Finding A Voice For Autism: Let's Talk About Things That Are Real!

When my son was diagnosed with autism, I felt the silence.
03/27/2017 10:36 am ET Updated Mar 30, 2017

People struggle to talk to each other about things that are difficult. It is easy to talk about things that are on the surface. The deeper things are harder. 

We spend our time worrying about saying the right thing. We fear that we may say the wrong thing. And too many times these worries and fears result in saying nothing at all. But, the empty space of silence speaks volumes. It feels louder and more painful than any of the wrong things that may have been said.

I know in my own life I have struggled to find the right thing to say to the people close to me. I have allowed an empty silence to form between myself and the depths of the pain and struggles of the people I love.

Silence felt safer. I told myself that silence was safer for me and for the people close to me. I let myself believe that. And then something happened that changed that belief. Changed me.

When my son was diagnosed with autism, I felt the silence. I saw the pain and fear and heartbreak that slowly filled the hole of silence between myself and the people who could not talk to me about my life. Not just my surface life, my real deep down messy life. The silence grew louder and louder. Too loud.

And then after the noisy silence, there was nothing left. The space was too big. The silence too. vast. The unspoken works too many.

The truth is that silence is not safer. It is easier. It is more comfortable. It is simpler. But, it is not safer. Because when we cannot talk to the people we love about our lives in a real and authentic way, we are not safe. We are hiding. We are avoiding. We are concealing. But, we are not safe.

I learned quickly that people needed me to give them permission to talk to me in a real way about my son’s autism. I learned that it would be my job to sort through all of my own uncertainty to help other people navigate this journey alongside us.

This felt daunting in the beginning. It made me angry that I had to put my own pain aside to help other people talk to me. I heard people circle around the subject and somewhere inside of my head I sat screaming, “JUST ASK ME!”

As time moved us forward, I took a more proactive role. I found my voice.  I knew that I both needed and wanted to talk about autism in a real way. So I initiated those conversations. I gave the permission people needed to talk to me. I found my voice to speak up when I was not comfortable with something. And one conversation at a time, I worked together with the people in my life to talk about autism in a real way.

The reality of this journey is that very little is left unchanged. Many relationships have changed. Some relationships have ended; for a million different reasons. Some relationships suffered from the empty silence. Some relationships could not handle my need to talk about autism in a real way. And some relationships ended for no good reason at all. And just as we have learned that things change along this journey, we have also learned that some things end.

I understand the fears you may have to talk about things that are real. I know that you are worrying about saying the right thing. I imagine you are fearful of saying the wrong thing. I recognize that it feels safer to say nothing at all.

I want you to know just how loud the silence is. Just how much it hurts.

Find a way to talk to the people you hold dear about the real things in their lives. And the real things in your life. We need to give each other permission to talk about the things that are deep inside of us. To trust each other with the things that weigh heavy on our hearts.

To remove the worry. Remove the fear. Remove the silence. To give words to things that are real and hard. To set them free. To set ourselves free. To truly be safe.

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