Three little boys walk happily down the dirt path. The path is nice and shaded from the sun. The boys are completely engaged by the nature that surrounds us. They skip down the path as we search for the waterfall that we know is located somewhere on the path.

People walk by us. People walk their dogs and ride their horses. Children use the rocks to tiptoe across the creek and stop for selfies in front of the waterfall. A few people smile and say hi as they pass us but nobody stopped or gave us weird looks. Nobody awkwardly walked quickly past us or avoided eye contact. All people saw when they walked past us was a normal family with normal children.

We got to be normal today!

Nobody could tell that my boys had autism.

Nobody could see our struggle.

Nobody knew that my son can barely communicate or that he is in a special classroom.

Nobody could tell that my boys weren’t completely normal.

Nobody knew that my son can’t dress himself or still has accidents.

Nobody could tell that he has meltdowns and becomes violent.

Nobody could tell that he barely sleeps most nights.

We got to be normal!

I don’t mean like the autism normal, I mean normal like other people experience normal. It was stress-free and fun. There were no meltdowns or hitting. All of my boys listened and followed directions. We spent a few hours hiking and taking in the beautiful day; I haven’t experienced this kind of normal in a very long time but it was so enjoyable.

When you’ve lived in the world of autism as long as we have, you start to forget what normal is like. Your normal becomes autism and all of the crazy that goes with it but something happens when we go on a hike in the woods. Something amazing happens to my boys and they appear completely normal to outsiders. Nobody to judge us or to make us feel embarrassed that our kids do things that are not socially acceptable, just us and nature. You see, nature doesn’t care about autism. Nature doesn’t judge you and it doesn’t care if your child pulls down his pants to pee on a tree. Nature accepts us and all our quirks, no questions asked. We got to forget about how hard things are sometimes and we got to experience a happy family outing. We got to be normal!

Christina Herzog

I am a mom to four children and a new stay-at-home mom. Two of my children have autism and my greatest passion has been to fight for them. I feel like I have been called to educate others on what it is like to be a special needs parent.