The Radiant Smile That Changed Our Lives

Earlier this week, my husband Andy and I sat around the kitchen counter eating dinner delving into the details of our day as usual. Leo, enjoying a rare night off from therapy, switched focus between playing with his beloved Toy Story figures, and gathering his fill of tickles, and scratches from us when needed.

The Radiant Smile That Changed Our Lives

We recounted our outing to the fair over the weekend, discussing how well Leo had done, despite not having fully recovered from a cold. And we talked about how nice it was to see the interaction between Leo and his cousins who were also there that day.

“It will be fun and interesting to see where their lives will take them all as they get older,” I commented; while almost immediately feeling that oh so familiar knot in the pit of my stomach as I stared pensively at my boy, wondering too what life had in store for him.

“It’s hard sometimes,” I said softly, perhaps more so to myself than to Andy sitting across from me.

“Life is so ambiguous,” I continued, “with so many questions that have yet to be answered for Leo.”

Andy’s gaze slowly turned towards our boy, his concerned expression gently giving way to one filled with peaceful certainty.

“It always amazes me,” he began, “how even today there is still so much negativity surrounding autism…”

“One of the best things about Leo,” he remarked, “is how genuine he is. When he’s happy, he lets you know. When he’s upset, he lets you know. His emotions are pure and there is no pretense. The sad part is that people will say that this is abnormal. When really, this is how more people should be…”

I listened, as Andy went on, his words giving me strength with each passing syllable…

“Somewhere along the way, someone said Leo is going to be different. We’re going to wire him differently…Not everyone will understand him, but that’s okay. And even if he only touches these two people’s lives, he will have made a difference. Of course, there will be frustrating times ahead. But we will never allow it to affect his quality of life. And if this boy, who faces constant challenges, can wake up smiling every day, he’s going to be okay.”

Tears quietly streaming down my face, I allowed my husband’s beautiful message to seep in.

It is difficult to evade the worries of tomorrow…and the months, and years that follow. But what we can control is making sure that Leo will always be cared for and loved wholly and unconditionally.

And when I close my eyes and imagine a grown-up version of my sweet boy, the future, while many parts unclear, presents one constant, vivid, and unwavering certainty…

That radiant smile existing always and his beautiful soul touching our lives and so many others along the way.


This is article was featured in Issue 73 – Amazing Ways To Support Autism

Ellie Fadden

Ellie Fadden is a wife, mom, and blogger who writes about the ups, the downs, and everything in between of life with her extraordinary son, Leo, who is on the autism spectrum. For more info visit