09/30/2015 02:01 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why I Call Myself an 'Autism Mom'

I recently referred to myself as an "autism mom."

I honestly didn't know that could be offensive to some, but apparently it is -- like really offensive.

I was told that in calling myself an autism mom, I am implying that I "have" something that is not mine at all. Implying that I am trying to own something that belongs entirely to my son.

I think I understand... at least, I want to understand.

I never want anyone to assume that I somehow think my son's autism is about me.

It's not. His life, his body, his brain, his existence includes autism at its closest possible level. It's part of his very makeup.

Good and bad. Easy and difficult. Day in and day out.

Autism is his, and his alone.

I do, however, think that parenting a child with autism is mine.


Being a momma of a child with autism has its own challenges, its own rewards, its own misunderstandings, its own joy, and its own grief.

And talking about it, writing about it, being honest about it, and owning it -- that matters.

It matters for the parents who are struggling, who feel lonely, who are misunderstood every single time they speak with doctors and teachers and therapists.

But even more, it matters for the children with autism diagnoses themselves. Children need to have a parent, autism or not, who is trying to understand, trying to learn, and trying to help them be uniquely them. (On a much smaller level, I think it's like calling myself a "soccer mom." I may not play soccer, but if I refer to myself as such, you know I am working to support my child in it.)

A neurotypical parent and a child with autism need to be on the same team. Moreover, neurotypical parents of children with autism need to be able to identify other parents in the same circumstances, with the same needs.

We are trying to figure this out, together -- for our children.


It's why I call myself an autism mom.

I think it means I am not afraid of the word "autism." I am not ashamed of the word "autism." Nor am I trying to claim any extra entitlement to it, other than this:

I think an autism momma is exactly what a child with autism needs.