Guest Post by Kris Elaine McNutt Loomis.
This weekend we will look over a sea of red at NC State as students turn their tassels and become college graduates.
I know as we look over the thousands of uniform caps & gowns, there is a unique story under each one of those caps. Stories of hard work, struggle, challenges, successes and commitment. Some of the stories took longer to get to this place; others followed a seemingly easy path. Yet each story is unique. I will cheer and tear up with the crowd as we celebrate all of them.
And as is the case for all parents in the cheering crowd, one of these graduates and stories will stand out. He is the reason we are there as his biggest fans. His story is special to us because it is his story. And it is our story.
There is a lot I could say about Sam and his journey to this day. But the one story that stands out this weekend is his (our) journey with Asperger’s. It’s a story of many early years where we did not know what was going on with him, and all the while he was not really sure what was going on with everyone around him. We were living this reality before it was a household word and before it was all the rage in TV shows, books and movies. Before “Asperger’s was the new black” as Sam once said.
As we visited expert after expert, and met with teachers more than any parent wants to, we often wondered about Sam’s limits. After all, we were dealing with limits daily. Yet there were moments of no limits in our conversations around the dinner table. After the kids would leave the table, Dave & I would look at each other and we knew – Sam had no limits if we could just help him figure out this challenge.
And so his story became our story. We embraced Asperger’s. I read everything I could get my hands on about Asperger’s. It was spoken about in and around our home without any shame, and often with much humor. With the help of his doctor, Sam worked on self-awareness and began to embrace the label. I became his advocate. This part of the journey was not always fun or easy. But Dave & I continued to play forward the story of Sam’s life in our minds. And even though it was tough at times, we could see this weekend in his future.
Along the way Sam’s story has inspired many. Kids with Asperger’s, parents of kids with Asperger’s, and some who are just struggling with their own, different challenges. Sam has a gift of not letting any preconceived notions be a barrier to relating to people (when he feels like relating). He sees a bigger purpose to his life than just pursuing his own interests. And gosh darn it, he’s just a nice guy. But don’t be offended if he doesn’t say hi when you pass by – it’s not personal. wink emoticon
So here we are. Celebrating Sam as a graduate from NC State in Physics & Math, with top honors. We will take lots of photos and post some of them. We will cheer and cry and be proud.
IN THE INTEREST OF FULL DISCLOSURE, KRIS IS FAMILY. Seen here as a darling black haired beauty with her mother, Danita McNutt Gross, and sister Karen McNutt Smith.