This is for all the parents and guardians, for anyone who needs to hear it but especially for parents and guardians of autistic children. Never give up on yourself. Never give up on each other. You’re not alone. 

This isn’t some kind of martyr mantra. This is about letting yourself be the best version of yourself while taking collective breaths, falls and steps together with the good people around you. In this system of capitalism, we often feel and/or get isolated but we are not alone. 

I also wrote this because there were a number of social justice parents and guardians who have reached out in the last year about raising an autistic child. Every autistic child is so different and beautiful in their own ways but the constant is that they are surrounded by hella love and a champion (or champions) by their side. 

Every autistic child is so different and beautiful in their own ways but the is constant is that they are surrounded by hella love and a champion (or champions) by their side.

It has renewed my commitment to keep writing and sharing. As I’ve said before, Collin saved my life in so many ways AND, to be real, parenting an autistic has been one of the most transformative (and challenging) experiences I’ve ever had. 

For parent(s) of awesome and autistic little ones, the entire neurotypical paradigm runs counter to the society we need. Even “normal” summer activities like going to summer school and swim classes can be extremely stressful and difficult.

Summer school and Swim Lessons

For us, in-person summer school was everyday for 4 hours a day in a totally new school and environment. This was more than (zoom-based) kindergarten! In the beginning, Collin was resistant and complaining nearly every day. We’d debrief every evening about what happened. Somedays there were misunderstandings or tensions with other kids and other days there were embarrassing accidents. 

Then there were the swim classes, which he requested. We were too late for the private classes recommended so I signed him up for 4 weeks of classes at Oakland Parks and Rec. I had no idea what to expect. Day one was great then the next 2 weeks were unpredictable and difficult. The teachers changed a few times, the groups were different almost every class, and some of the kids were older/taller. On some days he was too uncomfortable to enter the pool. There was too much change for Collin all at once. Every evening we would debrief, coax, (and yes bribe!) him to continue.

I felt guilty for wanting him to “power through.” Then I’d get super protective and paternalistic and would want to pull him out of the classes. For summer school, after an intervention with the teachers, things got a lot better. By the fourth week (the last week), he began to REALLY enjoy it and wanted to go back every day. Go figure. For swim class, Collin began clicking with the teachers who were incredibly patient. Now, he is ALL IN and loving it! 

It is not always a happy ending but most of the time Collin surprises us (sometimes himself too!!) on what he is able to do. I’m pretty damn proud of him and us. He is quite articulate about his comfort level and his specific needs. I’m also constantly challenging my own ableism and very aware that I’m the one that needs to change and keep learning. And if there is anything I’ve learned so fare is that I have a lot more to learn. 

This is a short clip of Collin’s swimming skill he learned over the summer. Video clip of him floating on his back and front and then jumping into the pool 2x!

Summer learnings 

  • Trust and believe in myself and Collin <3

  • PROPS to the public sector workers (!!) This might be obvious point but it must be said. From his elementary school, summer school to the swim classes, the teachers have been amazing and patient with Collin. I can’t imagine being on this journey without this kind of support especially as we enter 1st grade and after school programs. Not to mention, we had an amazing caretaker this year.

  • We can and we will change society. Even though the neurotypical paradigm pushes our little ones to conform, we always have choice to create the spaciousness we need. In fact, if we don’t do it, our little ones will make sure we do. We just need to keep trusting and believing in our little ones. 

  • Never give up. Never giving up is not some martyr mantra. It is NOT about powering through but about being purposeful with yourself and the people around you. Although we can’t predict the outcome, we can stay on point, on purpose and in formation as much as possible. 

When we’re are able to release and let go of old and dominant constructs of most things like parenting, fatherhood, ego, to name a few, we are indeed more resilient and powerful than we think.

Never giving up is not a martyr mantra. It is NOT about powering through or being overly protective but about being purposeful with yourself and the people around you.

Summer Fun