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My son just turned thirteen. He has been dreaming of being a teenager since he was about four. At four, he was diagnosed with a speech and learning disorder, which later turned into a diagnosis on the Autism spectrum.

Unsure what that meant, his father and I trudged ahead. My son was one of the most popular kids in school, yet he desired none of the attention. He preferred to be alone or in small groups. And let us not go to anywhere there was a large crowd. It just was not happening. Meltdowns ensued, and it took hours to help him soothe himself.

In third grade, his father and I decided to let him try cyber school. It was a huge change, but for the better. His grades improved greatly, he thrived. But he was not in a space where he had a ton of friends, if any at all. He hung out with his cousins, and a friend or two of mine had sons his age. They would get together, and that was it. He did not have friends he called on the phone, and he was not interested in having them either.

All of that changed on the verge of being a teenager. He was suddenly interested in making friends. When he went outside and joined in a game of soccer with the neighborhood kids, I stood in the living room window, tears in my eyes. He jumped in the game like it was nothing. Played all afternoon.

That does not happen all of the time. There are days he wants to stick to himself. There are days he goes outside and only skateboards in front of the house and does not play where the other kids play. But I’m grateful for the small steps. The days when he feels confident enough to put on his clothes and go outside and be social. The days when he gets to show the other kids the kind, funny, genuine kid that I know him to be.  

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