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I had preconceived ideas about my autistic child's future—and I was wrong

After his diagnosis we wrote off so many possibilities in our minds and in our hearts and we didn't need to.

I had preconceived ideas about my autistic child's future—and I was wrong

When my son was diagnosed with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder when he was 10, the phrase I heard more than anything else from well-meaning people was, "He's still the same kid." I would nod politely and scream inside my head, "That's not possible! He's labeled now: a scarlet A for Autism!"


Now, I can look at those words and understand that they come from a place of love and compassion and they are true after all.

Our autism journey was unique, as all of them are. What used to be called simply "autism" was changed in 2013 to reflect the huge differences in how the disorder looks, sounds, feels and is diagnosed. Autism Spectrum Disorder reflects those differences and the huge range in experiences with the disorder.

I had suspected for years, deep down inside where I dared not go too often, that something wasn't quite right with my oldest son.

He was just a little bit different, but not in the ways that were typically connected to ASD (autism spectrum disorder). He didn't really have more than one friend, but he was hyper-aware of people's feelings. He didn't have repetitive speech patterns or echolalia, but he did go through periods of intense obsession with one topic (his childhood is measured in eras: firetruck era, tractor era, race car era, ocean animals era…)

I kept waiting for a teacher or a pediatrician or someone to notice, but no one did, so I chalked it up to being an overly concerned first time mother and just loved him as he was.

Elementary school was marked by one difficult year after another, trouble with reading, trouble with math, no real connections. By the time he was 10, we were concerned that a learning disability might be the issue and had him tested by a pediatric neurologist. The results were not a learning disability, but high functioning ASD. And from that moment on, our lives were not the same.

Those first years after his diagnosis were marked by IEP meetings, conversations with Special Education teachers, worry about social relationships and anxiety about whatever stage came next. Mind you, this was all me; he was busy being an 11-year-old boy in his first year in middle school.

Much to my disbelief, middle school became the place where he finally flourished and came into his own (because I hated middle school I was preparing myself for the worst). A good year in sixth grade was followed by a better year and an even better year.

After his diagnosis, I changed my expectations of what his future would look like. My husband and I decided that whatever path he wanted to take in life, if it made him happy, we would support it. Maybe he would live with us longer than a neurotypical child would have. Maybe he wouldn't get married. Maybe his life would look different than ours did.

But guess what? We were wrong. After his diagnosis we wrote off so many possibilities in our minds and in our hearts and we didn't need to.

What we needed was to give him time to grow and time to succeed. Because, with each new success he experienced (and we experienced with him) that annoying phrase I heard over and over again ("He's still the same kid!") became more and more true.

He was what some people call a "late bloomer" because by the time he reached his sophomore year in high school not only was he successful, but he was successful beyond anything we could have hoped for him.

He finally figured out school (it's important!) and friendships (find your squad!) and personal responsibility (yeah!) and those expectations we had mentally and emotionally written off years ago, bloomed again. He's joined a team sport, has a strong group of friends and is talking about college in a very serious way.

That's not to say things are picture-perfect, just when I congratulate us on having all this autism stuff "figured out," a new situation or experience brings me back down to earth. This isn't something that we will "cure."

When he was 10, we described ASD as his brain working differently and I still believe that's just what it is. There are some things that will always be more challenging for him than for a neurotypical kid.

Recently, when I was driving him to rowing practice he asked me some hard questions. One of those questions was, "Do you ever have a time where you just don't know what to say to someone and how to talk to them and they think you don't like them because of how you react?"

Hmmm. How to answer that one. I had to say no, I don't, but this is what else I said:

"That might always be difficult for you. We can practice and fill your toolbox with tools for you to use in that situation, but it might always take a little extra work. But, you know what? Everybody has something like that. A burden they carry. A challenge. Even something they're ashamed of. You're not alone."

He was happy with that answer and turned his attention back to his phone. I breathed a sigh of relief that the right words had come to me at the right time.

Knowing what to say and when to say it isn't my burden, but what I've learned over the years is that giving up too soon is. I had written off my son's future before he had even dipped his toe in it and I was wrong. Everyone's journey with autism spectrum disorder is unique, just like every other human's journey.

From now on I'm not going to grab the wheel and steer, I'm going to let him lead me. I can't wait to see where we go.

