When I finally settled down and realized I was going to be a dad, I thought about all the things I wanted him or her to be. Thinking back now, the word “normal” never popped into my brain. I seriously never considered the possibility that my son or daughter might be “normal.” I assumed, based on me and my wife, that any child we might have would be exceptional.

Then Raymond came, and it was wonderful. I think that’s when “normal” came into the picture. We were glad that he was developing “normally” and that he was “within normal ranges.” Until that point when, developmentally, we weren’t near normal anymore. We were different. We were autistic.

I say we because that’s how I look at my family. Its not me alone, or my wife on her own, or Raymond by himself. Its always we. When Raymond became autistic, we did too. We had to learn to live with it. We had to understand it. We had to accept it. He had a whole bunch of other stuff to learn and understand, but before we could hope to help teach him we had to learn about him.

I went through a pretty rough 6 months. I’ve written about it elsewhere, but to shorten the story I mourned for the loss of my “normal” son. I’m told this is a typical reaction for folks who have a kid with a disability. I still am a little disappointed with myself, though. I mean, I only found out about the normal kid when we went to the doctor after he was born. The kid I wanted, the kid I was hoping for, the extraordinary kid, was there the whole time! I just couldn’t see him because I listened to everyone except him.

So now I celebrate my son. I love him for who he is, not who I think he should be. I love the way he expresses himself, because his communications are uniquely his and nobody else’s. I treasure his smile, because I can often get him to share with me what he smiles about, and I smile too.