I cannot tell you how disappointed I am when I hear parents talk about their autistic children as though it were a tragedy. They talk as though their lives are over. They say things like, “My child was taken from me when we got the diagnosis” or “How’s he ever going to make friends?” First of all, your child was not taken from you. He is exactly the same person he was when he was born. Secondly, every parent wonders how their child will make friends.
That’s Who He Is
Why does it upset me when I hear parents and family members say those things? I have had almost 13 years of living with a child with Autism, and the most important lesson I’ve learned is that, Autism or not, children will find what interests them. You just have to decide if you are going to be interested in those things as well or if you are going to try to make your child be who you want them to be. The latter leads to misery as you try to make your child be something she’s not. While the former will open your eyes to wonders and beauty you forgot existed in the world around you.
Having Autism is a part of who the child is. It’s not an illness that needs to be cured. Last time I checked, no one was creating an awareness group for parents of musically inclined children or gifted athletes. No one cries when they are told their child is a genius or right-handed or left-handed. I’ve never heard anyone say, “What am I going to do? My child is a geek, and I so hoped she would be the CEO of a large company someday, but that will never happen now.”
Autism doesn’t need a voice. It has plenty – so many, in fact, that the ones in need are getting lost in the shouts of the ignorant and well-intentioned. What Autism needs is someone willing to listen. Stop looking at everything your child can’t do. Stop focusing on the negative. If you continue to have a “poor me” mentality, then nothing will ever change. Start focusing on what your child can do. Focus on the positives. Yes, children with Autism struggle, but so does every other child out there in one way or another.
Our precious babies, no matter what age they are, might need a little more help and understanding than most, but we as a society need to learn to integrate better, to see people not problems, to understand, to listen. As a society, we have already made great strides towards acceptance in some areas (e.g. Women’s Suffrage, The Civil Rights Movement, Americans with Disabilities Act, IDEA) – not so much in others (I’ll let you fill in here). That’s okay as long as we keep learning, keep striving to do better, be better, and understand better the people and the world around us, then there is hope.
Hope is the most powerful weapon this world has to offer. With hope comes a love and a drive and a desire to keep seeking, keep teaching, keep learning. Hope is contagious, infectious. It spreads. True hope only sees the positives in a situation. It understands the negatives but refuses to accept them. Hope makes the impossible happen.
So, stop complaining because you weren’t given the perfect child. No one was given the perfect child. Your child is perfect for you. When you truly love your child, your child makes you stronger in ways you didn’t even know were possible. Stop feeling defeated and start feeling victorious. Discover how your child communicates and learn to speak his language whether it is drawing or organizing things or using movie quotes or repeating what you say or pointing at pictures. Find the door to her world and don’t be afraid to enter it.
Yes, there will be struggles, and there will be days when you don’t know how much more you can take – days when you think you aren’t strong enough. Those are the days to remember when your child gave you the faintest glimmer of recognition, when she let you brush her hair for the first time or he finally gave you a hug. Remember the day he showed you a picture he drew for you or the day she tried something new. Those are the moments that keep us going. It’s the little victories that make us see that the impossible happens everyday.