February 3, 2019

My parents did a lot of things right.

They told me “I love you” from morning till night, with every hello and every goodbye. Their actions proved it too, but I wasn’t the sort of child who could infer hidden messages, so I appreciated the clear words. I always returned them, too – a warm and happy ritual.

My parents celebrated all of my gifts, including ones that other people sometimes laughed at. I still have a tiny sweatshirt that they ordered for me, custom-stitched with the words “Little Miss Precise” in pink cursive.

My mom gave me lots of tips to connect better with friends and succeed at school. My dad acted as if I was perfect and didn’t need to change a thing. I think I needed that balance to grow into a competent and confident adult.

My dad turned a large cardboard box into a little office for me, with a fold-down desk and a carpeted floor. It became a cozy, safe space for me to escape to, especially since I could see people coming from a periscope he put in the roof.

My mom read me bedtime stories, and then, right before saying good night, she always sat with me an extra two minutes. I knew she wouldn’t leave until the full two minutes were up, even if we stopped talking and just snuggled, and that predictability felt so peaceful.

I often write about ways my life could have been better if I’d learned about autism earlier – but I don’t want to give the impression that everything was hard, or that my parents weren’t doing the best they could with the information they had.

Your children, like me, may grow up to realize things that they needed and didn’t know how to request. Anytime you wonder if you did something wrong, remember that you were (and are) still learning their love language – and doing a lot of things right.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.