A Neurodiverse Universe: Parenting a child with autism

As a mother of a child with autism, I have realized how broad the spectrum is. I was in elementary school the first time I heard of autism. I was reading The Baby-Sitter’s Club series (back in the eighties), where one of the girls babysat an autistic girl—a piano prodigy. Though some autistic children have special abilities, keeping in mind that not all do (nor should they have to, as if they need to justify their autism) is vital to not only accept them but appreciate them.


Ultimately, autistic children are just children who want to be loved, have fun, and may know more than they can communicate.


As a homeschooling mom, I’ve learned that part of teaching is not to make my daughter learn how I learned or teach how I was taught but to learn how she learns and then teach accordingly. I’ve learned that autistic children often express themselves differently, even from other autistic children. My daughter may not always tell me she loves me (at least without prompting), but I have recognized that when she asks for a hug, that, to me, is her way of telling me she loves me. I’ve learned to be more precise when asking questions. For example, when we were studying Galileo, and I asked her what Jupiter had four of, instead of moons, she said, “Consonants.” (She might have outsmarted me there!) I’ve learned that I need to understand that she sometimes has reasons for doing what she does. For example, as soon as we entered the accessible stall in a library bathroom, she tried to elope by crawling under the door; it took some strength to keep her with me. At the time, I just thought she was being disobedient. It wasn’t until weeks later, when we visited another public bathroom, that I figured out the hand dryer terrified her due to her sensory issues.


When you have a child with autism, you learn to be more intuitive and know when to extend that extra grace. We learn from them as much as they learn from us.


Learning about autism (and the terminology surrounding it) is ongoing. Some children don’t want to be labeled autistic, while others see their autism as making them unique, but one thing is for certain: We don’t need to fix autistic children because they are not broken.

This Writer’s Life

Whether you’re editing someone’s autobiography, as I’m doing now, or you’re editing someone’s scholarship or college admissions essay, those words mean something to someone, be it the words themselves or what the client hopes those words will get them. This is why you should treat each writing/editing job, no matter what it is, as the most important job you are working on (even more important than your own writing because editing someone’s work is a sacred trust; they are paying you, after all). When people say I’m expensive, I tell them this is how I approach any job I undertake. When I charge someone, I consider my time, skills, access to resources, the education it took to be qualified to do the job, and my years of experience and expertise. When you hire someone to do a job, you are not just hiring them for their time; you are hiring them for what they know and can do and what you don’t know and can’t do (which is I don’t do my own contracting work). Know your worth and respect other people’s.

I recently received a referral from someone local who was looking for someone to edit her autobiography. The book would not be for publication but simply something she wanted to leave as a legacy, which doesn’t mean someone isn’t serious about their project. I mean, after all, if you’re leaving something to your family, wouldn’t you want it to be the best it could be? 

I’m not an aspiring writer or editor; I am published and have won several awards for writing, and I edit for a living. I have two Associate degrees and am working on my Bachelor’s degree in English, with a concentration in Creative Writing. 

Recently, a friend posted something that resonated with me.

So, know your client. First, if you detest phone calls, and your client is old school who prefers long chats on the phone (something I don’t have time for) rather than text or email, make that clear upfront. Unless you’re willing to communicate their way, please don’t take them on as a client. 

I don’t know of a tactful way to ask someone if they’re computer literate, but if they’re typing their manuscript on WordPad and don’t know how to copy and paste, you don’t have the time to teach that unless you want to charge extra. (I have learned that I could make good money teaching people over sixty how to use a computer.) I spent about an hour-and-a-half over several phone calls (I was also rung up at eight-thirty in the morning and was called thrice in one day), trying to walk someone through the steps to sending me something via Google Docs, which was valuable time I needed to homeschool and work on my writing. 

