A Letter To Autism

2013-02-09 11.05.55

Dear Autism,

Although we were only formally introduced to one another six years ago, we have really known each other for longer than that. I didn’t realize it at the time, but you came into my life 9 years, 7 months and 4 days ago, on the day of my son’s birth.

You were there throughout his infancy, staying up with me during the late-night feedings and diaper changes, looking over my shoulder as I tried to figure out what was making him cry, and watching as I tentatively navigated those uncertain months of new motherhood.

You were there during his toddler years, and it was then that you really started to make your presence more obvious. You guided those tiny little hands of his as he repeatedly spun the wheels of toy cars without actually playing with them. You got him interested in that piece of string that he spent hours and hours examining. You choked his language skills and made sure he wouldn’t be interested in playing with other kids.

I didn’t know your name yet, but I knew you were there. I felt as if you wanted my beautiful boy all to yourself. You didn’t even want to share him with me. I hated you and felt threatened by you.

On the day the doctor told me your name, I cried. The doctor said that you would have control of my son forever, that he would never be able to achieve anything because of you. Hearing that broke my heart.

When I was done crying, I made a decision. I was not going to let you win. I was not going to let you ruin my son’s chances to have the best life possible. I knew that I would not be able to get rid of you, though. So we were going to have to learn to live with each other, you and I. Maybe we would even have to become friends.

And so, instead of trying to beat you down, I tried to find ways to work with you. You weren’t going to let my son learn in the ways that other kids learn, so I found people who would teach him in ways that you would like. You weren’t going to make it easy for him to talk, so I had to start at grass-roots level and show him ways to communicate in your presence, in ways that you would allow. You didn’t want him to enjoy playing with other kids his age, so me and my family became his playmates, teaching him how to play without letting you take the fun out of it.

As we have gone through all of this together, you and I, I have made the most astounding discovery. There are actually things about you that I like. You have accelerated the development of whatever part of my son’s brain is responsible for math. In blocking those quote-unquote “normal” ways of thinking, you have opened up his mind to thinking in ways that are unique and incredible. You have given him the ability to single-mindedly focus on a task until it is done just the way he wants it. Because of you, my son is determined and hard-working, and does not believe in giving up.

Best of all, you have touched my beautiful child with his own special brand of magic. He has an innocence and pureness of spirit that makes him light up the space around him. Because you make him think in such a unique way, he has a quirky sense of humour that brightens up the lives of those who are near him. He has a fierce love for me, for his dad, and for his little brother.

You have given me a special gift as well. You have taught me how to appreciate the little things. Every word, every sentence, every little baby-step of progress is a cause for celebration. I have learned how to be happy in the most adverse circumstances.

I cannot go far enough to say that I like you, Autism. But without a doubt, there are things that I respect about you, and while you have made my life so hard and heartbreaking in many ways, you have enriched it in other ways.

I have come to terms with the fact that you will always be there, and I think by now you know that I’m not going anywhere, and I am not letting you get the better of my son. I like to think that for the most part, we can peacefully coexist. There are undoubtedly days when you win, and there always will be.

But you will never stop my son, because he is unstoppable, and because he has a family who will fight for him tooth and nail, every step of the way.

Yours truly,

George’s Warrior Mom

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)


  1. You are amazing and you made me cry (again). Love you. xx

  2. Great article Kirsten – This helps me rethink mine and Bill’s situation – We will grab all the good days we can get!

    • Kirsten says:

      Noella, I think and Bill are both facing your situation with admirable courage. It really does help to grab onto those good days, and come back to them when things get tough. I am thinking of you always.

  3. What Karyn said … “snot en trane” again!

    A beautiful sentiment beautifully written.

    I truly love & admire you, Kirsten. xoxo

  4. Out of grief (the loss of what we expected) comes good. It doesn’t mean you like the thing that caused the grief. It means you don’t let it win. What a beautifully written letter/post.

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