How do you think that would make you feel?
This week I had to write a 'pen portrait' about L for his tutor group and teachers at his new senior school, to help him settle in, and to help introduce him to everyone. I want them to know what to expect from him, to help them show him what they expect of him, and also for them to know what an amazing kid L is.
It made me so desperately sad to have to sit and list all the things that make him different, and I hated it. I sat and sobbed my heart out until the early hours, in front of a computer screen with a blank document open on it. I know exactly how much work L can be, more than anyone. I am the one that sat by his side when he was so sad that he said he wanted to die, I am the one that stood and fought his corner when he was treated unfairly by kids who should have been taught better and by adults who should bloody well know better, the one that held his hand in the night when he was in pain and discomfort from the casts on his legs.
I have been there throughout. I am still here. It is exhausting.
But he is worth it.
Every hour, every minute of missed sleep. Every single tear I have shed. Every second of every day that I have spent being his mother has been worth it. I will do this every day of my life, until the last breath leaves my body, I will love him and care for him no matter what. Whatever "flaws" he has, whatever makes him different - I will love him, because those things make him the awesome, brilliant, hilarious, clever, lovely young man that he is.
In the pen portrait, I explained a little about Autism, with a little help from The National Autistic Society website because they just explain it so much better than me - how Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people and the world around them. That it is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with Autism share certain areas of difficulty, their condition will affect them in different ways.
I explained that he finds a lot of noise and activity overwhelming. That he will sometimes say inappropriate things, or stand too close to people. That he can be easily led, and doesn't understand sarcasm. How he doesn't like to make eye contact, and sometimes will need to sit and cover his head just to give himself some peace, and I asked them to please let him do this.
I know not everyone will understand, or want to. I know there are people who will abuse, and take advantage, and be unkind. But I hope that by laying my heart bare, by being honest and open - maybe I can help change their thinking. If I can make just one person understand then I know I have helped, even just a little - because a little understanding can go a long way, and it makes a real difference.