It has been a while since I have written, which is a shame since S has made leaps and bounds since last summer. He started school and he rides the bus. He pretend plays with toys (though still limited). He has started to really interact with other children. And, I am pleased to say that, he has really turned a corner in regards to his behavior. We can now walk in the store or at the park without my constant hand on him and he is just, overall, a person with more self awareness and self control. It has been a wonderful transformation and I regret not sharing all of that here with you. The past few months have been such a blessing of growth.
Amazingly, this week marks two years since S received his diagnosis. A lot has changed, both for us as parents, and for S during this time. Autism no longer seems like a big scary boogie man and so, I thought it would be nice to share with you what I feel are the gifts in raising a special needs child. Two years ago, I never could’ve imagined finding gifts with autism. And while we certainly have our struggles, I have found that there are a lot of blessings that come with being an autism parent.
- You learn to relate to other people better and have a stronger sense of empathy. I feel like I am better able to “meet people where they are”. I am more patient with people who are slow at the checkout line, act differently than me, or seem rude or disconnected. I am just generally more accepting of others.
- You no longer judge others’ parenting. (Well, obviously this doesn’t apply to those really horrible parents that lock their children in closets and stuff). But no, I no longer judge the mom whose kid isn’t wearing a coat when cold or will only eat chips at the restaurant. I now know that it likely isn’t lazy parenting, but a parent doing the best they can with a child who may have sensory issues. It is very nice to be free of judgement.
- You never tire of hearing your child talk. When you have a child who you worry will never be able to talk, and they finally do, you never tire of their voice. I could listen to stories about skateboard jumps for six hours straight. His sweet little voice never gets old; I relish in every conversation.
- Friends. You don’t know true friends until you have made some autism mom friends. If you are new on this journey, I suggest that you make this a priority. STAT. Trust me, when you have a special needs child, your friendships change. People you thought would be your big supporters, are not. People you used to hang it with a lot, you now only see on social media. Friends with typical kids or no kids at all, may try to be supportive, but trust me, they don’t get it. My autism mom friends have been my saving grace. When I canceled plans with a friend because S decided to eat an orange- rather than be irritated, she celebrated with me. They get it. They know the highs and the lows. They are in you and your child’s corner, boxing gloves on and ready to go, as you are for them. Some of my closest friends now are people I may have never formed a relationship with, had it not been for autism. For that, I will always be grateful.
- Every day is a blessing. At the end of each day, when I tuck my child in bed, I am overwhelmed with joy and love for him and the day we have had together. He is such an amazing little guy and has brought so much joy to our lives. And while our days may often be filled with challenges and struggles, I am able to appreciate each day that much more.
- You don’t sweat the small stuff anymore, and when you do, you recover more quickly. Before autism, I may have been irritated that an order I placed didn’t arrive on time or that the store was out of an ingredient I needed for a recipe. So irritated, that I may have even allowed it to affect the better portion of my day. Well, no more. Autism has taught me that little stuff like that isn’t worth investing any energy. Let that little shit go. Wake up in a bad mood? No worries, another hour is right around the corner. I no longer have good days and bad days, I have good hours and bad hours. I’d much rather have a bad hour, than a bad day. Right?
- You celebrate the small stuff (I know I just said that you don’t sweat the small stuff, but bear with me) Let me explain: You no longer seek perfection. Every step of progress is celebrated to the fullest- no matter how seemingly small it may seem to most. I bet most parents of typical kids don’t remember the first time their kid said ‘watch me’, asked a question or showed them something. Well, I do. And my heart swells with love and pride for my son every time he does those things, not just the first time. I notice and appreciate every interaction he has with someone, every toy he plays with and every time he tries something new. That my friends, is the best gift of all.
And so friends, if you are new to “Club Spectrum” and you are wondering what is in store for your child and your family over the next few years. Take solace in this… the next few years may have struggles, but they will also be filled with amazing gifts. Gifts you may have never known before autism. Cherish them.
What gifts has autism brought to you and your family?