Some of you reading this might be at the beginning of your journey with autism, or you might be further along than me. Maybe you have family members or friends whose lives are affected by autism in some way, or maybe you work hard each day to teach our kids in schools and colleges.
But each and every one of the kids who has brought you to this blog is uniquely wonderful, and so we’ll all have different journeys ahead of us no matter what. But I think so much of what we go through leaves us feeling similarly — confused, joyful and overwhelmed, to name but a few.
So wherever you are on your journey, know you’re not alone. Yes, things might be tough sometimes, but there’s so much more good stuff about autism than you may realize.
In fact, I was just daydreaming recently about having the power to time travel like Marty McFly of “Back to the Future.” What if I could go back in time and tell myself what I know now?
So bear with me on this one, as you’ll need to use your imagination a little. I’m going back a few years to tell the Michelle of 2007 a little of what the Michelle of 2015 now knows.
1. Acceptance and trusting your instincts will come with time. Michelle, it will take you a long time to accept what’s happening with your son. But I wish you could trust your instincts because your gut feelings are always right, and you’ll get better at standing up for your son as you learn to fight the system.
2. Never compare your son to other kids. Each child is unique and yes, they all have similarities, but he’s his own person. Your son may not join in all the activities like other kids do, but that’s OK. His talents lie elsewhere, as you’ll discover in the future!
3. It will feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster. No advice for that one, I’m afraid, but just know there will be good days and bad days. Just make the most of the good ones, because when they’re good, they’re really good!
4. Your priorities and goals will change. Your life can’t be mapped out now like you planned, and you’ll learn to accept and embrace that in time.
5. Home will become your child’s sanctuary. It’ll be a safe place where he can let off steam and be himself. And sadly, Michelle, you and your family will be judged, prodded and poked because of that. But your life does have to be different from the “norm.” You’ll learn not to care what others think about this.
6. Invest in ice pops. Your son is going to keep the supply and demand chain of ice pops in business for the foreseeable future.
7. People will judge you, but you’ll eventually learn to remove people like that from your life. Don’t carry baggage you don’t need. Everyone’s story is unique and no one really knows how it feels to be in the other person’s shoes.
8. There will be jumping, lots and lots of jumping. Jumping on the trampoline, on the bed, on the sofa, in the car, on the tables…
9. Please be kind to yourself. Things are going be tough at times and you’ll make mistakes, but that’s OK. You’re not superhuman. Look after yourself in order to look after your little man.
10. Don’t sit in meetings letting people tell you what’s best for your son. You know him better than anyone; you will learn take control of his future and not be so afraid to become “that mom.” He needs you to stand up for him in those meetings because he can’t do it for himself.
11. Your kid is not naughty; he has autism. They may appear as one and the same to some people, but you’ll develop a thick skin to that. It will still hurt when people don’t get him, but you have to accept that some people never will and move on.
12. Pajama days are necessary. Some days you’ll need a pajama day so you can watch Netflix and eat cake all day.
13. You and your son’s lives will be dictated by routine. You’ll plan days weeks in advance. You’ll approach his six weeks off from school like a military operation, with color-coded whiteboard pens, Post-it notes and cupboards full of white foods and ice pops.
14. Sensory issues will become a big part of your life. He won’t eat that, he won’t wear this, it’s too loud, that place is too busy, he likes to bounce, he hates brushing his teeth, etc. You’ll become a sensory-issues expert.
15. Your love for your kids is unconditional. No matter what happens, you’ll always have unconditional love for your kids.
16. Vodka and cola with ice and a slice… enough said!
17. Friends and family will get you through. They will laugh along with you on those amazing days when things are going well, and they’ll be there to pick you up when things don’t go as well.
What would you tell yourself if you could go back to the future?
Follow this journey on A Slice of Autism.
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