My Son has Autism and It's Time to Start Talking About It

man and woman talking with speech bubbles

This past weekend I went to the first big family event I’ve been to in years, probably even close to a decade. For those of you who follow along and are doing the math, a decade ago my son, Jacob, who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, was about a year old.

It was about the same time I became a single mom to both him and his older sister. It’s about the same time I dropped under the family radar. And it’s about the time I should have started talking about it and I didn’t.

All these years I’ve let other people who think they know what my life is and has been to speak for me because I was too overwhelmed to find a way to do it myself. It’s not that I didn’t want to say anything, it’s that life kept getting in the way.

This weekend my son didn’t come with me. None of the kids came, actually, and I’m okay with that. Because this isn’t the same thing as not being able to have my son at my wedding when I remarried when he was just three and wasn’t yet diagnosed properly and wouldn’t let anyone else take care of him if I was around. No, that was different.

That was heartbreaking. That was like having to choose between breathing and eating, an impossible choice. That was a choice I relive every time I look at my wedding pictures and see that he’s not there.

He doesn’t remember not being there, but my husband and I will never forget it. We’ll never be entirely free of the guilt of that decision. It’s the same guilt I feel every time I think about having to let Jacob go to a residential program for almost 100 days when he was nine. Both of those decisions were the right ones to make, but they don’t feel right.

And one of the things I realized I have to do for them to start feeling a little more right is to start talking about it. I thought I had been talking about it, but I guess I haven’t. I discovered the other day that my cousin doesn’t know Jacob has autism.

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