I was challenged to write a piece about a word I would erase. I chose the word “label,” and here’s why:

Red flags.

There were always red flags.

I didn’t want to see them.

I didn’t acknowledge them

I didn’t want to admit that something wasn’t right.

I justified.

I enabled.

I made excuses.

I was scared.

Not of autism.

Looking back I didn’t even know enough about autism to be scared of it.

The label.

The label was what I feared the most.

I vividly remember thinking that something isn’t right, but a label isn’t going to make anything better.

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To me a label was failure.

It was a limitation.

It was closing the door on my son’s future.

It was giving up.

And it was this beautiful journey of autism that showed me how wrong I was.

Because that label saved us.

That label is something I am so proud of now.

That label got my son everything he needed and more.

That label took away his limitations.

It gave him a fighting chance.

That label created a glass ceiling he shatters every day.

That label gave me the most amazing support system with other moms whose children have received that same label.

The best decision I have ever made was making sure my son received the label of autism.

Coming to terms with the fact that the label will always be a part of our lives was a hard pill to swallow.

It’s still something that sometimes gets the best of me.

But in the quiet times of the hard, it’s something I couldn’t be more thankful for.

I think back to that mom who was at the beginning of the journey.

A journey she didn’t want to embrace.

A journey she didn’t even know she was on.

A journey she wanted to go away.

A journey she couldn’t imagine being part of her life.

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A journey that would change her for all the right reasons.

That mom opened her heart to that label.

She made a decision to accept that label and everything that came with it.

The good.

The bad.

The pretty.

The ugly.

The setbacks.

The victories.

And that same mom who was so scared of that label realizes now there was nothing to fear.

That mom now embraces that label.

That mom now loves that label.

Because that label was always there.

That label was always part of her son.

Intertwined in those red flags she didn’t want to see.

In those red flags she now sees and embraces because of that label.

Don’t fear the label my friends, fear the life you would be missing out on without that label.

That label will always be part of what makes my son who he is.

That label will never determine what he can and cannot do.

But that label will always make me proud of anything we face and overcome.

And for that, I will always be thankful that the label of autism is a part of our lives.

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And as for that mom starting on a journey she never thought would be part of her life, I hope she’s just as proud of me as I am of my son.

We’ve both come such a long way since we received the label.

And together we will continue to walk over shattered glass.

Originally published on the author’s Facebook page

Shannon Gainey

Shannon is a proud boy mom, full-time hairstylist, and passionate autism advocate. She lives in New Orleans, Louisiana with her two sons Murphy and Merrick. Her son Murphy was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Shannon loves to volunteer her time to local autism support organizations and advocacy groups in hopes of creating a more accepting world for those with special needs. You can join and follow her and her boys as they journey through autism together on Adventures in Autism with Murphy Facebook page and Instagram and WordPress.