‘I really empathize with you for having a child with special needs.’ A line so innocent, but it cuts like a knife.’: Mom of son with autism urges ‘please do not pity us’

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“‘I really empathize with you for having a child with special needs.’

A line so innocent, but it can cut like a knife. Over the last few years, so many people have innocently said how they empathize with me because of my son. Or how they don’t know how I do it. As recent as this week, someone told me how they ’empathize with me and really feel for me.’

As innocent as these comments are, made with no malice or hurt intended, they do hurt, and each time I get that feeling in my tummy. A feeling like someone has punched me.

Let me tell you why.

When my son was 2 years and 9 months, he was diagnosed with Autism. My gorgeous little boy was different. Something which can be hard to deal with. Did it change who he was? The little boy I knew? Definitely not.

At 6 years old, he was diagnosed with a severe speech sound disorder, again another punch in the stomach, this time unexpected. But did it change who he was? Not for a second. We had always been dealing with this, now there was simply a reason why he was finding it so hard to speak, to make sounds, and to communicate with others.

Boy in blue sweater sits on mom's lap
Courtesy of Nicole Duggan

While some people would feel pity, feel sorry for us, or simply want to say something to show they ‘get it,’ unless you are living this life, you truly don’t understand.

You do not understand the amazing, courageous, hard-working little boy I call my son. A little boy who has faced more in his 6 short years than most adults have in a lifetime.

You do not understand the love for life he has. The determination he shows to succeed. Or the happiness he brings to us daily.

You do not understand the immense pride I feel as a mom, for every milestone we meet, every mountain we climb, and every time he smashes the goals they said he would never meet.

You do not understand the amazing days we have, which outweigh any bad days, the things he has shown me that no one else could, or the smile he puts on my face by just saying ‘mammy,’ a word I waited 6 years to hear.

While I agree this is something others might see as a negative, a chore, a vocation as such, I see myself being a mom. A mom like any other, hoping, and doing my best to make sure my son is happy, he is loved, and he gets everything he needs to succeed in life.

Having a child with additional needs IS hard. It is challenging. It can break your heart into a million pieces in the blink of an eye. But is it a life to be pitied? A life that makes my child any less? I don’t even have to think about it, the answer is 100 percent no.

Boy sitting in car wearing hat and vest
Courtesy of Nicole Duggan

Like any parent, we are navigating each day, hoping to be the best we can be. Yes, we have a few more challenges to face, a few more battles to fight, and probably more tears cried each week. But I for one would not change my son for the world. Take a step back and look at what I can see.

I am one of the lucky ones who has been taught more through parenthood than any adult could have ever taught me.

I see the world in an amazing way, through the eyes of my child. A world in which he is a force to be reckoned with and of which I am now proud to be a part.

Like any other parent, I receive the love and affection we long for. He may not be able to say the physical words, but I know now love needs no words.

I see a 6-year-old little boy who is brave, courageous, determined and so, so funny. I laugh at his jokes, though many may not understand them. I hug him when he is sad. We dance to One Direction together. And his smile lights up my whole world.

Please do not pity us, do not feel sorry for us, and do not think we live a life of sadness.

Because this journey may be tough, but it is filled with smiles, laughter, and a whole lot of love. Something so many would dream of. My son is the same as any other child, he just sees this big crazy world differently than you or me.”

Boy with autism wearing red striped shirt
Courtesy of Nicole Duggan

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nicole Duggan of Cork, Ireland. Follow her on Facebook here and Instagram here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories from Nicole:

‘Will I have friends soon, mom?’ Since December, my son has been isolated because he is Autistic.’: Mom speaks out about education for Autistic son, ‘He doesn’t deserve less’

‘You made the nice list!’ The words that made everything OK again. He gave him a certificate with his name on it.’: Non-verbal boy with Autism surprised by sensory friendly Santa at home

‘Riley is now 6 years old. He still does not speak. I always thought words were what mattered.’: Mom to son with autism says ‘I was lucky to be in his world, I just didn’t know it yet’

‘All the adults are freaking out because they don’t like the sudden change in routine!’: Autism mom says ‘autism doesn’t allow change; he expects his old normal back’

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