A Love Letter to My Autistic Son

Valentine’s Day brings up many feelings of love, care and concern for family, especially when you have a child with autism. My son, Jack, was diagnosed with high functioning autism spectrum disorder when he was five years old. Since then, we’ve had a roller coaster ride of emotions and experiences. This month is no different, as he was asked to present a poem in front of his second-grade classroom. He was terrified. He delayed selection of his poem. He wrote the words, “I’m Scared” on the submission form. He feared kids would look at him funny, despite him being an avid reader. So, what can you do to help your child, who is fully capable, to work through their fear?

While most eight-year old children are nervous about talking in front of their classmates, a child with autism experiences a heightened state of fear and anxiety. I started to help him by writing him a letter…

Dear Jack,
For Valentine’s Day, a card and candy just won’t do. I want you to know how special you are to me and what I see in you.
I see a smart boy.
I see a joke teller.
I see a brave boy.
I see a fact teller.
I see a kind boy.
I see a great storyteller.
With hugs and kisses, I give you all my love and greatest wishes.
Stand tall sweet boy. Share your gifts for all to see.
For all you do and how great you will be, I’m so happy you share it all with me.

The International Society for Autism Research recently conducted a study to measure fear and anxiety in children with autism. The research found that children with autism can display “muted fear response” when confronted with something that scares them. While traditional belief is that someone with autism displays no or little emotional response, the reality is that they feel deeply and likely more than we know.

While my son can now express his emotions, it was a journey through ABA, occupational and speech therapy for him to be able to constructively share his feelings. Our next step is to encourage him to share his gifts in front of his peers. I cannot wait to see what he accomplishes next.

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