When Heather, blogger at Okayest Moms and mom to two, tripped over a pile of her kid's sidewalk chalk, rather than get upset over her daughter's things not being put away, she swelled with pride at what she saw — her 3-year-old's name, "Isla," written out in blue chalk. For Heather, seeing this small display of kid-writing, backward S and all, helped her to feel some relief for her girl who has autism and hasn't necessarily hit every developmental milestone "on track" with other kids her age.
In a post to Instagram, the mom shared what about this adorable piece of sidewalk art made her so emotional. "It may seem like a simple, ordinary thing, but to me this is one of those breadcrumb moments that prove to me we're on the right track," she wrote. "Yes, the S is backwards, but that's pretty developmentally appropriate for an early reader (which is a whole other reason to be excited. I always love to see when she isn't too far from the norm!). We're getting there, folks! We might be taking the scenic route, but I'll take it!"
Heather said that with every milestone Isla hits, she feels more and more relieved, because there's a small part of her that can't help but wonder if she will continue to reach developmental milestones on time as she ages, or even at all. However, as of now, Isla is doing a great job of showcasing what she's capable of, despite her being on the autism spectrum. "She always surprises me with what she knows, and it seems like when I think she isn't listening or when I'm feeling the most discouraged is when she shows me there is nothing to worry about," Heather told POPSUGAR.
For any mom of a child with autism, it's difficult not to pay such close attention to milestones and to compare their children to "typical" kids. For Heather, because she comes from a teaching background and has had a lot of training in child development, being this "keenly aware" of Isla's progress is unavoidable.
"It's really stressful," Heather said. "I feel like I'm extra aware of all the ways she isn't developing typically. If I'm being totally honest, there is a little part of me that is always worried that she won't be independent and require assistance forever. It's so easy to overanalyze what you see (or don't see) and jump to conclusions. I have to keep reassuring myself that she's still a toddler and each milestone we hit, regardless of when we hit it, is proof that my husband and I, and most importantly Isla, are working hard to account for any deficits and we are closing the gaps."
And this is exactly what Heather says she wants parents who don't have a child with autism to realize about her and her daughter, and all other parents of kids with the spectrum disorder:
Above all else, I want other parents to know that autism looks different for each person with autism. Just because your mom's coworker's son memorized the encyclopedia, or your hairdresser's brother wore noise canceling headphones for sensory issues, doesn't mean every person with autism has those same abilities or needs. We encourage you to ask thoughtful questions to get to know what autism means for our daughter, just the same as you would ask someone about an allergy or medical condition. The information will only give you a better understanding of who she is and how she works, just like any other person.
Once you get past the autism label, she really is just like any other 3-and-a-half-year old girl. We work tirelessly to make sure Isla has the skills she needs to be a functioning member of society; all we ask is that society has the skills to function for her too. She may be different, but she is not less.