**I wrote this post a while ago, but never published it. With Autism Awareness Day coming up this Saturday (please wear blue and show your support!), I thought the timing was appropriate to share.
Yesterday Jak plopped himself next to me on the couch and, without prompting, listed off the planets of the solar system. In order. He's four. He's adorable. He's brilliant. And he has autism.
I wouldn't change a thing.
10 Things Autism Has Taught Me
- Judge not. Autism is known as the "invisible disability." Most children with autism look and (at first glance) seem to act like everyone else. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten those stares. Looks that say, "obviously that mother is terrible". Little do they know.
But I have realized that this is true of everyone I come in contact with. I don't know all of their daily, private struggles. In fact, I've started considering that every out of control kid I see might have autism. Since the statistics are so high, I could be right.
- Patience, grasshopper. I struggle with patience on a daily basis (doesn't every parent?!?). Patience with myself and patience with my son. When I start to lose it, Lamaze has come in handy.
At least that class was good for something.
- Small victories are still victories. On Sunday my son freaked out. I can't remember why, but the tantrum lasted about 30 minutes. It felt like an eternity. I tried everything we've been told to do-squeeze him tight, talk calmly, try to communicate...I even laid on him in hopes that the extra pressure would help him calm down (and believe me, that's a lot of extra pressure). Nothing. It just had to run his course and then he was fine. Unfortunately, I was not. I felt like a total failure. I wondered why I was picked to parent this child and cried.
Jak normally doesn't notice any sort of emotion and definitely doesn't acknowledge it, but as he left the room he loudly announced, (to all my in-laws) "Mom's sad!" That was it. No comforting words, no hug, but it was a huge breakthrough-he actually noticed!! Albeit embarrassing, it was a victory.
- Take it one day at a time. This was invaluable advice a good friend gave me when Jak was first diagnosed. And she was right. If I dwell on what he will be struggling with 6 weeks, 6 months, or 6 years from now, I start to get extremely overwhelmed (I'm so worried about bullying!). But as long as I just take it day by day, life is easier to handle.
- Laugh. Or else you will cry.
- You can alter more than clothes. Before his diagnosis, I had specific expectations for Jak. Get good grades, play team sports, have lots of friends, go to college, get married, give me grandkids (I hear they are better than regular kids!) and I still believe that many of those things can happen. But they might not.
And that is okay.
Instead he may be a hermit scientist (his current career of choice), or a garbage man for all I care-as long as he is happy. That is my only expectation now. His happiness.
- Let others help. This is been the hardest lesson for me. And I continue to resist it. I'm independent, I can do it on my own, and I don't need anyone else. But actually, I do.
You see, other people love my son too and want to serve. We've had to accept everything from babysitting to financial help (therapy is not cheap, folks). It's been humbling. It's been hard. But necessary.
- Count your many blessings. After an especially difficult month, realizing I'd been dwelling on all the crap and not seeing any silver lining, I decided that I needed to write down a blessing every day. I'm on the computer a lot, so I created a private blog just for me-my husband doesn't even know about it (until now-hi!). Every day I log in and write one blessing--from the fact that our new house only takes 5 minutes to vacuum because it is so small to finding a fun, free pumpkin patch. Because I have to write something down, I end up thinking about my blessings more during the day.
- Pray. All the time. The Lord wants to ease your burdens and worries. "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30).
- If all else fails, bake and eat Bakerella's Chocolate Chip Pie . It makes everything seem better. You can thank me for sharing that piece of wisdom later.