Two People with Different Perspectives

Every good parent approaches their child from a position of love and acceptance. And among parents, there are many similarities that we can all appreciate and laugh about over coffee.

But here are 22 things only a parent of an autistic child can appreciate. And there better be a lot more coffee.

1. Your school information binder is like a Russian nesting doll of accordion binders stuffed inside other accordion binders. They’re all full.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

2. The only time your kids want to use the bathroom voluntarily is when you're in it.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

3. “You may not lie on top of the dog” is a thing you must tell your children before visiting friends.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

4. You devise a strategic plan (escape routes, backup plan, support troops, and supplies) for a trip to the grocery store.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

5. You can’t keep them from drinking the bathwater, and you can’t get them to drink their milk.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

6. Attorneys have you on speed dial as a special education law expert.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

7. Friends’ visits to your home are met with FCC-style content warnings for partial nudity and profanity.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

8. The thought, “The next person who suggests a sticker chart will be forced to eat said sticker chart” has occurred to you more than once.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

9. You purchase a battery backup, surge protection, and automatic inline generator so that the Wi-Fi will never, ever go down.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

10. Your grocery list is mostly just a rotating list of optional items that supplement the five essentials: coffee, wine, bacon, chicken nuggets, and french fries.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

11. The answer to 25 consecutive questions is unbelievably the same each time. Because the question is the exact same question 25 times in a row.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

12. You learn new and complicated directions to otherwise convenient stores for the sole purpose of avoiding being in sight of a McDonald’s.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

13. The school’s report that your child said, “f*ck that noise” in class gets put on the refrigerator because they used it appropriately.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

14. The only way to make your kid feel comfortable when you are driving is to make left turns only.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

15. You don't ever have to set your alarm clock because 4:30 a.m. is wakeup time. Every day. For the rest of your life.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

16. You’ve heard of sleep from stories your friends have shared, but you suspect they’re making it up.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

17. During a given 180-day school year, you pack the same lunch all 180 days.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

18. Grilled cheese sandwiches not cut in perfect 45-degree angles are “broken” and must be remade, because anything imperfect is not OK.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

19. You live in fear of the day you can’t fit them in their favorite shopping cart racecar.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

20. You avoid autism politics talk at all costs because you know you need to save all your energy for your kids’ needs.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

21. Regardless of the time of day, two-step instructions invariably start with, “First we put on our pants…”

things only parents of autistic kids understand

22. No one else will ever understand how awesome your kid really is.

things only parents of autistic kids understand

A note from the author

There is a debate in many disability communities over the proper way to refer to members of that community. It’s called the “person-first/identity-first” argument. In the autism community in particular, some people say that referring to a member as “autistic” is right, while other people say that referring to a member as “person with autism” is right.

For the purposes of this article, I used the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) preferred usage, which is autistic. My personal take on the issue applies the following hierarchy to my decision:

  1. how my daughter wishes to be identified
  2. how people and groups, like the ASAN, prefer my daughter be identified
  3. my own opinion
  4. the opinions of other caregivers of people like my daughter

Ultimately, it’s my belief that there is no “correct” usage if the rationale for choosing it is well-considered, researched, and comes from a place of love and respect. And I hope you’re not offended by my use of “autistic” in the article. It comes from a place of love and respect for my daughter and for people like my daughter. It’s well-considered, well-researched, and supported by the ASAN.

Jim Walter