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Why My Family Created a Comic Strip About Autism


Rosemary Rivera As appeared on The Mighty, December 27, 2020

Being a family with a child on the autism spectrum can feel like being on a runaway rollercoaster. There are meltdowns. There are fears. There are abrupt jolts and hairpin turns. It gets stressful. It gets overwhelming. It gets scary when your child feels those things and while they look to you for help, you feel lost.

When our son was diagnosed, he was already 5 years old. We had so much catching up to do, I was terrified that if I didn’t move fast, learn whatever I could as quickly as possible, he would slip further through the cracks. There was also ADHD, and with it the lack of sleep, the impulsive mood swings. The motor skills issues. The digestive issues. The social development issues. Then there’s our son, who skips down the streets, squealing happily to himself as we go run errands. There he unleashes a different kind of meltdown. His hawk eyes can read a name tag from feet away without so much as a blink, and he will greet a store security guard by name, then promise he’ll come back to see him soon. No matter how tough the person wearing the badge, he melts them down like ice cream in the summer sun. He’s a boy who memorizes quotes from movies and TV shows and uses them at the perfect moment; a boy who can imitate anyone from family to game show hosts, and whose quick sense of humor is so damn funny, I’m sure he’ll have me and his dad using adult diapers sooner than we hoped. Years into this ride, I find myself having a lot of fun along with the jolts. My life as a writer and my husband’s as an animator allowed us many opportunities to create stories, but nothing comes close to the stories our son has helped create.

Now a tween, we asked him to help us craft a comic strip about our life. Ever the clever one, he saw the chance to use his voice and sense of humor in ways he couldn’t otherwise. He approves all the storylines, pitches new ones, and inspires most of them.

Ever the grateful parents, we saw the chance for him to find a positive vehicle that we hope empowers him to express his neurodivergent worldview. So far, that’s been the best surprise turn on this rollercoaster ride. Read our family’s comic strips at Piece by Piece.

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