I am "Mommy" to two little boys, Finley and Colin. Colin has autism. While autism doesn't define him, it has affected me in ways that I didn't know were possible.
A while back, I was explaining how Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) had been so beneficial for Colin. I gushed about his progress and my hopes for the future. I shared that our family life had greatly improved because of the intervention he was receiving. I said that I wish all children had access to ABA.
This person looked at me and said, "Are you gonna be one of "those" parents someday?"
Sir, I am one of those parents...
...and I'm not sorry about it.
I've grown as a person and as a mom, and while I am sorry, it's for different reasons:
- I'm sorry that the world isn't always welcoming to those who are different.
- I'm sorry that me fighting for my son is considered a nuisance to others.
- I'm sorry that I even have to fight for my son to get the things he needs in order to be successful in this life.
- I'm sorry that there are people out there who believe he deserves less than the best.
- I'm sorry that not everyone has the access to treatments and resources that they need, requiring me to fight for said access.
- I'm sorry that "advocacy" is seen as a "bad word" to people outside of the special needs community.
- I'm sorry that others don't see the need for change that so many of us are desperately striving to achieve.
If your child needed something, regardless of a diagnosis, wouldn't you speak up for them? The problem is, when your child has autism like mine does, I'm left speaking up a lot more often...and I'm sorry some people have a problem with that.
"Mom" carries with it so many monumental responsibilities - one of those being "make sure your child has what they need." I am Colin's voice, and it is my duty to speak up when necessary. I know that this will give me a new title: "that mom." ...and you know what? I'm okay with that, because to me, "that mom" means you're about to encounter a Mama Bear who loves her child enough to fight for him.
This might embarrass him someday, I don't know for sure. This might earn me a reputation around town that most don't want to deal with...but I hope not.
I hope that my outspokenness and willingness to advocate for my child, and others like him, will spark big change. I hope that my actions inspire others to step out and be heard. I hope that my words and actions aren't in vain, and Colin gets to grow up feeling loved and respected for who he is. Most of all, I hope that Colin grows up knowing that his mom was "that mom" because she loved him fiercely and only wanted the very best for him.
So if you are also "that mom," then congratulations for doing the most you can to support your child. Good luck as you continue on your autism journey. I am honored to be a part of this tribe with you!