5 Things About Autism I Wish Someone Had Told Me
Most of my grown up life already didn’t look anything like I expected it to. And then along came autism and our world really flipped upside down.
I’d heard so many different perspectives on autism from professionals and parents:
This is going to be so hard on your marriage.
You are the only person who will advocate for your child.
The world is full of judgment. People stare and comment on your parenting skills.
Over and over I heard these exact same statements, so I accepted them as truth. I was scared and depressed about how bleak the rest of our life clearly was going to be. I was frightened my sons would never know happiness. Scared my marriage would crumble from the stress. Scared of everything really.
But now that our own life has unfolded, I realize many of these truths do not have to apply to us. And the ones that do? It’s not where we put our focus. Life is hard, yes, but it is also too good and too short to miss out on all the blessings it holds.
Here are five good things people don’t tell you about raising a child with autism.
1. You will realize just how good people can be. Our life is a journey, and we have met so many wonderful people along the way. Caring, kind, patient people with extra love to give. Those who have been affected by autism and those who haven’t but are willing to learn more. I’ve met so many teachers with so much passion they inspire me to want to change the world. Behavior therapists who have been hit and kicked and screamed at again and again, and yet they still show up for work the next day with a smile on their face. They’ve taught us skills we carry out at home that in turn have made my sons’ lives so much easier and happier. They rejoice over milestones and advocate for services right along side us.
We’ve met so many kind people who want to help.
Even our garbage man is now a personal friend — he texts me before he gets to our street because he knows how much my boys love the trash truck. People are good.
If people do stare when my son is having a meltdown, I don’t pay any attention. I am more concerned with helping my son in those moments. I don’t focus on the people who just don’t get it. They are not worth any sacrifice of our precious happiness.
2. Failure doesn’t mean not doing it right– it means not even trying. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sacrificed awesome in the quest for perfect. And then feeling like I failed because something didn’t go exactly as planned. I berate myself for the tiniest mistakes and the smallest flaws. Why did you say that? Why didn’t you do that? One day it hit me — what kind of message is this sending my sons? They are not perfect, yet I love them exactly for who they are. I love them even more for their human-ness. They get up every day and do so much out of their comfort zone. They try and try and keep trying, even when they aren’t able to get it right. That isn’t failure. That is inspiring and amazing and incredible. They have taught me perfection is overrated, and failure isn’t a lack of perfection — it’s a lack of trying. I now try to offer myself the same grace that I extend to my boys. I want the world to love and accept my sons, and to do that, I must practice by loving and accepting myself, exactly the way I am. Now, whenever I’m in unfamiliar territory and I don’t want to do something I think, “You can do this. If Greyson and Parker can move through this uncomfortable feeling, than so can you.”
3. Everyone is going through something. I try my hardest not to compare the “somethings,” because it’s a terrible waste of energy with no good outcome. What’s that? Oh, my life is harder? OK, I win or uh, lose then actually.
Comparison is a game with no winner.
Here’s the deal: life isn’t balanced or fair, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can move forward and seek happiness. Hard circumstance in life can open you up and make you softer to the world and to people suffering. Autism has grown my heart ten million times bigger. Now, when someone else is going through something hard in life, I try to reach out to him or her. I try not to be afraid to mention the word, whether it’s death or cancer, divorce or autism. I’ve found an empathy for mankind that never before existed to this degree. We are all in this human thing together. There are so many ways we can inspire, share and connect, regardless of circumstances. We must pave the paths for those who walk with us and after us. If you focus too much on what isn’t, you miss all the what is — and oftentimes, what is… is amazing.
4. Milestones feel like your own personal holiday. Like fireworks and Christmas and York Peppermint Patties and Disney Land and puppies and a million other good things rolled into one.
They have the ability to make your whole day, week, month and sometimes year. I still smile when I think of the first time my son Greyson pooped on the potty or was first able to make a “C” sound and say “car.” I realized early on our family’s milestones don’t look like others, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t amazing.
Sometimes I want to call them “ten-milestones” because they arrive so infrequently. But because of that, every inch forward is celebrated in this house. I might go so far as to say milestones are more amazing because they had to be fought for, earned and may have even taken forever.
5. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be amazing. This unexpected life also holds so much beauty. There is no parallel universe where everything is good and perfect and easy. When you visit that land of fiction in your imagination, it blocks you from being able to live and accept today.
This is how your story goes: you have two choices, fight it or embrace it. I’ve done both, and fighting it takes too much energy. I’m going to screw up, I’m going to try things that don’t work. I’m going to do 99 things to find the one thing that just might possibly be the home run. That’s the path with autism, winding and weaving exactly how it is meant to be. My sons teach me to slow down. They help me notice so much beauty in the world.
They teach me the importance of hard work, taking breaks and never, ever giving up. They make me believe life can be amazing. Sometimes I still can’t believe God really gave them to me. I am so lucky.
When I meet new parents just starting out on their journey with autism, I tell them the good stuff. Because it exists. And I’m sure everyone else has already repeatedly told them the downsides, heartaches and difficulties. I just want to remind you your life can still be amazing too. In life, happiness isn’t a guarantee—but each one of us deserves to find it.
This post originally appeared on Life With Greyson and Parker.