I welcome every opportunity I’m given to share our family’s autism journey and speak about all of ways in which Skyler amazes me.
However, this past weekend, speaking at the autism conference felt significantly more important than any other talks I’ve given.
My emotionally charged words and examples of Skyler’s courage and resilience were directed not just to the large crowd of caregivers and providers.
For the first time ever, my incredible son, the inspiration behind my advocacy was in the audience.
And I was nervous.
My intention has always been to present Skyler’s life experiences and challenges throughout the past 20 years in a way that highlights his determination and achievements, careful to never overshadow, embarrass or undermine how much he’s overcome.
To conclude my talk, I chose to read an excerpt from my book about the many reasons I love Skyler, which up to this point, he had never heard me share publicly.
Midway through reading, off in the distance, familiar clapping sounds filled the air, as if Skyler was reminding me of his presence.
I glanced in his direction and was met with a huge smile as he locked eyes with mine.
When I walked off stage to find an immediate line forming to meet Skyler, (with Temple Grandin being among the first to introduce herself to him) I was overcome with joy.
He was being greeted and complimented by complete strangers with such kindness and all addressed him as just a 20-year-old man, NOT a 20-year-old ‘autistic’ man.
My takeaway message was to presume competence in all people … I think that message was received loud and clear.
I know Skyler thanks me for reminding the world of this important fact!