My Son’s Autism Diagnosis Came With Important Words

The road to Autism Appreciation in our home has been a long and winding one. Today, it is our normal and a part of our everyday lives. My son is ten, he doesn’t speak, and he has autism.

It started, however, in a haze. The supposed “warning signs” started very early and the ways I deluded myself into thinking “it’s just my imagination” were impressive.

Prior to getting a concrete diagnosis, you receive a lot of soft language designed to make you feel better from friends and family. There are questionable stories about distant cousins who didn’t speak until they were four or five or six or whatever the year after your own child’s age happens to be. You get reassuring comments telling you that you have “done nothing wrong” and “not to worry” even if you hadn’t expressed either guilt or worry to them. You get a lot.

Because of that haze, you’ll have to forgive me if I lose track of certain specifics surrounding my son’s autism diagnosis. I can’t tell you where I was or what day of the week it happened. One moment, it wasn’t officially autism and the next moment, it was. Truth be told, I had suspected it for so long that by the time we heard it, it was like showing up at the emergency room with a bone protruding from your leg and having a doctor go, “Yeah. It’s broken.” I know, Doc. Now what?

The questions I asked were all unfair to the people I was asking. I wanted to know future plans. Would he speak? Would he read? Would he run for President? I pressed them for a glimpse into 2040. What did they see in his future? Tell me.


The answer they all gave was the same. It was simple, yet incredibly deep. Depending on who said it, it meant different things and hit in different ways.

“Anything can happen.”

What? What type of non-answer nonsense is that? Anything can happen?! I know, Doc McStuffins. I’m here, aren’t I? This is “anything”. It’s happening. I am an expert in anything happening. Is that some sort of joke?

What got me the most was the ease in which they said it. It was a stock answer for a stock parent and I took offense to such a label. It’s like telling a kid they can be anything they want to be when they grow up or a new hire that “sky’s the limit” at work. Don’t appease me. I know “anything can happen.” I live on the Earth. That’s kind of the universal mantra.

“Anything can happen.”

But really, when you think about it, that’s a big statement, right? If anything can happen, that means he can suddenly start speaking, right? My brain started constructing insane scenarios where I’d walk into his room one day and, from his crib, he’d say, “Excuse me, sir. Did you happen to know I was able to speak? Do you have any Grey Poupon?”

Imagine? That’s a big anything. I had dreams about it. He’d be talking up a storm and I’d tell everyone in my dreamworld that “Lucas is talking.” Usually it ended with people saying, “Yeah. He’s always talked”. Then when I would wake up, if I’m being honest, I’d be sad.

“Anything can happen.”

Let’s get real here. That Grey Poupon scenario is ridiculous. I knew that when I originally thought it. He wasn’t going to begin talking proper English in an old-school British accent randomly one day.  Anything happening had realistic limits. I had to temper my actions with wisdom and not put all my hope into miracles.

Professionals recognized those limits when they said it and, I’m assuming, they assumed I did too. So why did they say it? To placate me? To just push the parent off for a bit so I don’t wreck the office in a fit of rage? These professionals aren’t living my life. They have their own lives. They drop bombs in our laps then drive back to their own happy homes at the end of the day, while I’m left to clip the right wires? How awful. This felt like some sort of stock answer for a stock parent.

And, like that, we were back to where we began.

“Anything can happen.”

Years later, I still think about anything happening and what that means for my son. It took a while, but I think I finally understand. Maybe.

“Anything” doesn’t mean literal anything. Lucas isn’t going to fly or grant wishes to children who visit his gingerbread house. His “anything” refers to his highest potential. When it comes to what he will be able to do, there’s a definite ceiling in there.

Then again, there’s a ceiling in all of us. My top potential, like yours, is finite. What makes life so amazing is that none of us know where our internal limit ends. So we set out every day to test it. How far can I go? How much can I learn?

The same holds true for my son. As his father, it’s my job to help him push his own boundaries and find his highest level. I have to help him live his best life and be his best self. No one can tell me how far he can go. They don’t know. None of us can tell you where that limit is. Even he doesn’t know.

He has to find it for himself, as we all do, and I have to be there by his side while he does. That’s what life is and that’s how long we have to push his limits. Will we discover it? I hope so. Maybe we won’t, but then again, maybe we will.

After all, anything is possible.



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