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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.