And, most importantly, the minute they mention you sound expensive, and they have to go to the ATM to get the money rather than having it ready (even after you quoted them a price; for me, it was a dollar per double-spaced page in Times New Roman and 12-point font), and they give you a printed, single-spaced printout, you want to shut that down and say in the nicest way possible that you probably aren’t the right person for them (rather than the other way around). Don’t negotiate. You are not selling a house, you are selling yourself. Know your worth.

I always give a sample, one-page edit to show what clients can expect. I would never ask someone to pay me otherwise. This is the third time I’ve done a one-page sample edit for someone, and they’ve fallen through. However, another client, who I met through Upwork, had never even seen my work, paid me what I asked for. I think this is why I’ve always bought a car from a lot rather than an individual, as individuals can be flaky, though our first car we purchased for five hundred dollars from an elderly couple, which lasted a couple of years. We saved a ton in car payments.

Remember that you don’t just have to sell yourself to a potential client, but they need to sell themselves to you.  

I’m amazed at how many people are willing to pay four dollars for a cup of coffee but are unwilling to pay to have what is a labor of love (or should be) be the best it could be—something that will last for generations and hopefully be read and enjoyed by many rather than for ten minutes, enjoyed only by you.

Emoji Bingo!

I created these BINGO cards to teach my daughter coordinates (in the context of columns and rows rather than x and y axes). Unlike Geography BINGO, where we use coins to combine money math with state “geometry,” for Coordinates BINGO, we use Bananagrams. Whenever I call a “coordinate” (C#, R#), she places a Bananagram tile facedown. Once she gets a BINGO, we flip all the tiles over, which she uses to create as many words as possible. (I usually let her get BINGO at the 11th or 12th tile). Canva is an excellent homeschooling graphic design program for those who prefer (and need) to create their child’s curriculum. My daughter loves emojis, so she enjoyed helping me create these cards.

Golden Stars and Silver Linings

Just received another addition to my daughter’s time capsule: a collection of nursery rhymes I wrote after bringing her home from the hospital. When I put together a PowerPoint presentation on Transcendentalism incorporating the pastoral, the picturesque, and the sublime, I used this close-up of my daughter smelling a daisy (my favorite flower) to epitomize the childlike wonder of discovery. @mixbook does such a beautiful job. Unlike another service, my em dashes (and all other punctuation) are preserved in transferring text from Word to the app. As a grammarian, this feature is essential.

Wording our way through homeschooling

I refer to Bananagrams as “Freestyle Scrabble.” The object of most games is to win, but this one is to learn. I love Bananagrams because we’re not spending time calculating scores (not that that wouldn’t be a totally righteous mathy thing to do) but learning words—not just how to spell them but their meanings, definitions, and, if needed, what they look like. We flip an old gameboard (we have a Life gameboard that split), draw seven tiles apiece, and play Bananagrams just like Scrabble, with my tablet on standby if we need to look up a word. If we need to look something up, we go to Dictionary.com (yeah, it’s the Wikipedia of dictionaries, but I like the fun format) and use the speaker to listen to the word. The other evening, I spelled “harp,” so I not only googled an image of one but found a YouTube video to watch and listen to one being played.

Though we only do 16 words, it’s pretty involved. Bananagrams has been a great way to teach prefixes and suffixes and how just adding an e to the end of a word changes its meaning. I also just added a sign language component.

Years ago, when I still lived at home, my dad and I played Scrabble on a CD-ROM. We didn’t like keeping score or looking things up in a paper dictionary (we just wanted to play!). He hardly ever won, took forever (I once read a whole novel during his turns), was totally obsessed over landing on the triple word score squares, and always accused me of “piggybacking” off his words (i.e., scoring more off his words than he did). I’d get annoyed that he never cared what a word meant (so long it was a word) and forced him to listen to me read the definition. Mom used to play with us, but she didn’t have the patience to sit through his turns. I mean, it wasn’t chess!

Winning (for me) was harder when my mom played because she never played defensively (which was also annoying). But, I enjoyed these times with my parents immensely, and that is what I will have with my daughters. How ironic it is that what I used to play on a screen, I am playing the old school way 20 years later.