The Mantra I Adopted When My Son Was Diagnosed With Autism

DSC_0335bw If I could go back to the day my son was diagnosed with autism, I would tell myself the following things:

1. There will be plenty of time for crying later. For every time he says a new word. For every time he points at something and looks at you for approval. For when he leaps into your bed in the middle of the day and snuggles with you and whispers “Good night.” For every trip to the beach or the pool, when you see the look of pure joy on his face while waves crash over his legs or as his kicks create a wake of chlorinated water behind him.

2. He’s still your perfect little boy. A diagnosis doesn’t take that away from you.

3. It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong. Because there is nothing wrong with him. He’s who he is. Because even if he flaps his arms and chews on his fingers and walks on his tiptoes until his last days, he’s perfect just the way he is. Let him be who he is, and don’t try to make him into someone he isn’t and cannot be. By all means, help him — provide him with the tools he needs to be his best self, but at the end of the day, accept him.

4. Buckle up, sister. You’re about to become a strange hybrid of a stay-at-home mom/special needs advocate/occupational therapist/physical therapist/speech-language pathologist/special educator. It’s your job to make sure he’s balanced, happy and fulfilled and that all of the therapists and professionals involved in his well-being and education are on the same page as you. Sometimes that means taking matters into your own hands — especially during those long spring, summer and winter breaks from school. Sometimes that means creating living room obstacle courses or bouncing your boy on the couch as you recite the ABC’s, holding him under his arms as you lift him up again and again only to toss him into the stacked cushions at the end of each verse. It’ll keep you young, and your arms will be ridiculously toned. Ah, there’s that silver lining!

5. Invest in lots of carpet cleaner and bubble bath. Life is going to be messy!

6. Your mantra will soon be “Tomorrow is another day.” You’ll say it as you sing a lullaby to your little guy, his sweet smile lighting up the dark room, the air still thick with the day’s accomplishments and progress, as you envision the next day’s triumphs. You’ll say it as you tuck in your exhausted, emotional preschooler, as your tears commingle with his, both of you drained and frustrated and ready to give up and throw in the towel completely. It’s a bit dramatic and Scarlett O’Hara-ish of you, but it makes you feel better knowing you can wipe the slate clean and try again the next day. No one is perfect — the key is that you keep trying. And trying. And trying.

For all of January, The Mighty is asking its readers this question: If you could go back to the day you (or a loved one) got a diagnosis, what would you tell yourself? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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