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5 Life Lessons From My 5-Year-Old Son on the Autism Spectrum

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This past May, my son Wyatt turned 5. In his five years, he has taught my husband and me so very much. Wyatt is a boy who has autism spectrum disorder; it does not define him, but I believe it’s definitely part of what makes him so special. Being his mother is such an incredible gift, and it’s something I’m grateful for every day.

Have you ever met someone so special you felt honored to be in their presence? This is who Wyatt is to me. In his short five years, he’s worked so hard, accomplished so much, and he has helped me become a better person. I wanted to share five things he’s taught me. Believe me, there are so many more things — but I’ll save the rest for a later time.

1. Always love.

I believe love will always pull us through the hard times. Wyatt is the most affectionate, sweet, loving child I know. If you’re sad, he’s there to hug you. When his brother falls to the ground, he’s always the first one to help him up. He even hugs the principal at his school when he sees her. And after the appointment when his doctor confirmed our suspicions about his differences were right and I felt like melting to the floor, he was there. At 18 months old, he was there for me. His love is the reason I know I will always fight to get him everything he needs, and then some.

2. Always be prepared.

Family outings, even simple trips to the grocery store, have to be prepped for. There is no grabbing my purse and running out the door. Social situations can sometimes be overwhelming for Wyatt, which is why we have “back-up” items. Fidget toys, his chewie, a charged iPad, milk — the works, because we never know what we’ll need. Every time before we leave the house, we think of everything we could possibly need should a situation arise.

3. Always be flexible.

When things don’t work out, just breathe and try to come up with another solution. There have been many days that haven’t gone as planned, and it can be easy to get caught up in the storm and let it ruin your entire day. Don’t. Be flexible. If your little one has a sensory meltdown in the middle of the grocery store and you can literally feel the eyes on your back — brush it off. You are doing the best you can; you cannot prevent meltdowns, but you can calmly leave the store and change things up. Letting go of the idea of perfection has been something I’ve struggled with for a long time, and being flexible to change direction (a skill Wyatt has taught me) has been wonderful.

4. Always celebrate the small things.

I’ve found the small things always end up leading us to the big things. And every accomplishment deserves to be celebrated. For example, Wyatt started outside-of-school speech therapy a few weeks ago. We walked in on the first day and had to wait 15 minutes. Wyatt does not do well with waiting, so he started to run around the lobby. I was chasing after him, trying to guide him in the right direction, and to be honest, it’s kind of comical looking back. Then, when we finally got into the appointment, he had a full-blown meltdown because he wanted to keep running around. So after our first unsuccessful visit, I consulted with friends and his teacher at school, and we came up with a plan for the next visit. We’d use a “first/then” card. The “first” thing was speech, and the “then” thing was his iPad. His teacher went over it with him, and when I picked him up from school to take him to speech, he already knew after his speech appointment, he’d be able to have something he really enjoys. And guess what, that next visit went great!

5. Always push forward.

Many moments may be hard. But guess what? You got this. And this journey is worth every moment. You might not realize it now, but you’re working hard to help your child bloom and thrive. When your child is crying, when you’re crying, when you’re having a tough day, when you think you’re the worst parent on the planet — know you will get through this. And choose to get through it, together.

What is one thing your child has taught you?

Image via Contributor.

A version of this post originally appeared on Kendall’s website.

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Originally published: December 15, 2016
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