Here in Melbourne my son and I attended our first World Autism Awareness Day march, from Autism Victoria through the streets and up to the steps of the State Library, on April 2.
For the first time in a long time I could see a difference in my son as he looked around at the mass of people thronging on the nature strip in Drummond Street, Carlton, awaiting the signal to start marching.
I kept a tentative anchorage for him by lightly rubbing his back now and then, to reassure him I was there if he needed me; at one point he actually turned to reassure me that he was fine, thank you very much.
I looked at him and realised there was an inner glow, a lightness and happiness to him that I had not seen in a long time.
It took a few seconds for me to nut it out but it was so simple; he wasn't the odd man out in a crowd for the first time in years.
How often is it drummed into us parents to assist our kids to integrate with neurotypicals, to have them socialise with them as much as possible to get the old 'monkey see, monkey do' happening with social behaviour, yet somewhere in following the rules we kind of miss the message our kids need to know they aren't the only ones who think, process, talk, walk, just plain are different.
He proudly marched with others, he shared smiles and grins, moving out of the way for mothers with prams, returning waves to strangers who stopped to watch and wave to the marchers but the most compelling, the most empowering thing for him that day was to realise for himself that he was a part of a whole community and not just the novelty Aspie geek kid.
Next week he attends his first Aspie teen social support group and he's almost bursting with excitement to just be another face in the different crowd.
Cos the different crowd rocks.
And it will keep on rocking throughout May as Autism Awareness Month in Australia.
Ro is from Australia; she has a partner on the Spectrum and is the mother of a 13 yr old homeschooled Aspie teen studying at University, both of whom have recently given her permission to blog about their challenges with multiple diagnosis' alongside Autism at Get Over It...I did.