An Open Letter to Autism: Hit Me With Your Best Shot

Dear Autism,

You entered our lives about 5 years ago, and, like a thief in the night, you robbed us of everything.

You stole all of our plans for our precious baby boy. The school he would attend, the vacations, friends, the possibility of a girlfriend, prom, college… everything all in one diagnosis– gone.

You’ve wreaked havoc on us with the endless screaming, the pulling of hair, the biting, the sleepless nights and the constant worry. All of the “if,” “when,” “buts,” and “whys.”

What if he never talks?

When will he show signs of progress?

But what if I’m not strong enough for this?

Why him?

There is no doubt in my mind that I would lay my life down tomorrow, just for my son to have an equal shot at life. Not even a head start, but just an equal shot at the everyday things most people take for granted. I would make that deal in a second, and never think twice. But that would be for his sake, not for mine.

My heart breaks every time I see him struggle. Why him? It’s just so damn unfair.

Autism, you have been the worst and best thing to have ever happened to me. While what you stole can never be adequately put into words, what you weren’t counting on is that through the struggle I gained strength.

You taught me you’re not a life sentence, but you are life-changing. I’m a kinder person because of you. I’m a more patient person because of you. I’m a more compassionate person because of you. I don’t get caught up in “What will people think,” because of you. I take absolutely nothing for granted because of you. I celebrate each little victory because of you. I laugh more because of you. I’m more thankful because of you.

I’m stronger, autism, and it’s all because of you.

Autism, 5 years ago you may have crushed me, but you did not destroy me. You put up a fight each and every damn day, and some days you come out the victor.

But the fact of the matter is this — A man’s strength isn’t proven by how many punches he can throw. It’s proven by how many punches he can take.

While I may not know when or where your next punch is coming from, I do know this…

I’m still here.

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April Shaw
April Shaw is a 40-year-old single mother. She has one daughter who is 21 years old and in college. Her son, whois 8, was diagnosed with classic Autism two days after his second birthday. He is classified as non-verbal (he can speak some, but minimally) and uses an iPad for most of his communication. He attends a school for children with autism. We live in Mobile, Alabama.