Autism, the word that changed my life as a mom forever. The word that makes me cry without any warning. The word that makes my little boy “different.” The word that has made me who I am today, a fighter.

I often get asked “how did you know?” and the only answer I have is that I didn’t. I remember the first time someone brought up the word autism to me, I went home, cried for three days and refused to believe that this could be the path that was laid out for us, for my perfect little boy.

Riley was about 17 months when we started to realize anything. He had words, baby words, like mom, nana, baba, up, the normal ones. All of sudden these disappeared. My little baby went completely silent, no words, no babble, nothing. This was the biggest warning sign to us. As a mom you don’t want to believe it, but it happened and there was no getting away from it.

Looking back now there were other warning signs, I just didn’t know what they were. He never waved bye bye, he never clapped his hands, his eye contact was bad, he hated big crowds and he was so so sensitive to lights and loud noises. All of them could be seen as red flags. I just did not know. Does this make me feel guilty? Of course it does. As a mom you are meant to know these things, you are meant to protect your child.

After a long, and draining assessment process, Riley was diagnosed in June 2016, aged 2 years and 9 months. I remember that day, they sat us down and told us he definitely had autism. I didn’t cry. I simply said, “I know.” Because at that stage I had accepted it, and I knew I had to fight for him. I could let this break me down, or make me stronger, for him. That’s not to say I didn’t cry, because I did. It is so hard to accept that your child has special needs. As a mom the fear kicks in, how will their life be? How will they be treated? Will they be bullied? How can I help him? These questions can really break you down as a person, because you never find the answers. I must have cried a million tears for him, not because I was ashamed, because I did not want his life to be hard.

The hardest part for me, as a mom, is how other people react to Riley. I have had parents pull their kids away from him. He has been left out of play dates. People will ignore him, because he cannot talk. People definitely treat him differently. This is heartbreaking. The main reason I see for this is, they simply don’t understand. This is why I love the innocence of a child. Children do not see the difference, they just want to play. Adults, however, do see the differences and sometimes their ignorance is what hurts the most. They are teaching their children to treat my little boy differently. This should not be the case. He is a 3 year old little boy. Yes, he cannot speak, yes he has a lot of sensory problems, yes he stims, but he should be treated as an equal.

I wish all parents understood, and taught their children that children with special needs are just like them, they are just different, and different is good. My little boy is just like theirs, he loves to dance, he loves to play, he loves chocolate and he is the best thing that ever happened to me.

Being an autism mom is hard work, there is no break. But would I change him for the world? Definitely not. He is still my perfect little boy. Yes I wish I could make his life easier and stop the challenges that are put in his way, but I cannot do this. So the only thing I can do is stand there next to him and help him to battle through. I know he is going to be amazing. Even more amazing than he is right now, and that is pretty amazing.

There were times when I wished I could change the world for him and make it a better place to live in. But I have realized is what we need to do is teach people. Help them to understand my little superhero and they will realize just how fantastic he is. Then they will realize that Autism is not a bad thing, Autism is an amazing thing. A thing that now fascinates me beyond belief. A thing that I still learn about and will continue to learn about. Autism is now our life. A life filled with therapy appointments, sensory toys, regulation, and a whole lot of love.

Hi, I am Nicole and I am proud to be an autism mom.