Johnny was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 3. He’s a very friendly dude. You will only need to introduce yourself once and he will always remember you. He enjoys people but also loves his alone time. I’ve always noticed he chooses his favorite people and how his taste is impeccable. There are no age preferences. He chooses beautiful personalities from our 80 year old grandpa to my friends 3 year old Jude, and every age in between. I always know the wheels are turning in that mind of his and slowly but surely I get to hear it more and more vocalized with age.  How my heart skips a beat with the simplest of expression is unexplainable. It could be through laughter, tears, acknowledgement or a simple act or statement. Things we typically take for granted can be huge, although I cannot jump around, yell, clap or show how enthusiastic and proud I am - he just never dug that (lol). Actually he hates it. So I celebrate inside.

We’ve struggled with so many things over the years, from hitting, biting, kicking, screaming, yelling, throwing, spitting etc. I’ve been told he’s called his teacher a “poop head”, told aids to shut up, or holds a grudge and attacks a student or aid when nobody expects. He’s let people know they are big (overweight) and once smiled at a little person, pointed and said “Look a small man”! In my experiences, embarrassing situations that once mortified me, have become “no big deal” anymore as a special needs parent. He goes through so many stages of maturity and different situations and challenges come up, but that’s life and we try to deal with it one day at a time. Although I wonder or sometimes worry about future obstacles, I can’t dwell on them.

I marvel at Johnny’s last 9 years of progress, so I tell myself, who knows what the next 9 will bring us. I always aim high and know that he will exceed my expectations. He surprises me daily. He’s a great little artist and loves music, phones, video games, his razor scooter, roller skating, swimming, climbing, bike riding etc. People always think because he has Autism he will have a special, extraordinary talent or gift he’s mastered in the form of Art, Math, Music etc. Well he hasn’t found his yet. Not to say he won’t, but contrary to popular belief, not every person with Autism is a Rain Man. One of my favorite sayings is “If you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism”. They are all so different and unique, just as all of us neuro-typical people are out there. They come with quirks, but then again don’t we all?

My hope for the future is people become more educated on the basic characteristics of people with Autism and show patience, understanding and human kindness so they can thrive in society. Our kids can contribute so much to life when given a chance. They’re ability to focus on things that interest them would provide companies an unmatched work ethic from the most menial of jobs to the most technical or difficult and everything in between. They are so pure of heart and speak nothing but truth. To some it’s a weakness but to me it’s a gift. We could all better ourselves by learning from them. My son is a warrior and the hardest working guy I know. Johnny also has a little sister Marlow, who is so full of life and love. Just as much as our kids with Autism are warriors, I feel siblings of children with Autism are too. The love and support of each other is so life changing and gives them such a different outlook on life with acceptance and understanding. I didn’t have this outlook on life  until much later, being so oblivious of the special needs world. It has changed me forever in the best way.


If I was granted one wish it would be for both my children to live a fulfilled, happy life, always being there for one another and to know my job as their mom was done well.

WarriorsAngela Wingard