When Love Looks Like a Red Skittle

Sometimes our kids can't express what's in their hearts...at least not in a traditional way. But, if you look closely, you might see glimpses of the feeling through their actions.


I’m sharing another emotional post with you today.

My family has been going through something over the past few months that I haven’t really shared much about–not here and not with those I know in real life either, except for a select few. I love being real and authentic, but it means I put myself out there for judgment and criticism, and this is still too raw.

But now the time has come. April is Autism Awareness month and I can’t let it go any further.  Over the past few months, we’ve been going through the long and drawn out process of diagnosis for my older son, who will be 6 this summer.

High-Functioning Autism

He has been diagnosed with high-functioning Autism.

There are many symptoms and issues that I could get into, and I might one day. But for today, I want to share about something that, for me as a mother, is one of the more painful aspects of this. There are many things that are inconvenient, and many things that make my heart hurt for my son.

But there is one thing that hurts my heart the most personally as a mother right now, and it was completely unexpected. I didn’t know it was a part of high-functioning autism, until it came to our door and I started researching more and more about this diagnosis.

My son has never (NEVER) come to me and said “I love you.”  When we say it to him, sometimes he will say it back. But we can tell it makes him very uncomfortable. It seems almost painful for him to say those words. Usually he just doesn’t respond.

I was reading a friend’s post about her 3 year old coming to her this morning and crawling up in her lap to snuggle, with a sweet “I love you, mommy.” And my heart broke. And I cried. How I long for those sweet words from my son.

He’s not a fan of most physical touch, and that includes hugging. He will, every once in a while, cuddle on his terms (i.e. initiated by him). He’ll come and crawl up into my lap and want to snuggle down for a book or to watch something on TV, and I treasure those moments all the more because they are so rare.

But, just because he can’t say the words easily, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel it.

Sometimes Love Just Looks Different

There is one thing he always does.

We do this pattern activity where the boys get mini packs of skittles (a halloween clearance purchase). One day back in August/September, while we were doing that activity, we started talking about everyone’s favorite colors of skittle. Mine is red.

It was just mentioned one quick time, in passing.

Since then, every time Caeden gets skittles, he saves me a red one. Every single time.

In my research about high-functioning autism, I came across many articles that said kids with HFA can’t feel love or empathy and I get so frustrated at that. Yes, there are times when I wish it looked more “normal.” But, it’s wrong to say there is no love.

The love is there. It  just looks different.

For us, it doesn’t look like “I love you.” And it doesn’t always look like hugs and kisses. For us, it looks like a red skittle.


  1. Wanda Knip says

    Thanks for sharing. We all have are own crosses to carry. Some Autism, diabeties, scoliosis, mental illness and more. Your story blessed me and I shared it with my friends who are facing a child with autism. Blessings to you and your family.

    • Crystal says

      You’re so right, Wanda…we all have our own unique challenges in life and this is just a small piece of it. Thank you for the kind words.

    • Crystal says

      Thank you, Meghan! I really appreciate it. I know I tell you all the time, but I just love you and your blog.

    • Crystal says

      Thanks Jennifer! I really appreciate you and your wisdom and willingness to be there! Can’t wait to meet you at Teaching Them Diligently.

  2. says

    Crystal, you have a very special little boy. I know this has been a terrible time for you, but there are those rays of sunlight (or should I say SONlight?) that make it bearable! Sometimes showing affection and love isn’t easy for kids with or without autism. Sometimes their love language is just different from ours – and that hurts – until you realize that God, in his infinite wisdom, created us all for different purposes! Your family is in our prayers – and we love you! Red skittles and all! (although I’m partial to red M&M’s . . . ) :)

    • Crystal says

      Thanks for the prayers and for the resource. That looks interesting. We’re already facing problems with doctors.

