Monday, November 21, 2011

Making Peace with Autism

There are moments in our life that define us; moments that can make us better or make us bitter.  

An autism diagnosis is one of those moments.  It's not only a life altering moment for a child, but for the parent.  The moment a parent hears: Your child has autism.  Your world will change.  And you can either let the diagnosis destroy you or you can make peace with it.  

My suggestion?  Make peace with autism.  Because it's going to be around for a while.  Might as well get to know it. 

A while ago I read a comment by a special needs parent.  And it was basically criticizing parents of special needs kids.  It went something like: Parents who say autism makes them a better person are full of it.

Ultimately, it's not about becoming a better parent, I think it's about adopting a different parental attitude.

Raising a child with autism is hard.  It's probably the hardest thing I've ever done.  There are days when I'm tired of dealing with it.  And when I say "it," I don't mean autism itself - I mean everything else that comes along with autism.  

The therapies.  The non-stop appointments. The evaluations. The meetings.  Fighting for services.  Securing appropriate school placement.    

The staying up late, reading through Special Education laws, tweaking IEPs or just unable to sleep worrying about the future. 

Making peace with autism, doesn't come immediately.  It's a process.  And some days are better than others.  There are times when I cry and I feel helpless.  Because it is hard when you don't have the means to do all that you can.      

Nothing would be easier than sitting back and throwing myself a pity party.  But who the hell wants to go to that?

It would be too easy for me to write about all the things The Boy cannot do.  But what would be the point?

Quite honestly, it makes me sad to focus on those things.  There are so many things, I would love to see The Boy do.  So many things that would make me jump up and down with silly happiness.  But I have to remind myself, the things that may make me happy - probably don't matter to The Boy.

The Boy is happy.  Just as he is.  Doing what he does.  And that's what I choose to focus on.  The things that make him happy.  And all the things he can do.  Because there is so much he can do.  I have a lot to be proud of.  And I have so much to be thankful for.  That's what I want to concentrate on.

Autism has made me better because its forced me to have a different attitude.  It's given me a new perspective on happiness.  It's taught me to appreciate the day to day moments - like a smile, a wave or a spontaneous word.  No accomplishment is taken for granted.  Ever.    

And during those moments, when I cry and feel defeated by the Department of Education all I need to do is look at The Boy.  He gives me the strength to keep going.  He is my proof that I am doing the right thing.  

For those that know me personally, you know I can be a bit of  cynic.  I see the glass half empty on many things. 

But when it comes to The Boy, his progress and our life - I refuse to have that mindset.  I can't and I won't.  Because if I can't believe in him...who will?  

And I believe that anything is possible for The Boy.  

Inspired by Many Hats Mommy 'Share Your Strength'                

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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.