My son Stalen was diagnosed on the autism spectrum when he was 22 months old. He is now almost 6 and non-verbal. He is also amazing!

Here are 5 things that I’ve learned from this journey that I want to share:

1. Autism is neurological. It is not physical or intellectual. There is no look to being autistic. Autistic individuals are quite intelligent and capable. They just see the world differently than we do.

2. There is no right or wrong way to perform a task, or reach a desired goal or outcome. Instead, there are many ways. My son may communicate differently than you with the support of a device but he is just as capable. He may also require additional supports but that does not affect his worth or value as a human being. If nothing else, it shows his immeasurable determination and fight, please don’t try to stand in front of that.

3. My son wants to be accepted, loved, and included just like everyone else. He wants to be active and involved in the community free from judgment and discrimination. He needs to be himself, free from consequence. Please don’t invite him to the table and expect him to be like everyone else.

4. Meltdowns are not tantrums. Meltdowns are not a sign of always getting one’s way. Meltdowns are hard moments, signs of an individual trying to cope with an overwhelming world. Please be kind. Please don’t stare. Please don’t judge what you may not understand.

5. Autism is just one of the many pieces that contribute to the make-up of my amazing son. It does not solely define him as a person or define his life. There is no formula for a life well-lived.

Every day we choose to define our lives through embracing differences, kindness, understanding, unconditional love, adventure, laughter, hope and faith.

We share our story to inspire, educate and make this world a better place for not just Stalen but for so many others as well.

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