  3. says

    Crystal… I cried reading this because I have walked a mile in those shoes… our amazing son was diagnosed about 1.5 years ago at the age of 8. We knew, but… but God has blessed us with an amazing boy that has taught us more about slowing down, love, and little blessings that we would have missed out on. The words may never come, but actions ALWAYS speak louder than words we have learned. That skittle says I LOVE YOU and is not just empty words… I won’t lie and say it isn’t hard, but know you are not alone… Be prepared for blessings beyond what you could ever imagine – we have learned that our son never ceases to amaze us…. Every time I eat a red skittle… I will think of you and your little guy and smile!

    • Crystal says

      Oh, Sheri, thank you so much for the kind words! You are so right that actions speak louder than words…I use that phrase all the time, and it’s so true. Thank you for sharing a bit of your experience as well.

  4. says

    Beautiful! I’ve worked with kiddos with autism since 2004 and I have a very special place in my heart for them. It’s those little things that make being around them so special. I have a MS in Behavior Analysis and Therapy – please feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have – I’d be more than happy to exchange email info if you’d like.

    • Crystal says

      Thank you so much for the offer!!! I just might do that. I have very little real-life friends or family who have any experience with autism at all.

  5. Crystal Lytle says

    Thank you for this! My son who is 4 was also diagnosed with pdd (high functioning autism) in January. I completely understand where you are… my son never was really big on hugs or kisses or i love yous, but since hes been on his meds, it has helped that but mainly it has helped him focus and be able to disperse his anger in other ways than hitting or punching or kicking, etc…. If you would like to talk, i would love to get the chance to know another mom in the same situation! Xo3munchkinsxo at yahoo.com! May God bless you and your family through this difficult time! I am still coming to terms with it myself!

    • Crystal says

      Thanks for stopping by. Yes, that is so true. Our sons special qualities have really taught us a lot and in many ways is a blessing.

  6. says

    Crystal, although I have no firsthand experience with autism, I have had friends who have children on the spectrum, or have worked with children who are. I can’t imagine the struggles you must face as a mom. Thank you for sharing your heart so beautifully. What a special moment for you and your son.

  7. Annie Nelson says

    So touching and so beautiful. We could all learn from it about what love really is even when you can't express it in the normal way we expect.

  8. says

    I feel humbled to read your experience and grateful for your graciousness in sharing it with the world. Thank you for sharing your son’s expression of love! (found you through Magic Moments Monday) Will be sharing this to uplift others.

  9. Crystal says

    Hello Crystal, I know this is an older post but I wanted to say I understand how this feels. Our daughter was the same way no hugs never wanting to be held it was so hard I knew something was not right but just did not know what
    . When we finally got the diagnosis it was a relief in a way. I researched until the cows came home to see how we could help our little girl ( this was when she was 6) she will be 8 in February and the changes we have seen in her are out of this world we are still traveling down the road but she is now able to read and comprehend thing that before we never thought would be possible.
    Please check out the Guts and Psychology syndrome diet by Natasha McBride. I know a lot of people say that it is hard to follow we did not find this to be the case and seeing the improvements have more than made it worth it. We have not yet done intro we started on Full GAPS but plan on doing intro soon.We travel alot for my husbands job so doing intro has been hard to work out but they say you see the most healing with intro but we have seen AMAZING results with full gaps so I cannot wait to do intro :)

    God bless you and your family I know that He will show you the way to go.
    Crystal S.

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Thank you so much, Crystal! I have heard of the GAPS diet, and have done a lot of research. One of the things we are focusing on in the coming year is to have a better diet, starting with cutting out processed foods, and wherever the Lord leads us from there. I have read a lot of amazing stories of people seeing miraculous results from diet changes. Thanks for sharing your story!

  10. says

    Well said, Cheryl! Thank you for sharing your story. I understand. I remember the night I got 3 voluntary hugs. I almost fell over! Enjoy your Skittles!

    • Crystal Brothers says

      lol…it happens. Lots of similar letters ;)

      Since writing this post, one day Caeden was outside playing and he came inside for something and as he was leaving, he poked his head back inside and said “Love you” like it was nothing, and hurried back out. I just sat there with tears running down my face! lol That’s still the only time it’s happened, but it was a big deal. And, yes, hugs are extra special.

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