about it at school (connection ✅), kids will ask questions and engage with him (social skills ✅), it will serve his sensory seeking needs (sensory diet ✅) and he’s happy ✅ 💙." @evol.evolution
Photo Credit: @evol.evolution
It is posts like these that led my mindset to totally shift from wanting to deter Andrew from his special interests to totally embracing them. FULLY LEANING INTO THEM. I used these interests to learn HIM and to learn what brought him joy. Andrew has moved from passion project to passion project. He started with trains, and then moved to letters and numbers, and onto space, and now all things Peppa Pig. We have built a million train tracks and tested a million different ways to create bridges. We have conducted 4,538 sink or float activities.
We create all of the word walls, and completed our assigned space projects (of which he provided a rubric and presentation
He teaches us something new every single day, but more than anything he teaches us to embrace the passions, embrace the interests, and embrace the lessons we learn. EMBRACE THE BUS!
Through research, I have learned what an asset these special interests are for people on the autism spectrum. We should not only allow them but encourage them to provide all of these amazing benefits to our children.
Photo Credit: @theexpertally
I hope that you will follow Wendy on her social media platforms, as well as check out her mission, EVOL. I have a hat from their line, and it is a favorite of mine, but also people are sure to ask what "EVOL" means, and it is an amazing way to open up the topic of flipping the script and changing the world's outlook through advocacy.
All my Love and Support,