What Autism Looks Like to Me

One of the things I hear the most is “Preston doesn’t look like he has autism.”  I have a love/hate feeling about that statement.
I love it because I’ve seen the achievements my son has made with the decrease in impulsive behaviors.
I hate it because I don’t believe autism has signature “look”.
Raising a child with autism is challenging, but I don’t see a diagnosis when I look at my son.  I see a happy, playful, passionate child when I look at Preston.  I see the joy from life’s most simple things.  I see the way his face lights up when he sees his favorite superhero, Iron Man. 
I see a young boy who desires to have the best in life with unique plans to achieve his goals.  He has a smile that will make any room appear brighter.  I see determination and perseverance to do well. Once he sets his mind to do something, he will do his best to complete the task.
I see the love he has for others.  I see how he enjoys entertaining people. I remember a time when he gave an impromptu performance of Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” in a store. Many walked by, but a few stopped (he earned a few dollars, too).  I see my son for the awesome young man that he is.  I’ve watched my son speak at funerals of our loved ones.  He can capture the hearts(and ears) of anyone in his presence.  He will definitely continue to leave a lasting impression on people.
Sadly, I see the pain as well. I see anguish when he attempts to associate with his peers and the other kids laugh at him or look at him strange.  I see the frustration of not fitting into the “normal” box.  There is anger when some relatives treat him unfairly or in an inimical way.  I see the looks we’ve gotten from adults when he has a meltdown. 
I see the smirks and stares when he yells and screams from sensory overloads.  If I had it my way, I would protect him from all of that, but I can’t.  I have to teach him to be strong because there will always be obstacles.  Already, he has overcome many of them.
I see a fighter.  Preston has decided to embrace having autism.  He wants to help others diagnosed and to raise awareness.  I admire his courage!  I love that he is able to embrace his challenges with the ability to still dream and strive for greatness.
Preston, like others, is more than a child diagnosed with autism.  He is a person who sees the world with special lenses.  I see God’s miracle EVERY time I look at him.  He’s a gentle giant.
People with autism aren’t slow, stupid, or dumb.  Yes, social cues can be difficult for them to pick up on, but they want to engage with others.  They, at many times, don’t know how.  They have feelings just like any other human being.  They deserve respect and to be treated with dignity.  Being different is the new normal in our world.
I simply wish that others will not see autism as a label…
LOVE is what I see…