This was originally posted on the ARTC San Diego website. You can read the original here. Reblogged with permission from the author Tracy Sekhon. 

I attended the Love & Autism conference last weekend in San Diego. It was my first time. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew I wanted to surround myself with those who understood autism more than others. I knew I wanted to experience the beauty and gifts of those who are differently-abled, and celebrate that with them. I knew that I longed for a tribe that would open their arms and invite me in and lift me up, which is what I strive to do for and with others. I knew I wanted to learn and grow and that valuable insight was readily available there.

What I got last weekend from Love & Autism was so much more than any of that. It was a breath of fresh air.  It was a renewed sense of self. It was authentic and void of judgement and expectation. It was belonging…a warm social hug, if you will.  It was a new understanding. I am grateful for the time spent with all of the amazing people there…from the MC to the attendees.

Most of us spend our childhood being told how to “be”, so we carefully craft a façade that we present to the rest of the world. We’re taught that if we change who we are and show up as expected, that we will be acceptable to others, therefore we are loveable. We then grow up thinking that we are supposed to maintain that façade, because of our past that tells us that is how to seek and find love and acceptance. We don’t often realize that we have the power to choose. And, we don’t often know that a new choice could set us free.

This conference was anchored in authenticity and their quest was to give permission for everyone to commit to being exactly who they are…and see that they are loved and accepted anyway. To show up as authentic beings with an expectation of love and acceptance. I can’t tell you how refreshing this was to hear.

We don’t have to fight for this for ourselves or for our loves. We can expect it and we can be free of the façade. And, the more we can show up as our authentic selves, the better we become at teaching others how to love and accept us and the more confident and self-assured we become.

I know that this not only applies to those on the autism spectrum. It’s true for me, too. I have spent years working on shedding my own façade and allowing myself to be seen. I still struggle with it sometimes now. This awareness allows me to realize that I can give my boys permission to show up as their authentic selves and that a façade is not, nor has it ever been necessary. I can encourage their “quirky” behavior and listen to details of their favorite things over and over. I can set them free by allowing them to decide who they are and how they feel and how they want to show up.

There is no box and they shouldn’t have to escape one, EVER, to be who they really are. There is absolutely no explanation or defense that is necessary for us to do life in our own unique way.

I want to grant you and your loves permission to be exactly who you are and to know that you are loved and accepted anyway. I want you to feel liberated from the chains of social norms and the proverbial box and expectations that can haunt us and negatively affect our lives. You are enough. And, our kiddos that are differently abled are beautifully unique and they are enough. I believe that there is no real “normal”…there are only real people.

I encourage you to connect with Love & Autism at:  Attend their conference next year if you’re able.

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