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One thing first in line at the chopping block? Cooking. To be fair, I like cooking. I cooked most of our meals long before I had ever even heard of social distancing. But there's something about the pandemic that suddenly made cooking every single meal feel exponentially more draining.

Enter Daily Harvest. They deliver nourishing, delicious food right to your door. Daily Harvest's mix of smoothies, bowls, flatbreads, snacks and more provide a balanced, whole food options that are as satisfying as they are nutritious. But my favorite part? When we're ready to eat, I simply pull the food from the freezer and it's ready in minutes—without any chopping, measuring or searching for a recipe. Even better, they're incredibly tasty, meaning I'm not struggling to get my girls to dig in. Not cooking has never felt so good.

Here are my 8 favorite products that are helping to lighten my load right now:

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

One thing that actually helps break up the monotony of quarantine? Trying and introducing new ingredients to my family. I love this overnight oat bowl (add milk the night before and let it set in your fridge overnight—easy-peasy!) because not only does it not compromise on nutrition, but it also helps me bring new whole fruits, vegetables and superfoods to the table with ease.

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

I kid you not, these taste exactly like a mint chocolate chip milkshake. (Just ask my 4-year-old, who is constantly stealing sips from my glass.) What she doesn't know? She's actually getting organic banana, spinach and chlorella with every sip. #momwin

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Our family's eating habits have been leaning more plant-forward this year, which often means a lot of veggie washing, peeling and chopping every time I cook. That's why these flatbreads are my new best friend come lunchtime. This Kabocha + Sage Flatbread is made with a gluten-free cauliflower crust topped with kabocha squash, fennel and sage for a taste of fall in every bite. (Missing the cheese? You can add it before baking for more of a pizza feel.)

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

There's something about the combination of sweet potato crust topped with red cabbage, organic greens and an herby-cilantro sauce that is so delicious… like surprisingly delicious. I polished off this bad boy in seconds! And unlike other "veggie" crusts I've tried, these are actually clean (AKA no fillers, preservations, partially-hydrogenated oil or artificial anything). Plus, it couldn't be easier to throw in the oven between conference calls and homeschool lessons.

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Any time I get to serve a breakfast that tastes like chocolate, it's a good day. (That goes double when it's *my* breakfast.) This rich, chocolatey smoothie is packed with organic zucchini, avocado, pumpkin seeds and pea protein for a nourishing mix of healthy fats and muscle-building protein so I can carry that baby all day long. And did I mention the chocolate?

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Maybe it's just me, but after a long week of cooking, the last thing I want to do on Saturday morning is...wake up and cook. That's why these one-step breakfasts are saving my weekend. I simply add our favorite milk the night before and store the bowl in the fridge overnight. Come morning, I have a nutritious chia bowl that powers me through even the busiest day of errands. It's also Instagram-ready, which makes me feel like I'm out brunching (even if I can't remember the last time I was in a restaurant).

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

My kids have turned into snack monsters during quarantine, and I'm often struggling to find a wholesome option (that doesn't require a lot of extra cooking or else I resort to something ultra-refined and shelf-stable). These bites are the hero I never knew I needed. For one, they taste like cookie dough, but they're actually packed with chickpeas, pumpkin, dates and flax seed (among other whole ingredients). But unlike actual cookie dough, I don't have to go anywhere near my mixer to whip them up—all I have to do is pull the container out of the freezer, let them defrost a bit and we can all enjoy a treat.

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Sometimes I have a little more time to cook, but I still want a quick, stress-free solution. (Especially because it always feels like I just cleaned up from the last meal.) I love these Harvest Bowls because they warm up in under five minutes on the stove top (or microwave!) but pack tons of flavor. The Cauliflower Rice + Pesto bowl is one of my favorites, with basil, olive oil and nutritional yeast for a hearty dish reminiscent of a mouth-watering Italian meal. When I'm feeling extra fancy, I add leftover grilled chicken or a fried egg.

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Who doesn't want to end the day with a little something sweet? This creamy and decadent frozen treat from Daily Harvest is swirled with sweet berries and tropical dragonfruit for an antioxidant burst you'll feel good about—but that your kiddos will just think is ice cream. Go ahead, take credit for being the best mom ever.

Want to try it yourself? You can get $25 off your first box of Daily Harvest with code MOTHERLY.

This article was sponsored by Daily Harvest. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas

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