An Open Letter to My Son with AutismLisa Quinones-Fontanez
My 7-year-old son Norrin has autism.
When he was first diagnosed, autism wasn’t obvious. At 2 years old, no one questioned why he didn’t speak or couldn’t sit still.
The older Norrin gets, the more he stands out. People wonder why I clutch his wrist while walking. Kids stare when he flaps his hands.
Norrin doesn’t notice these things. To my knowledge, he doesn’t know that he’s different. If I’m lucky, he never will. But I notice. And I realize he will probably be known in the neighborhood as the “weird kid.”
Reading 10 Things I Learned From Being The Weird Kid made me think about Norrin. I know that his life won’t be easy, that he may be lonely, that he’ll need to develop a thick skin and that he’ll need to be self-aware of his behaviors. But I don’t want him to grow up thinking his quirks are a curse. I don’t want him to learn to accept them, I want him to embrace them right from the start. This is what I want him to know.
When I was a kid, I struggled to fit in. I spent so much time trying to be like everyone else because I believed I was not good enough. What I learned was, trying to be someone else never works. It took me years to accept who I was and feel comfortable enough to forge my own identity.
I don’t want that for you. I want you to own who you are.
I think you’re awesome. And I’m not just saying that because I’m your mom. I’m saying it because it’s true. I’m saying it because, growing up, I wish my mom would have told me how awesome I was.
Maybe you wonder why you don’t go to the local public school. Maybe you feel different from the other boys in the neighborhood. Maybe you feel left out. Or maybe you’ve noticed kids staring or laughing. Whenever you feel any of these things, I want you to remember this:
Everyone is different. No one looks the same, so why should everyone act the same. Everyone learns differently and at their own pace. Everyone likes different things. Being different doesn’t make you less. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If kids laugh, let them. If they stare, who cares. I want you to have the confidence to walk away. I want you to walk away knowing that you are awesome.
Quirky is cool. I’m not going to lie, there are things you do that I don’t quite understand. I don’t understand your fascination with logos. I don’t get why you like watching the opening or ending credits of a movie. I don’t have to understand the why to appreciate that you like them. You’ve taught me to look at things differently. Your interests may seem a bit quirky, but that’s what makes you stand out from the crowd. Some kids like baseball cards, you like logos. And you have other interests like cars, Star Wars and comic books — all super cool things. Seek out people who like what you like. You will be cool to them.
There is no one else like you. We named you after our favorite heroes. Your name is unique — just like you. Even before you were born, we knew you were going to be special. I always want you to feel comfortable being yourself.
Most of all, I want you to remember that you are loved. There will be people in this world who won’t take the time to understand you. Don’t worry about them. Focus on the people who love and accept you just as you are. There are people who love all of your quirks and the little things that make you different. The people who love you are the only people that matter.