The Privilege of Autism

Here a few on the list:- Clean sheets billowing over bed


-The smell of a good book


– Lights out and everyone tucked in


– Hot showers


– A dent from my son’s fist on my car


What?! Why would I give thanks for a dent on my (just paid for, title in my name) creamy white mini-van? I named her Vanna White. She’s a classy gal. She can hold her own on our gravel road. She can rail with the best winding through mountain roads. She gets me from point A to point B, serenading through speakers, the likes of Alison Krauss, Vonda Shepherd, James Taylor, Al Green and Molly Hatchet. Vanna’s taste in music is eclectic to say the least.


A long time ago, I reckoned with the reality of taking the good with the bad. There is no joy without sorrow. No peace, without chaos.


I’ve even got as far as feeling blessed to parent a special needs child. Now an adult.


It no longer feels patronizing when a well- meaning stranger says, “It takes a special parent to parent a special needs child. God knows who can handle it.”




It has happened to me more than once.


I enter a public restroom. I hear a mother behind a closed stall. I see two pairs of shoes shuffling near the toilet. One pair is a utilitarian flat set of mules, in brown. The other is sneakers, in youth size. She speaks matter of fact, struggling to sound calm, “It’s ok. It flushes like the one at home. Here….see…just cover your ears. Then it won’t be too loud.”


The latch slides as they proceed to the sink.


Mom turns the faucet and maneuvers her daughter’s hands under the water. Daughter’s eyes are fixed on the chrome—its shiny mirror. Daughter repeats the same word, “Loud, loud, loud.” Mom is bent over. The burden of life, obvious in age spots and veiny tendons in her hands. Her voice belies the chore. The creases around her eyes match a soft etching around her curved mouth. She trudges on in love for her daughter.


I can tell this time that it’s ok to greet them and empathize. I offer, “My son is autistic. I hope you have a good day.” She obliges, as I thought she would, “God Bless You,” she says—smiling.


Another time we are at Disney World, in the gift shop that empties out of Space Mountain. A young mom carries her stiff ten year old past Buzz Light Year toys. He is rigid and non-compliant. She is harried and frustrated. I know that look. I feel the hopelessness. This time is not a good one to speak. I just smile and pray silently for them.


This summer, my son was angry. He punched my fender. At first I was mad. One more thing to fix—another reason to spend money.


I calm down. Grace breaks through. Peace speaks to the beating of my blood pressure.


I am privileged.


I am grateful.


I recognize the seriousness of the situation. The emotional welfare of my son is at stake here.


I can do something about this.


We line up counseling. We talk over it. We pray over it.


We realize it can be worse.


We are glad it’s not.


The privilege is mine.


A fistful dent makes me thankful that I got to kiss that fist when it first clenched out of my womb. I washed that fist when it scraped the driveway from a bike fall. I lace my fingers through that fist when I teach him to dance in the kitchen.


I bandage that fist when he beats the punching bag, instead of my car.


I decide to leave the dent. It’s not important.


I am privileged.


I am thankful.


I am his Mom.

By: Susan Anderson

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