When I write about Nate, and our experiences raising Nate, I’m keenly aware that we don’t have a story that all can share equally. Perhaps among parents with hyperlexic children we resonate most fully, but autism unfolds over a very wide range, and what has happened to Nate, what has worked for us in dealing with Nate, may mean zero to another struggling parent.
The Autism Support Network frequently reposts Mission of Complex entries on their Facebook page and via weekly email newsletters. Four days ago they put up a story about Nate’s struggles for independence. As of this moment, 137 people have liked it, and 16 commented. One person said, “At least Nate can talk.” I’ve been thinking a lot about that this week.
I wasn’t sure how to take the comment. Was it a “count your blessings it could be worse” message? Was it a “stop complaining, you have no idea how tough things can be” salvo? Was it meant to be snarky or was it a sad message from a struggling parent? Maybe, to some, we’ve got it easy, that we think we’ve had a tough go of it, but, really, compared to their situation, our lives are cake. I don’t know.
Karen and I have friends with a non-verbal child and I can see the difference between him and Nate at the same age, but we all struggle in our own ways. What having Nate has done for us as parents is shown us that there are a variety of roads to “normal” and that it becomes impossible to pass judgment on other people. No one has any idea what another is going through. All you can do is be kind always and helpful as much as possible. Working with Nate has made me a better person.
Mission of Complex is about telling stories, revealing truths as I’ve seen them, sharing laughs and, just maybe, giving some hope to parents who don’t see any in the moment. Regardless of the individual situation, we’re all doing the best we can with what we’re given, and swapping stories, both the joyful and demoralizing, can only help us all feel a bit less alone.
And, right this second, while Nate sits to my left, both talking and making noises he himself refers to as autistic, to my right the sun is shining.