Let me tell you a story about a boy.
This boy, he is like no other boy.
Oh, he wants to be! He wants to be like you and me and everyone else.
But he is not.
Sometimes this makes him sad.
Other times he doesn’t seem to care.
It’s hard to know, really.
Some boys love baseball and swimming and laser tag and rough housing across the floor.
This boy does not.
He loves grocery shopping, and whispering long hushed secrets to his dog.
He does not like when people touch him too much.
He no longer swims in the lake or the ocean or the pool. He says the water is too dirty.
He does like to paddle board, though.
Some boys go to birthday parties or to the movies with their friends or spend the night at each other’s houses.
This boy does not.
He has not been invited to a party in almost ten years.
It doesn’t really matter. He wouldn’t go anyway.
He does love the movies, though. He goes with his mother and sometimes his brother who can drive a car. He prints out the tickets days in advance. He takes a paper clip from his father’s desk and carefully clips the papers all together.
Then, he maps out the best route and decides the best time to leave so the stop lights will be green and there is no traffic.
All this, for a theater he has been to perhaps six dozen times.
A theater that is five-point-two miles from his house.
This boy, he takes something that might bring the smallest spark of joy, and he dismantles it until it’s nothing but a pile of kindling.
And if this doesn’t break your heart into a million pieces, well, probably nothing will.
Some may argue the dismantling is the joy, that this boy takes as much pleasure in the mapping and the printing and the paperclips as the event itself.
It’s hard to know, really.
Most boys go for a check-up once a year and the doctor talks to them discreetly about puberty and the changes in their bodies and all of that.
He is like no one else in this whole wide world.
This is both a blessing, and a curse.
It is a blessing because he is special and good and he teaches people things like how to accept what is different and to keep an open mind when you see a kid screaming in the mall.
Yet, the curse is his everlasting loneliness. It is the isolation bestowed by Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Have you ever felt lonely?
Have you ever felt there was no one else like you in the whole wide world?
He feels this way every single day.
This boy with his autism and his maps and his movie tickets clutched tightly in his hands.
Autism is many, many things.
It is a number.
It is a one in fifty-nine chance of a child who will, have a, quote, “Condition related to brain development that impacts how a person perceives and socializes with others, causing problems in social interaction and communication. The disorder also includes limited and repetitive patterns of behavior.”
But that’s just the black-and-white-no-shades-of-grey version.
In real, every day life, autism is nails screeching across the social chalkboard—awkward conversations and blurted comments and jumping and hopping and lining up toy trains all in a row.
Like a shadow dancing across the wall at dusk, autism is ever-changing. It does not, for one single second, stand static or still.
It is a boy.
A boy who was born on a Mother’s Sunday—who squirmed and fussed and cried for the first year of his life.
Now, fifteen years later he loves avocados, and ice cream, and hot dogs.
This boy, he chases his dreams.
He dreams of owning a car and becoming a record producer and maybe living n Los Angeles.
He is determined to have these things for himself.
Nothing will hold him back.
Everything will hold him back.
Stereotypes, written tests, orange-cone-detours, traffic.
Job interviewers who are in a rush and don’t have the patience to listen while he searches for answers.
Managers who won’t give him a chance.
Please, give him a chance.
Most boys have a moment where they shine.
Awards ceremonies, solos on stage, pinning a sweet corsage on a giggly girl.
Where is his moment?
What if he never has a moment?
Everyone needs a moment.
Behind this boy, there is a mother.
This mother, she is is chasing his dreams right alongside him.
She gets out of breath sometimes, with all of the chasing. It makes her tired.
See, while she is running and chasing, she is also talking and explaining.
She is telling people about this boy’s autism and his anxiety and the avocados and the loneliness.
She had to register him the other day, with the local police department. She had to do this in case he ran away from her because he was scared mad fight flight like a bird. Never in a hundred thousand years did she think parenting a child with autism would bring her to this point.
She is determined.
She will leave nothing unsaid.
She doesn’t know how to be in this world without hurting for him. Tell her. Tell her how to be alive in this world and not hurt for the boy born on Mother’s Day.
Tell her you will listen for his words.
Tell her she can relax. For just one single second of the day, she can relax, because you have heard all she has to say.
She believes in him.
That is the thing.
She believes in him the way she believes the sun will rise in the morning and set again at night.
She will make sure he has a moment.
She just isn’t sure how quite yet.
She isn’t sure how far he’ll go, or where he’ll live, or if he’ll ever try a bite of yogurt.
She does know one thing, though.
His place in this world is infinitely gorgeous.