My Autistic Son Has Changed The Way I View The World. Here’s How

Tinuke Awe and her sonTinuke Awe and her son

When my son was a baby, he had the biggest, brightest eyes and a smile that would capture the whole room.

He hit most of his milestones on time and I didn’t start to worry about his development until around 18 months, when he still wasn’t babbling or saying any words.

I was met with a lot of comments like “boys develop slower” and “just give him some time” but deep down in my gut I knew he was different.

So I didn’t take the ‘wait and see’ approach. I sought support from speech and language services just before he turned two, and from there we were referred to a paediatrician who eventually diagnosed him with autism when he was three-and-a-half.

I had a lot of questions. What if he never speaks? Will he ever make friends? Will he find love? What will happen when I’m gone? 

I only knew a little bit about autism before his diagnosis. We had a family friend who had an autistic son when I was growing up. Back then, all I knew was that he didn’t speak much and needed a lot of support.

In those days, autism wasn’t spoken about as much as it is now – especially not in my community due to the stigma and shame associated with it.

After his diagnosis, I threw myself into absolutely everything to do with autism. I wanted to understand it all, understand my son and how to support him better, while also helping people in my community understand it’s not a bad or negative thing – it’s just that his brain is wired differently.

While raising my son, who is now five, and acknowledging and embracing his differences, I have noticed that the way I view the world and certain things around me has changed too. Here’s how.

I’ve learned to communicate beyond words

My son’s nonverbal communication has taught me that love and connection can exist beyond words. I used to think that communication solely involved language and words, but my son has shown me it can also come in the form of gestures, expressions and body language.

His lack of verbal language does not mean he doesn’t communicate or feel emotions, he just does so differently.

His hugs, smiles and eye contact speak volumes to me, and I have learned to listen to his nonverbal cues and respond accordingly.

It’s influenced my relationships with others as well. I have become more attuned to nonverbal communication in general, and I am better able to understand people’s feelings and needs even when they don’t say anything.

I have also learned to express my own emotions more clearly through my body language and facial expressions, as I now understand that communication is a two-way street, and that’s really helped in my relationships and friendships.

I’ve learned to slow down and be truly present

My son’s ability to focus intensely on a particular task or object has taught me to slow down and pay attention to the small things. His ability to focus intensely on a particular task or object is truly inspiring.

Whether he’s examining a bug or building a tower out of blocks, he’s completely absorbed in the moment. Watching him has made me realise the true value of being fully present in the moment.

Being present is a difficult skill to master in our fast-paced world. We’re constantly multitasking, checking our phones, and planning for the future.

But when we’re truly present, we can experience the beauty and joy in even the most mundane tasks. We can appreciate the intricate details of the world around us and find peace in the simplicity of the moment.

So now, thanks to my son’s example, I try to be more mindful and present in my own life. I take the time to really look at the world around me, to notice the small things that I used to miss. And I feel a sense of gratitude for the beauty that surrounds me every day.

Tinuke Tinuke 

I’ve learned to embrace difference

My son’s unconcern for fitting into societal norms has been a valuable lesson for me. His ability to embrace his unique interests and quirks has taught me to be more open-minded and accepting of others who may not fit into the narrow definition of “normal”. What is normal anyway?

Before my son’s diagnosis, I didn’t fully understand the concept of neurodiversity and the importance of recognising differences in brain functioning as another form of diversity.

Thanks to my son’s experiences, I now see the beauty and value in neurodiversity and strive to celebrate the unique strengths and abilities of all individuals, regardless of their neurological makeup.

He doesn’t appear to be concerned about what others might think of him and he’s happy and content playing on his own if he feels like it all gets too much. I wish I could take a leaf out of his book and be a bit more fearless in certain situations.

My son doesn’t try hard to fit into anywhere or be anything, he is just him – and there is something so pure about him living in his truth.