Ten Things My Son’s Autism Has Taught Me
I’m not a blogger. My enjoyment from writing is very different from that of my husband’s. I can communicate fairly effectively, but I don’t desire to write. I do believe in the power of sharing our story, raising awareness, and promoting acceptance, so I write from time to time, although my efforts are usually spent in direct service to other families affected by ASD.
After reflecting on the two posts my husband recently asked me to write, I realized that they both had a negative feel to them. I am not generally a negative person. I would much rather focus on the positive side of life and promote that. So, I asked permission to submit another post and this time, it will focus on the valuable lessons I have learned by being a mother of a child on the spectrum.
Here they are in no particular order:
- Never take for granted the fact that your child can speak. When Jake was 2 and not saying even one word, we were concerned and frustrated. It wasn’t until years later that he began to say single words and even many more years later before he was able to say phrases and make his needs known. When our other children were growing and developing, we didn’t for one second take for granted that they would be able to speak. Each time they uttered a word, we were so excited and relieved. We saw joy in the smallest words and phrases or any attempt to communicate. We never once asked them to stop talking or complained that children talk too much or ask too many questions. In fact, any sign of normal development was never too small for us. We thanked God every time our children hit a milestone.
- I am stronger than I ever thought possible. If you had told me before having Jake that I would have to deal with all of the challenges and obstacles that we have had over the last 9 years, I would have told you that you were crazy and that I would never be able to do it. I would have been wrong.
- I am a better, more effective teacher. Jake has taught me a great deal about learning. I have always loved teaching, particularly sixth grade. There is just something about that age that I find intriguing and challenging. I often miss teaching in the classroom and after spending so much time learning to teach Jake, I have a whole new arsenal of strategies that I can use with students, whether they have special learning needs or not. I hope that I get the opportunity to implement them some day.
- I am a better parent. Jake has taught me the meaning of patience, tolerance, acceptance, perseverance, love, encouragement, and advocacy. I’m not a perfect parent, but my mistakes have taught me a great deal. When I held Jacob in my arms for the first time, mere seconds after he was born, I remember being in awe at how much love I felt. I am sure that any parent can relate to that. At the risk of sounding cliché, love really does conquer all, even the most frustrating set of circumstances.
- There are so many amazing people in the world. For every ignorant person out there, there are ten really great people who love my son and shout his praises. We have met so many remarkable human beings over the last several years. Some are part of his medical or educational teams, others are parents just like us trying to find their way. The support and ideas for improvement that have been shared has been nothing short of incredible.
- Judgment is better left to God. I am a less judgmental person because of the lessons my son has taught me. Everyone is dealing with their own obstacles. How that is done, is none of my business. I just offer help whenever I can.
- I am learning to embrace my own quirks and flaws. I still have more work to go on this one, but I have learned a lot about the standards I hold for myself, which are largely unattainable. When Jake was a toddler (just before and after he was diagnosed), Ryan and I would remark on how his symptoms of ASD were just our “quirks” times ten. We both show some signs of autism (maybe everyone does), but we noticed that Jake’s signs interfered with everyday life. I used to try to hide some of these traits and behaviors because I am a people pleaser, but I am learning that it is okay to be me. For example, I have a sensory processing disorder…I have a very hard time with the smells and textures of certain foods, therefore I have a very limited diet. I hate getting my hands “dirty” in any fashion and I am VERY uncomfortable with people (other than my children and husband) invading my personal space (ex. close talkers and huggers).
- Humor can help in almost any situation. As we continue to strive to be the best parents we can to all three of our children, we have learned that infusing humor can be a lifesaver. Being able to find the funny in any given situation is a gift. It took us years to get there, but I am glad we did and it is a valuable inheritance to give our children. Hopefully, they learn that from us and apply it to the rest of their lives. The sound of laughter from my children and Ryan are my favorite sounds.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Maybe this should be entitled, pick your battles. There is so much hurt and hate out there. If you dwell there, ordwell only on the negative, you will be miserable. Focus on the best parts of the day, find a reason to laugh even on a bad day, and have hope for better days.
- My marriage is strong. God couldn’t have given me a more perfect soul mate. Having a child with special needs has challenged our marriage at times, but no more than other life challenges. We have learned a great deal about each other through our dealings with the obstacles that we have faced. It has caused us to unite to fight for a common cause, to hold the other up when one of us was too tired to carry on, and to make the other laugh when things weren’t funny. My husband deserves almost all of the credit for my sanity. Ryan is amazing and I am so grateful that I get to be his wife.