21 Things I have Learned as an Autism Mom.

21 things Autism love

Taylor at two years old, loving on his baby brother.

My oldest son, Taylor, was two-years-old when he was diagnosed with autism. Sometimes this day seems like it was just yesterday, and other times it feels like it was a lifetime ago.

It’s hard to believe that in just a few short weeks, Taylor will be turning twenty-one. Twenty-one!

In spite of all the years, I still remember what an emotional mess I was upon hearing “autism.” Strangely, there was a sense of  relief that we now had a name for what was going on, but at the same time I was also angry and scared. I was angry, wondering how this could happen to such a perfect, innocent little soul but mostly, I was scared. Was Taylor going to be okay? What did this mean for us as a family? 

If I could go back in time and have a conversation with myself then, I would be able to take that fear away. I would tell twenty-five-year-old me that YES!, Taylor was going to be okay.

I have put together a list of a few things I wish I had known in those early years. Twenty-one things in fact, for twenty-one years.

    1. Miracles happen every day. You soon realize that the milestones of childhood are nothing to take for granted, and you will see them for the true miracles that they are.

      21 things Autism driving

      At 20 years old, Taylor was finally ready to learn how to drive.

    1. Talking is not the same as communicating. Taylor has shown us that we can say a lot to each other in many different ways. You don’t always need words.
    1. Expectations can lead to extreme disappointment. I really believed that Taylor would be having full conversations by the time he was six. I am not sure why I had that date in my head, but it was there. When that didn’t happen, I was devastated. This wasn’t Taylor’s fault, it was mine. Don’t do that to yourself or your child. It is not fair to either of you.
    1. Expectations can also limit.  During one IEP meeting, I told Taylor’s teachers to put no expectations on him. They looked at me strangely. I explained that if they only expect three word sentences from him, that was all they would get. Expect him to do more than you can imagine, and I promise you he will!21 things Autism horses
    1. There are a million ways to say “I love you” without saying the words “I love you.”21 things Autism love 2
    1. Some people are real jerks. 
    1. Most people are kind. The number of amazing and kind people who have come in and out of our lives are too numerous to count.
    1. Your friendships will change. Most of my friends did not understand and could not relate to what our life was like. Some of your friends will drift off because they just don’t know how to give you that support. It will hurt at the time, but it will be okay.
    1. You will begin new friendships. The friends you make will surpass any of the friendships you may have lost, and these friendships will be stronger. They will be family.
    1. Sometimes it can be lonely. Remember though, you are not alone. There are so many support groups of parents going through the same things you are. 
    1. It is okay to ask for help or advice. If it wasn’t for some of my friends literally holding my hand as I sat in IEP meetings, I don’t know what I would have done.
    1. Read everything you can find and talk to as many autism parents as possible.
    1. Don’t believe everything you read. Do your own research. Seek second and third and maybe fourth opinions. 21 things Autism dad
    1. Always trust your gut. You know your child better than anyone else.
    1. Just because you aren’t parenting the same way as someone else, it doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong.
    1. Your sense of humor will grow! Taylor makes us laugh every day.21 things Autism mom
    1. Calendars are your friend. Taylor relies on our calendar.  He likes to know what is ahead. He is not the spontaneous one.
    1. Be spontaneous. Sometimes it is good to do the unexpected. When Taylor was first diagnosed, I read all about how changing a routine could ruin their day. So, I constantly changed his routine up a little each day- not to ruin his day but to help him expect the unexpected. In 2004, our yearly beach trip had been on the calendar for months, but then Hurricane Ivan hit. Taylor took it hard, but he was able to handle our cancelled plans without a huge meltdown. 

      21 things Autism brothers

      With two younger brother, learning to step out of his routine was huge.

    1. Compassion and Acceptance. I can’t tell you how many lives Taylor has touched. How many parents he has giving hope to. How many kids have learned that different does not mean less. In his 21 years, he has changed the world more than I could ever hope to achieve in 1000 years.
    1. Patience. Things don’t happen on your timeline. Be okay with that and keep moving forward. 21 things Autism acceptance
  1. Happiness and Joy. Our life has been one adventure after another. It has been exciting and at times, stressful. There will be hard times and some tears ahead, but when I look back over these years, what I remember the most is the laughter, happiness and joy.

10 thoughts on “21 Things I have Learned as an Autism Mom.

  1. Donna says:

    I am raising my autistic grandson he will be 11 in March and he will go to middle school next year and I am terrified how did you do it? Thank you for sharing


    • Dawn South says:

      I was scared about middle school, too! That’s when kids get mean. Taylor was very lucky to have a few friends that kept an eye on him and stood up for him. I also stayed in constant contact with his teachers. His school teachers and I used his school agenda each day to stay in contact with each other about how his day went or if he had a bad morning, etc. Of course, now teachers use emails. The absolute best thing you can do is let his teachers know that you are their support at home and work together. You will do great!


  2. Marcia Hinds says:

    Dawn your blogs are so great and helping so many families! Thank you for all you do for our autism community and for making a difference for others who are still in the trenches and struggling!


  3. nothingtopuzzle says:

    Reading this post has made me come over all emotional. Every point on your list is so true, just so true! To me the most important one is #14! I have a 16 year old autistic son and relate to everything you have said here.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. DeAnna Gibson says:

    This is the encouragement and words I needed as a mom who was in the trenches this week. I have those worries of what the future will be like, and on the bad days it doesn’t look too good. This was a good reminder that, Lord willing, I will look back on all this and maybe say, “I should not have been so anxious about it.” Thanks so much! – DeAnna


    • Dawn South says:

      I know I have been in those trenches many times but the most important thing I do when it happens is remind myself not to stay there. I’m so happy my words were able to give you some encouragement. Thank you so much for reading.


  5. autismwithgrace says:

    Hi I’m so happy I found your blog. I am the mom of a 21 year old with high functioning autism and an 8 1/2 year old who is more severe. Your list gave me tons of encouragement. My 21 year old lives on her own, drives and works a full time job. I was told she would never do those things, She showed them!!


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