When my son was diagnosed with autism six years ago, I honestly didn’t know what to think or expect. I tend to err on the side of hope and optimism in all situations. Yet even the most basic Google searches left me simultaneously devastated and terrified — not knowing how to prepare or how to help him.
If you’ve been in the same situation, you know you can find some uplifting sentiments scattered around the Internet, but they’re few and far between. For example, there’s the “Welcome to Holland” poem and the “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism” statement. But other than that, there’s not a lot to cling to out there in cyberspace.
The following are eight uplifting observations I wish I’d found in an article when I was searching for hope at a time when I needed it most.
1. You will find strength you never knew you had.
You will discover recesses of untapped courage and wisdom, and you will use them to guide your family and advocate for your child.
2. You will learn a whole new set of acronyms.
In the beginning, you will think the very people you’ve sought out to help you have their own secret language. OT (occupational therapy), PT (physical therapy), IEP (individualized education program), DRO (differential reinforcement of other behaviors)… the list goes on, but you will learn and become proficient in this alphabet-soup style of speaking faster than you ever imagined.
3. You will make new friends, and they will be honest and supportive.
Families, just like your own, will embrace you, and you will do the same for them. You can be real with one another because you are on the same path. These new confidants understand that your child will eat only one brand of yogurt, and they’ll never judge.
4. Words are overrated.
Sometimes a smile, an unexpected hug or a two-word phrase is really all you need.
5. Milestones are still something to celebrate no matter when they occur.
Blowing out birthday candles will make you cheer for your child no matter when he gets the hang of it.
6. You will gain newfound perspective.
Things that once would have bothered you — wet clothing left overnight in a washing machine, your favorite TV show getting canceled — are inconsequential now. If your child is having a good day, so are you.
7. You will find kindness in strangers.
When someone in a restroom says she won’t use the hand-dryer because your daughter is covering her ears, dreading the noise, your faith in the world will be restored.
8. You will see your other children rise to the occasion.
Watching your other children show patience and compassion will make you realize they will be infinitely kinder adults because of the love they have for their sibling.
The Mighty is asking the following: Write the article you wish you’d found the first time you Googled your or a loved one’s diagnosis. 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. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.