Today is World Autism Day and I want to tell parents with autistic children not to be afraid.

Yes, there are many challenges ahead of us, but the future looks brighter than ever. I say this because as a parent of a 15-year-old autistic child, Ryan, I’ve seen with my own eyes how early intervention and all the hard work that his teachers and therapists have put in over the years have made a difference.

No doubt, we have issues. But now, along with his autistic idiosyncrasies, I’m also dealing with a teenage boy who’s into girls, demanding his privacy, and worrying about what he’s going to wear to school – just like any 15-year-old kid would.

Several years ago, I wrote an article entitled “Raising Ryan: A father’s journey with autism,” and in it, I explained my journey from his birth, and how there were many challenges that made me frightened – not for myself, but for Ryan.

Boy, was I wrong. Autistic children have courage that goes beyond the norm. They work hard and have try harder to adapt more than most of their peers.

Over the years, I have witnessed the extraordinary talent of autistic children in the world of music, science and visual arts. So on a day like today, I want to celebrate their beauty and hope that in the future, people will be more accepting of all the positive contributions that these children will make in society.

So am I still frightened? Yes. I’m afraid for single parents raising a child with autism alone. I worry about communities that have limited resources when it comes to funding special education. I worry about the many people that criticized me when I wrote the original story, telling me that I was exploiting my son’s disability, or that my wife must have something wrong when she was pregnant.

But I don’t worry about my Ryan anymore. Because every time I talk to him, he tells me like a good New Jersey boy “Don’t worry dad, I’ll make them an offer they can’t refuse.”