Monday, January 3, 2011


Everyone makes New Year Resolutions.  Some are broken ten minutes after midnight.  Some are kept all year round.  Today is the first Monday of the New Year.  But a resolution can happen any day of the year.  I've made a few personal resolutions, though I'm trying to think of them as life changes.  But I've also made some family resolutions.  Some are reminders to keep doing what we've been doing.  And a few are things that we still need to work on. They are realistic and absolutely attainable.

  1. Accept: An autism diagnosis isn't the end of your child's life.  I know that it's not the ideal and I know that they are not the words every parent wants to hear.  They certainly weren't the words we wanted to hear.  But we heard them.  And we didn't ignore the diagnosis.  We faced it.  It wasn't easy.  We went through a mourning period - which is natural.  But we learned that we couldn't mourn forever. And once we accepted, we were able to move forward.  
  2. Learn: There are so many books on autism. On diet, methodology, advocacy, memoir, self-help.  Books written by parents, educators and adults on the spectrum.  I believe that in order to help your child, you must educate yourself.  (Later I will post some of the books that helped us)  Children - especially ones on the spectrum - do not come with handbooks.  But there are things to be learned from the experiences of others. Obviously you can't read everything and not everything will apply to your child.  When it comes to autism - we are all still learning.         
  3. Teach:  There are so many generalizations about autism.  So many things that people don't know or understand.  In order for people to accept, they need to understand.  Be the teacher in your family or community.  If you read something interesting, pass the information on to a friend, teacher or therapist.  Some of the things that have been of the most value to me, have been passed on by others.         
  4. Be Realistic:  Many believe that people with autism want to be left alone, that they don't need or want friends.  This is not the case.  Norrin may never be the most popular kid (who knows? I could be wrong!) but I know that he does not want complete isolation.  Norrin doesn't do well in large groups but I know when its him and another child, he wants to play.  That is what we will focus on.  One on one peer relationships.    
  5. Recognize: Parents - of typical or atypcial children - often look to other children as a measure.  And we are all guilty of the "But that kid does it, why can't mine?"  The IEP makes this especially challenging.  I'm learning to recognize all the things that Norrin has achieved.  Even the smallest thing - Norrin is fully potty! So what if he's going to be 5 in a few weeks.  It's a goal he's accomplished.   He still sleeps with a pull up but who cares about that.  I know, that in his own time that will come too.  One goal at a time.    
  6. Let go:  We all have expectations of what our children are supposed to be.  No one expects a diagnosis of any kind.  And after a diagnosis comes fear, doubt, anger and worry. Let go of all of that.  For the most part, the diagnosis is out of your control.  How you handle the diagnosis - is not.  So let go and let your child be.  They will surprise you.
Happy New Year!
photo by Joseph R. Fontanez aka Papa Bear


AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.