Autism Spectrum Disorder became a constant companion in our life one April day a few years back. I think back to that day and realize how naive I was and how unprepared for the journey I was. I wish I could go back to myself on that day with my tear-filled eyes and fill myself in on a little of what I’ve learned so far.
1. It is going to be OKAY.
It will be okay…whatever your version of okay looks like. It may be filled with therapies and mountains to climb and hard at times or it may be smoother with fewer interventions needed. However it looks, you will adapt and you will learn and you will grow. And you will be okay.
We’ve managed to find our stride and what works for us. And is it how I originally pictured life? No. But it is okay and we’re doing alright.
2. Self, please know that your child has not changed.
The world might look and feel a little different right now and that is okay, but your baby is still your baby. Both of my boys are on the spectrum and both of my boys are still the same happy, loving, and adventurous boys they were before a doctor ever uttered the diagnosis that felt like it changed everything. It really took me a minute or two to get that through my head, but it was a valuable lesson to grasp.
3. My child has autism, but it does not define him.
Autism is a part of my boys. It is simply one facet that makes up their whole. It doesn’t define them. They have autism. Autism does not have them. They are smart because they are smart. They are funny because they are funny. They are kind, loving, and stars in my universe because they are them and not because of or in spite of any diagnosis.
4. If you have met one person on the spectrum, you have truly only met one person on the spectrum.
Yes, there are some shared characteristics. Yes, there are common ways in which autism manifests itself in people. But, just like you or me or the person next door, all people on the spectrum are unique too. My two boys are very different and their autism looks very different as well. They are unique. Just because your cousin’s neighbor’s sister’s friend has a child with autism doesn’t mean you know my child or what they need.
5. Subject Matter Expert: My Kids
Just because I am a mother with two boys on the spectrum doesn’t mean I am a subject matter expert on autism. Shoot, I am far from it. What I am an expert on is my boys. I know what works for them. We’ve worked hard to make progress and to find the right diet of therapies. I know what makes my boys laugh or cry and I know when a situation is too much for them. Generally, I can see a meltdown coming from a mile away.
Autism looks different in both of my boys. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other. We’re figuring it all out as we go. But you know what, we’re all going to be okay.
“Don’t give up! I believe in you all. A person’s a person, no matter how small!” — Dr. Seuss