Our oldest child was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of 2, exactly one week before I delivered our daughter. It was an intense thing to hear only days before our family was to multiply. But my husband and I felt peace over our son’s diagnosis and his future. After all, he was only 2, and maybe he would grow out of his diagnosis after getting more therapy?
Eventually, we came to the realization that our son would never be “typical.” We chose to maintain a positive attitude about his diagnosis and simply accepted him for being who he was. The good, the bad, the ugly — we had it all. He was our “normal,” and we did not know anything different.
But even with this attitude, I felt isolated. We had recently moved to a new town and did not know many people. When we did venture out, I felt my son’s behaviors or meltdowns — which were autism-related — were making other children and parents uncomfortable. So I decided to push myself to meet new moms, make friends, and build relationships. This made my skin crawl — I felt totally awkward approaching neighbors, moms on the playground, or other parents at preschool drop off and pick up. However, I pushed my fear aside, knowing I could not go on living in my bubble anymore.
I put myself out there.
And lo and behold, other parents were kind, friendly, honest, and interested in my son’s diagnosis. And I learned that others, at times, had been feeling just as isolated as me! The more I met new moms and reconnected with old friends, my attitude truly began to change. I went from accepting my son’s autism to being truly grateful for it. Autism has never taken anything away, but instead has given my family so much.
Autism has given us more LOVE.
It has given my family the opportunity to experience true, unconditional love. Members of our family accept him for who he is and love him for who he is. We are always there to listen, lend a hand, and, most importantly, give him his space when he needs it.
Autism has given us so much JOY.
Autism has brought my family joy, especially in all the milestones reached — like when my children started to play together or fight each other. Yes, even fighting felt like a big milestone to us! To see him express his emotions — especially when he started expressing love for his family — is incredible. When he accomplishes a new milestone it often feels more like a mountain to us. How awesome is that!
Autism has given us PATIENCE.
Our son has a processing delay, so we have to have the patience to let him work things out. Navigating playground equipment, learning self-help skills, and simply telling us what he wants to eat can seem to take a lifetime. We have also seen our extended family become so patient. They hang on every word from this kid, because there are so few.
Autism has given us more than we ever imagined or asked for; I could not possibly share it all. I am truly grateful for my son’s diagnosis. It has pushed me to be a better, mom, wife, daughter, sister, and friend. Autism has given us more compassion and honesty, and it has brought the most amazing people into our lives — all the therapists, teachers, aides, and the autism community.
We only get one life on this earth, and I have chosen to be grateful for all of it. I would never want to go back to who I was or what I had before autism was in my life. I wake up every morning choosing to have an attitude of gratitude. And if we could all choose to have an attitude of gratitude, what a wonderful world that would be.