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“My Normal Doesn’t Look Like Anyone Else’s”


A family friend who had raised a child with special needs emailed me a few years ago. “There were many times when I just wanted a ‘normal’ day and I am sure this is often the case for you,” she wrote. “I promise you one day you will look back and realize that all your days were ‘normal.’ It was just your ‘normal.’”

Those words have been clanging around in my head ever since. In time, I learned to stop worrying and just be there for my 7-year-old autistic son. I’ve learned to let go of my previous expectations of parenthood.

My normal is constantly thinking about potential changes in my son’s schedule. Will anything be different in the next few days? If so, we should start talking about it now. 

My normal is a our one-minute morning cuddle—a ritual that involves me squeezing him, offering sensory input— during which time I whisper, “I love you.” Sometimes, now, he says it back.

My normal is waving goodbye to my son while his school bus drives away. He fixates on that wave, which might have worried me at one point. But now, since it comforts him, it comforts me.

My normal is wondering whether my son would fall too far behind in reading to remain in a mainstream classroom, only to have him suddenly read 85 pages of a book to me in one sitting.

My normal doesn’t look like anyone else’s. But honestly, I wouldn’t want it to.

By Jessica Fleming, mom of Myles, 12, Clare, 9, and and Simon, 7