What Autism has Taught Me
Autism has changed me in ways that I may never be able to fully explain. Having an Autistic child teaches you what you are made of and what you can do. You feel a love that is different from that which you have previously known.
In my past, I have been a meek and mild person, a person who let things happen, but stepped up only when there was no other choice. I was a victim, but I always defended my children when the going got tough.
Autism has taught me to come to bat on every unacceptable issue that comes before me. It has taught me that I am far stronger than I ever knew that I could be.
Those strong parents of Autistic children, the ones you have probably admired, may not have started off that strong. Very likely, they were like me. They probably gained more strength as they went along. They may have developed a thick skin in the process.
When you become a parent, you realize that someone innocent needs your love and protection. Most children need a bit less protection from their parents as they get older. The Autistic child always needs that protection. He/she may not be able to stand up for themselves. Sometimes it seems like their peers and siblings are not the only ones that have to be made to understand.
We go to bat for our child when we develop the IEP (Individual Education Plan), when we have conferences with teachers, when we take them for appointments with doctors, and when we are merely in public. Sometimes we have to defend them to family and friends.
Autism has taught me that my love for another person can be deeper, stronger, and more painful than I ever thought possible. I don’t need a special set of skills or to be the smartest person in the room in order to raise my Autistic child. I simply have to love him more than I love myself, to be more willing to fiercely defend him than to stay in my comfort zone.
What I have learned from Autism is not limited to what I have learned about myself or other parents. I have learned about the struggles that an Autistic child goes through. I have seen the struggles to learn and accomplish the most simple of tasks. I have seen the fear in his eyes when he enters a public situation and pulls away. I have felt a deep sadness when he lingers at the edge of the group, trying to fit in and get others to play with him, but unable to get them to let him in. I have seen the sadness he feels when he cannot do something as well as he would like to. I have seen his struggles to engage in reality, and the fact that he does not always know the difference between what is in his imagination and what is real.
I have learned how precious hearing the words “I love you” from the Autistic child can be. I treasure each hug, each kiss, each moment of clarity.
I have seen potential in both him and myself. This has taught me not to dismiss someone as being unteachable. We each have the potential to be more than we ever dreamed we could be. We can all pass a bit of hope, acceptance, love, and friendship on to someone else.