I meet parents here and there who say things like “my son has atypical autism” or “my son is on the spectrum but he’s atypical.” That statement is always a head scratcher for me, because of all the kids and adults I’ve met on the spectrum I can’t say a single one was “typical.”

I know why the parents say it. We can’t help ourselves. Somehow the autism is better or different if its atypical. Typical means that they can expect a typical outcome, which is a largely unsuccessful one in our current community support system. I get it, and the allure of saying my son is atypical is maddening, so I embrace it.

My son is atypical. Every kid and adult with autism is atypical. The disorder itself is characterized as being “heterogenous.” If you look up the definition at dictionary.com you’ll see it reads “different in kind; unlike; incongruous.” If you look up the dictionary.com definition for atypical it reads “not conforming to the type; irregular; abnormal.” They sound eerily similar to me, negative connotations aside.

However, I do get nervous when I hear “atypical” used as a tool to remain in denial. Just because a child is diagnosed with “atypical” autism doesn’t mean they don’t have autism. Dig deeper. If you think some kids are “typically” autistic then you haven’t even scratched the surface of the world our kids live in. Don’t defend your child from his autism. Embrace it. Help him learn about it. Show it that you love it, because you should. Its part of him.

I also want to encourage anyone reading to get stop thinking of your kid as typical, even if they don’t have autism. They are all atypical and so are their parents. To misuse a phrase, vive la difference!

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