By Shannon Des Roches Rosa for KnowMore.tv
My son Leo is 13. He's a cheerful, curly-haired, soccer playing, iPad-loving, self-taught swimmer. He's also autistic -- one of those 1 in 68 kids, according to the recent CDC report about increased estimated autism rates.
And you might be surprised to hear this, but that increased rate was a relief to me. It confirmed what the autism research community has been saying for years, and what the CDC's Dr. Colleen Boyle finally stated outright: "It may be that we're getting better at identifying autism." It means autistic people have always been here. It's evidence my son is neither damaged nor broken -- he's an example of human variation, like any kid.
Though, obviously, Leo is not like most kids when it comes to specifics like talking and learning and tolerating crowds. I used to let Leo's autistic differences upset me: I came from outside the disability community (our society tends to be scared of autism), and I simply didn't know any better. I've since come to understand that my job as Leo's mother is to accept him for who he is, get him the accommodations he needs (and he needs a lot of them), and fight as hard as I can to make the world a more autism-friendly place, especially now that we have better estimates on how many Leos there are on this planet -- Leos of all ages.